At least 8 dead after 8.3 quake strikes Chile
A POWERFUL 8.3-magnitude earthquake struck off Chile on Wednesday, killing at least eight people, forcing the evacuation of a million and sparking warnings that tsunami waves could reach Japan.
Buildings swayed as far away as in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1,500km to the east. In Chile, people ran out into the streets in terror.
It was the sixth most powerful quake in the history of geologically volatile Chile and the strongest anywhere in the world this year, Deputy Interior Minister Mahmoud Aleuy said.
The death toll of eight was given by Interior Minister Jorge Burgos.
Strong aftershocks followed the first quake, and a tsunami alert was imposed for hours along the Chilean coast. But it was lifted before dawn yesterday. Many people were evacuated to higher ground. Tsunami warnings were issued in New Zealand and other countries around the Pacific.
In Chile, more than 135,000 families were left without power in the north-central coastal area, the National Emergency Office reported.
Central Choapa province, which is closest to the epicentre, was declared a disaster zone and placed under military rule.
The United States Geological Survey said the quake occurred at 10.54pm GMT and measured 8.3 on the so-called moment magnitude scale.
"The motion began lightly, then stronger and stronger," said Santiago resident Jeannette Matte. "We were on the 12th floor and we were very afraid because it was not stopping. First it was from side to side, then it was like little jumps."
Among the dead were a woman in Illapel, close to the epicentre, and an 86-year-old man in Santiago, where there were scenes of pandemonium as thousands fled swaying buildings.
Hardest-hit Illapel, a coastal city of 30,000, saw its electricity fail and several homes collapsed. Around a dozen people were injured.