A powerful earthquake, measuring upto 8.3 magnitude, hit off the coast of Chile, on Wednesday evening. The earthquake is reported to have killed at least five, and 1 million people have been evacuated along the coastline, so far. The earthquake is said to have triggered waves of up to four and half meters high, near the port city of Coquimbo, as reported by the navy.
The capital city of Santiago was shaken up, and saw scared residents run out of their homes, gathering on the streets.
Keen to avoid the disaster of the 2010 earthquake that hit the country, government authorities were quick to evacuate citizens from the coast line, and issue a tsunami warning.
According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), measured the earthquake at a magnitude of 8.3, and said that the shallow offshore quake hit 228 kms off the coast of Santiago, a city that houses 6.6 million people. USGS has also reported that the epicenter is located 500 kms north of Santiago, and the quake struck only 232 kms from the city.
The coastal city of Ilapel has been hit the hardest by the disaster. The city lost electricity, and several residences were damaged. A 26 year old woman from the city, died after she became the victim of a collapsing wall, and a resident of Santiago, has been reported dead, after suffering from a heart attack, according to media reports.
Central Choapa province, said to the closest to the epicenter, has been declared a catastrophe zone, and military rule has been established there.
Affected citizens have said that the tremors lasted for about ‘two minutes or so’. One female citizen from Santiago said that, at first the entire building was shaking from side to side, but later changed to little jumps.
Chilean president Michelle Bachelet has said that she plans to visit the worst hit areas by the quake.
Currently, not only have tsunami warnings have been issued for the coastal cities of Chile, but also for parts of South America, Hawaii, California, French Polynesia, Japan, and most of the South Pacific region, including New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. Residents of these regions have been advised against visiting the coast, however, the waves in these ares are expected to be small.
The death toll in Chile, currently stands at 5, as confirmed by the country’s deputy interior minister, Mahmoud Aleuy.