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Americas

Disaster declared after 8.2 quake strikes off coast of Chile

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-04-02

A magnitude 8.2 earthquake struck off Chile's northern coast on Tuesday night, killing several people, causing landslides and setting off a small tsunami that forced an evacuation of coastal areas.

Officials reported 5 deaths and several serious injuries, and Chile has declared three northern regions to be disaster areas.

The quake was shallow, only approximately 10km below the seabed, striking 99 kilometres north-west of the Chilean mining area of Iquique at 8.46 pm local time.

At least eight strong aftershocks followed in the first few hours, including a 6.2 tremor. More aftershocks and even a larger quake could not be ruled out, said seismologist Mario Pardo at the University of Chile.

The quake was so strong that the shaking experienced in Bolivia's capital about 470 kilometres away was the equivalent of a 4.5-magnitude tremor, authorities there said.
In the aftermath, landslides blocked roads, power lines were knocked out, an airport was damaged and several businesses caught fire.

The interior minister also told Chilean TV that about 300 inmates escaped from a women's prison in the city of Iquique, and officials said Chile's military was sending a planeload of special forces to guard against looting.

In the city of Arica, the mayor reported some minor injuries and said some homes made of adobe were destroyed. The quake shook modern buildings in nearby Peru and in Bolivia's high altitude capital of La Paz.

Coastal residents of northern Chile evacuated calmly as waves measuring almost 2 meters hit their cities ahead of a tsunami that was expected to come ashore later.

Evacuations on coast

Evacuations also were ordered in Peru, where waves 2 meters above normal forced about 200 people to leave the seaside town of Boca del Rio. But there were no injuries or major damage, said Col. Enrique Blanco, the regional police chief in Tacna, a Peruvian city of 300,000 near the Chilean border.

"The lights went out briefly, but were re-established,'' Blanco said.

A tsunami alert was issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center for all of Latin America's Pacific coast, and Chile's Emergency Office warned that a large tsunami wave was expected to hit Robinson Crusoe island and others in the Juan Fernandez archipelago, hundreds of miles off Chile's central coast, just before midnight local time.
Authorities in the US state of Hawaii were on alert, but no tsunami watch was issued.

Chile is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries. A magnitude-8.8 quake and ensuing tsunami in central Chile in 2010 killed more than 500 people, destroyed 220,000 homes, and washed away docks, riverfronts and seaside resorts.

The strongest earthquake ever recorded on Earth also happened in Chile a magnitude-9.5 tremor in 1960 that killed more than 5,000 people.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)

 

Date created : 2014-04-02

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