Chile had declared a state of emergency after a powerful 8.2-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Northern Chile at about 8:46 p.m. local time on Tuesday, setting off a tsunami that forced evacuations across the country.
“Chile’s Navy had lifted tsunami warnings for all of Chile long coastline at around 7 a.m. local time (11 a.m. GMT). The mandatory evacuation orders had remained in effect until nearly dawn for coastal areas north of Antofagasta, a decision backed by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii, regarding the coastline of Chile as still dangerous.”
Interior Minister Rodrigo Penalillo said six are confirmed dead, and many of the victims died from heart attacks or falling debris.
The shaking had caused landslides that blocked roads, damaged an airport, provoked fires that destroyed several businesses, and knocked out power for thousands. Michelle Bachelet, the country’s president, had declared parts of Chile’s north a disaster zone, promising troops and police reinforcements to maintain order while damage was repaired. She is scheduled to visit the affected areas later today.
There were around 300 prisoners that had escaped from a women’s prison in the northern port city of Iquique. Officials said about 40 inmates had been recaptured early today.
“In Arica, another city close to the quake’s offshore epicentre, hospitals treated minor injuries, and some homes made of adobe were destroyed,” according to authorities.
The U.S. Geological Survey initially said that the quake was an 8.0, but later upgraded the magnitude of it. There were over 20 aftershocks that followed, including one with a magnitude of 6.2.
The quake was so powerful that Bolivia’s capital, which is about 290 miles away, felt the equivalent of a magnitude-4.5 tremor, according to authorities.
The strongest earthquake that was ever recorded also took place in Chile in 1960. It had a magnitude of 9.5 and killed more than 5,000 people. An 8.8-magnitude earthquake in southern Chile in 2010 killed 524 people and destroyed 220,000 houses.