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Tsunami warning after powerful earthquake strikes off coast of Chile

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

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

There are reports of waves hitting Pisagua, Patache and Iquique.

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.

The quake was so strong that the shaking experienced in Bolivia's capital about kilometers away was the equivalent of a 4.5-magnitude tremor, authorities there said.

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.

Some roads in northern Chile were blocked by landslides, causing traffic jams among people leaving the coast.

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 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 U.S. 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.

 

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