EARTH­QUAKE RUM­BLES CHILE

The Kansas City Star (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE - By ROBERTO CAN­DIA and EVA VER­GARA

Coun­try re­ports at least 214 dead. Tsunami ex­tends across Pa­cific but causes lit­tle dam­age in Hawaii.

One of the largest earth­quakes ever recorded tore apart houses, bridges and high­ways in cen­tral Chile on Satur­day and sent a tsunami racing half­way around the world.

At least 214 peo­ple were killed, ac­cord­ing to Chilean of­fi­cials, and more than 1.5 mil­lion peo­ple were dis­placed. The death toll was ex­pected to rise, par­tic­u­larly around Concepcion, Chile’s sec­ond­largest metropoli­tan area, which is roughly 70 miles from the quake’s cen­ter.

The mag­ni­tude-8.8 quake was felt as far away as Sao Paulo in Brazil — 1,800 miles to the east.

The full ex­tent of dam­age re­mained un­clear as dozens of af­ter­shocks — one nearly as pow­er­ful as Haiti’s dev­as­tat­ing Jan. 12 earth­quake — shud­dered across the dis­as­ter-prone An­dean na­tion.

Pres­i­dent Michelle Bachelet de­clared a “state of catas­tro­phe” in cen­tral Chile but said the gov­ern­ment had not asked for as­sis­tance from other coun­tries. If it does, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama said, the United States “will be there.” Around the world, leaders echoed his sen­ti­ment.

In Chile, newly built apart­ment build­ings slumped and fell. Flames de­voured a prison. Mil­lions of peo­ple fled

into streets dark­ened by the fail­ure of power lines. The col­lapse of bridges tossed and crushed cars and trucks and com­pli­cated ef­forts to reach quake-dam­aged ar­eas by road.

Concepcion res­i­dent Al­berto Rozas said his build­ing be­gan to shake and he grabbed his daugh­ter in ter­ror amid shat­ter­ing glass and an un­godly roar.

“It was aw­ful,” said Rozas, who lives next to a 13-story apart­ment build­ing that was re­duced to a pile of rub­ble. “The only thing I did right was throw clothes on the floor so my daugh­ter and I could es­cape without ru­in­ing our feet. But we’re still cov­ered with cuts.”

The quake, the fifth-largest quake in the world recorded since 1900, set off tsunami waves that swamped nearby is­lands. The threat raced across the Pa­cific, trig­ger­ing the first hemi­sphere-wide tsunami warn­ing since 1964.

There were no im­me­di­ate re­ports of wide­spread dam­age, in­juries or deaths in the U.S. or in the Pa­cific is­lands, but a wave swamped a vil­lage on an is­land off Chile and killed at least five.

Mean­while, Latin Amer­ica’s wealth­i­est na­tion bore the brunt of the quake’s force.

In Talca, just 65 miles from the epi­cen­ter, peo­ple sleep­ing in bed sud­denly felt like they were fly­ing through ma­jor air­plane tur­bu­lence as their be­long­ings cas­caded around them from the shud­der­ing walls at 3:34 a.m.

A deaf­en­ing roar rose from the con­vuls­ing earth as build­ings groaned and clat­tered. The sound of screams was con­fused with the crash of plates and win­dows.

Then the earth stilled, si­lence re­turned and a smell of damp dust rose in the streets, where stunned sur­vivors took refuge.

A jour­nal­ist emerg­ing into the dark­ened street scat­tered with downed power lines saw a man, some of his own bones ap­par­ently bro­ken, weep­ing and ca­ress­ing the hand of a woman who had died in the col­lapse of a cafe. Two other vic­tims lay dead a few feet away.

Also near the epi­cen­ter was

@Go to KansasCity.com for a photo gallery of the Chilean quake’s af­ter­math. Concepcion, one of the coun­try’s largest cities, where a 15story build­ing col­lapsed, leav­ing a few floors in­tact.

“I was on the eighth floor and all of a sud­den I was down here,” said Fer­nando Abarzua, mar­veling that he es­caped with no ma­jor in­juries. He said a rel­a­tive was trapped in the rub­ble six hours af­ter the quake, “but he keeps shout­ing, say­ing he’s OK.”

Chilean state tele­vi­sion re­ported that 209 in­mates es­caped from prison in the city of Chillan, near the epi­cen­ter, af­ter a fire broke out.

In the cap­i­tal of San­ti­ago, 200 miles to the north­east, a car dan­gled from a col­lapsed over­pass, the na­tional Fine Arts Mu­seum was badly dam­aged and an apart­ment build­ing’s two-story park­ing lot pan­caked, smash­ing about 50 cars whose alarms rang in­ces­santly.

Al­though most mod­ern build­ings sur­vived, a bell tower col­lapsed on the Nues­tra Senora de la Prov­i­den­cia church and sev­eral hos­pi­tals were evac­u­ated due to dam­age.

San­ti­ago’s air­port was closed, with smashed win­dows, par­tially col­lapsed ceil­ings and de­stroyed pedes­trian walk­ways in the passenger ter­mi­nals. The cap­i­tal’s sub­way was shut as well, and trans­porta­tion was fur­ther lim­ited be­cause hun­dreds of buses were stuck be­hind a dam­aged bridge.

Chile’s main sea­port, in Val­paraiso, about 75 miles from San­ti­ago, was or­dered closed while dam­age was as­sessed. The state-run Codelco, the world’s largest cop­per pro­ducer, shut two of its mines, the news­pa­per La Tercera re­ported.

About 13 mil­lion peo­ple live in the area where shak­ing was strong to se­vere, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey. Geo­physi­cist Robert Wil­liams said the Chilean quake was hun­dreds of times more pow­er­ful than Haiti’s mag­ni­tude-7 quake, though it was deeper and cost far fewer lives.

Satur­day’s quake occurred along the same fault re­spon­si­ble for the big­gest quake ever mea­sured, a 9.5 tremor in 1960 that killed nearly 2,000 peo­ple in Chile and hun­dreds more across the Pa­cific.

More than 50 af­ter­shocks topped mag­ni­tude 5, in­clud­ing one of mag­ni­tude 6.9.

“This was a pow­er­ful and sus­tained erup­tion,” Paul Si­mons, the U.S. am­bas­sador to Chile, said in a tele­phone in­ter­view from San­ti­ago. “Most of the em­bassy folks I talked to said that it felt like five min­utes. It was def­i­nitely an emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence.”

The quake was vastly more pow­er­ful than last month’s 7.0mag­ni­tude earth­quake that caused wide­spread dam­age in Haiti and, ac­cord­ing to the gov­ern­ment, killed an es­ti­mated 230,000 peo­ple.

But ex­perts said the dam­age in Chile was likely to be much more lim­ited, and the res­cue ef­forts eas­ier, be­cause it is a far more pros­per­ous coun­try and was bet­ter pre­pared be­cause of the 1960 quake.

Said An­dre Fil­i­a­trault, the di­rec­tor of the Mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary Cen­ter for Earth­quake En­gi­neer­ing Re­search at the Uni­ver­sity at Buf­falo: “Chile is not a stranger to earth­quakes.” The New York Times and the Los An­ge­les Times con­trib­uted to this re­port.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY HEC­TOR CASANOVA | THE KANSAS CITY STAR

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

This build­ing col­lapsed in Concepcion, Chile, which is about 70 miles from the epi­cen­ter of Satur­day’s earth­quake.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

About 13 mil­lion peo­ple live in cen­tral Chile, where the earth­quake was strong to se­vere. This dam­aged road is in the na­tion’s sec­ond-largest city, Concepcion.

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