Major earthquake rattles Chile, triggers Pacific tsunami alert
SANTIAGO, CHILE — A powerful magnitude-8.3 earthquake hit off Chile’s northern coast Wednesday night, causing buildings to sway in Santiago and bringing flooding from small tsunami waves in some shore towns.
Officials reported three deaths. There were no reports of serious damage hours after the quake, but officials were still checking the region late into the night.
Authorities had issued a tsunami alert for Chile’s entire Pacific coast, and the tremor was so strong that people on the other side of the continent, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, reported feeling it.
Numerous strong aftershocks, including one measuring 7.0 magnitude and three above 6, rattled the region after the first major tremor since a powerful quake and tsunami killed hundreds in 2010 and levelled part of the city of Concepcion in south-central Chile.
"Once again we must confront a powerful blow from nature," President Michelle Bachelet said, addressing the nation late Wednesday.
Bachelet said three people had been killed in the quake but gave no details. She urged people who had been evacuated from coastal areas to stay on high ground until authorities could fully evaluate the situation early Thursday.
Late Wednesday, authorities lifted the tsunami warning for Chile’s far southern regions. The warnings remained in effect everywhere else, and authorities said school classes would be cancelled in most of the country Thursday.
The U.S. Geological Survey initially reported the quake at a preliminary magnitude of 7.9 but quickly revised the reading upward to 8.3. Chilean authorities put the magnitude at 8.4.
U.S. officials said the quake struck just offshore in the Pacific at and was centred about 230 kilometres northnorthwest of Santiago, 12 kilometres below the surface.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center initially issued a tsunami watch for Hawaii, but later downgraded its advisory and said no major tsunami was expected.
A magnitude-8.8 quake and ensuing tsunami in south-central Chile in 2010 killed more than 500 people and destroyed 220,000 homes.