Santiago: An 8.2-magnitude earthquake hit northern Chile’s Pacific coast on Tuesday, killing at least six people as tsunami waves of more than two metres lashed the shore. The quake sent panicked residents pouring into the streets, with over 900,000 people along Chile’s coast heeding government orders to evacuate their homes. Similar warnings were issued in a ripple effect up the Pacific coast of South America and into Central America.
But about 10 hours after the two-minute quake, the Chilean government lifted what remained of a nationwide tsunami alert. People began trickling home after spending hours outside in the middle of the night although the interior ministry asked them to remain on alert, as sea levels will remain as much as a metre higher than usual. Some fires broke out, roads were damaged and power was knocked out in the northern city of Arica, although there was no widespread destruction, said thedisaster relief agency ONEMI. The government said that so far there have been 17 aftershocks and there will be more in coming days.
President Michelle Bachelet declared parts of northern Chile to bedisaster zones and said soldiers will be dispatched to the areas to prevent looting and disorder.
In the city of Iquique, closest to the epicenter, some 300 prisoners escaped from a jail amid the chaos triggered by the new tremor.
A total of 39 of them have been recaptured, the interior ministry said. AFP