8.3 magnitude quake hits Chile, tsunami warning issued
A massive 8.3-magnitude earthquake struck the center of Chile on Wednesday (Sept 16), triggering the evacuation of coastal areas and warnings that tsunami waves could reach as far as Japan.
In Chile, at least two people were killed and 10 hurt. The quake was felt as far away as Argentina, where buildings also swayed, reported AFP.
The two dead were a woman in Illapel, close to the epicenter, and an 86-year-old man in Santiago, where there were scenes of pandemonium as thousands fled swaying buildings.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) put the shallow offshore quake at a magnitude of 8.3 and said it hit just 228 kilometers north of Santiago, a city of 6.6 million people.
Chile's government urged residents to evacuate the coastline as various organisations warned of tsunami-like waves.
The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said that “hazardous” tsunami waves were possible for some parts of Chile’s shoreline, including three meters above regular tide levels.
The Chilean navy said waves up to 4.5 meters hit the Chilean coastal city of Coquimbo, reported Reuters.
A tsunami watch originally issued for Hawaii was later cancelled by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre although they warned of "sea level changes and strong currents."
Less than an hour after the initial earthquake, three aftershocks all greater than magnitudes 6.1 struck the region, USGS reported.
Witnesses told Reuters that the quake was felt as far away as the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, on the eastern seaboard of South America.
The precautionary alert for Peru was later called off, civil defense officials said, but scared residents in the city of Ilo, close to the border with Chile, remained out on the streets and on higher ground nonetheless.
People leave a supermarket during a strong quake in Santiago, Chile. PHOTO: AFP
Chile’s state copper miner Codelco said none of its workers were injured and there was no damage to its installations following the quake in the world’s top copper exporter. Antofagasta Plc also reported no damage to its flagship Los Pelambres copper mine.
One of the largest ever recorded earthquakes to hit Chile happened February 2010.
The 8.8-magnitude earthquake in central-southern Chile triggered a massive tsunami, and more than 500 people were killed.
In the hours following that quake, President Michelle Bachelet and other government officials misjudged the extent of damage and declined offers of international aid.
That delayed the flow of assistance to disaster areas, leaving many survivors feeling they had been abandoned by the government.
Compounding matters, the Chilean navy’s catastrophe-alert system failed to warn the population of impending tsunamis, leaving hundreds who survived the initial quake to be engulfed by massive waves that followed.
Bachelet's government was also slow to prevent looting following the quake, and fumbled with the death toll, later rolling back its estimate and saying missing people who later turned up alive had been mistakenly included.
In April last year, a deadly 8.2-magnitude earthquake in northern Chile killed six people and forced a million people to leave their homes in the region around Iquique.
Sources: Reuters, AFP, Twitter, YouTube, Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre