Powerful quake hits off coast of Chile, evacuations ordered | Reuters
SANTIAGO A magnitude 8.3 earthquake hit off the coast of Chile on Wednesday, shaking buildings in the capital city of Santiago and generating a tsunami warning for Chile, Peru and French Polynesia. Chile's government urged residents to evacuate the coastline.
SANTIAGO A magnitude 8.3 earthquake hit off the coast of Chile on Wednesday, shaking buildings in the capital city of Santiago and generating a tsunami warning for Chile, Peru and French Polynesia.
Chile's government urged residents to evacuate the coastline. The mayor of Illapel, which is near the epicentre, said on a radio broadcast that a 26-year-old woman had been killed by a collapsing wall, and 15 others were reported injured.
The quake hit just 46 km (28 miles) from Illapel, leaving the city 210 km (130 miles) north of Santiago without electricity or drinking water. People fled their damaged homes and poured into the streets, the mayor said.
Reuters witnesses said the quake was felt as far away as the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, on the eastern seaboard of South America.
The quake struck 105 miles (169 km) north of Valparaiso at a depth of 15.5 miles (25 km), and was originally reported as magnitude 7.9, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
State copper miner Codelco said that it had evacuated workers from its Ventanas smelter but all its other divisions were operating normally. Antofagasta Plc reported no damage to its flagship Los Pelambres copper mine.
Waves triggered by the earthquake have begun hitting Chile's coastline, with reports of flooding of streets near the ocean. Waves of less than 1 meter (3 feet) were expected shortly in Peru, which lifted its tsunami alert.
Tsunami waves of up to 3 meters (10 feet) are possible for French Polynesia, said the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.
Waves of less than 1 meter were also expected in Hawaii around 3:06 a.m. Hawaii Standard Time (1306 GMT) on Thursday, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.
Less than an hour after the initial earthquake, three aftershocks all greater than magnitudes 6.1 struck the region and smaller quakes continue to shake the area, USGS reported.
Codelco said none of its workers were injured and there was no damage to its installations following the quake in the world's top copper exporter.
In February 2010, an 8.8-magnitude earthquake in central-southern Chile triggered a massive tsunami, and more than 500 people were killed.
In the hours following that quake, President Michelle Bachelet and other government officials misjudged the extent of damage and declined offers of international aid. That delayed the flow of assistance to disaster areas, leaving many survivors feeling they had been abandoned by the government.
Compounding matters, the Chilean navy's catastrophe-alert system failed to warn the population of impending tsunamis, leaving hundreds who survived the initial quake to be engulfed by massive waves that followed.
Bachelet´s government was also slow to prevent looting following the quake, and fumbled the death toll, later rolling back its estimate and saying missing people who later turned up alive had been mistakenly included.
(Additional reporting by Marco Aquino in Lima; Ronny Perez in Illapel, Chile; Writing by Lisa Shumaker; Editing by Toni Reinhold and Ken Wills)
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