Earthquake triggers tsunami warning
SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) – A powerful magnitude-8.2 earthquake struck off northern Chile tonight, setting off a small tsunami that forced evacuations along the country’s entire Pacific coast.
The area apparently escaped major damage and casualties, but landslides blocked roads, power failed for thousands, an airport was damaged and several businesses caught fire.
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, 139 kilometres from the quake’s epicentre, hospitals were treating minor injuries, some homes made of adobe were destroyed and 90 per cent of customers were without power, authorities said.
The quake also shook modern buildings in nearby Peru and in Bolivia’s high altitude capital of La Paz.
Hours later, tsunami warnings or watches remained in effect for the coasts of Peru and Chile, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said. Shortly before midnight, Chile’s Emergency Office said its tsunami watch would remain in effect for six more hours, meaning hundreds of thousands of people along the coast would not sleep in their beds.
Authorities in the United States’ state of Hawaii were on alert, but no tsunami watch was issued.
The United States Geological Survey initially reported the quake at 8.0, but later upgraded the magnitude. It said the quake struck 99 kilometres northwest of Iquique at 8:46 p.m., hitting a region that has been rocked by numerous quakes over the past two weeks.
Psychiatrist Ricardo Yevenes said he was with a patient in Arica when the quake hit.
“It quickly began to move the entire office, things were falling,” he told local television. “Almost the whole city is in darkness.”
The quake was so strong that the shaking experienced in Bolivia’s capital about 290 miles 470 kilometres away was the equivalent of a 4.5-magnitude tremor, authorities there said.
More than 10 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.