Magnitude 8.3 quake rattles north Chile, 1 million evacuated
by Associated Press
SANTIAGOSep 18, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Associated Press
Sep 18, 2015 12:00 am
Thousands of residents of this small city in northern Chile were sleeping outside yesterday after a powerful earthquake destroyed their homes, a tremor that also forced more than 1 million to evacuate and killed eight people in the quake-prone South American nation.
Several coastal towns were flooded from small tsunami waves set off by the late Wednesday quake, which shook the Earth so strongly that rumbles were felt across South America. The magnitude-8.3 quake that hit off northern Chile on Wednesday night lasted for three minutes, causing buildings to sway in the capital, Santiago, and prompting authorities to issue a tsunami warning for the Andean nation's entire Pacific coast. People sought safety in the streets of inland cities, while others along the shore took to their cars to race to higher ground.
"I thought it was the end of the world and we were going to die," said teary-eyed Manuel Moya, 38, sleeping with his wife on the ground outside their destroyed home in Illapel, 175 miles (280 kilometers) north of Santiago and 34 miles (55 kilometers) east of the quake's epicenter. The town and surrounding areas have about 35,000 residents.
Authorities said eight people had been killed, a number that could climb as emergency crews are able to get into hard-hit areas yesterday. Mahmud Aleuy, the Interior Ministry's deputy secretary, said 1 million people were forced out of their homes and electrical power was cut off to 240,000 households. Numerous aftershocks, including one at magnitude-7 and four above 6, shook the region after the initial earthquake the strongest tremor since a powerful quake and tsunami killed hundreds in 2010 and leveled part of the city of Concepcion in south-central Chile. Tsunami advisories were also in effect for Hawaii and parts of California. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center originally issued a tsunami watch for Hawaii but downgraded the alert to an advisory.
Chile is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries because just off the coast the Nazca tectonic plate plunges beneath the South American plate, pushing the towering Andes cordillera to ever-higher altitudes. The strongest earthquake ever recorded on Earth happened in Chile a magnitude-9.5 tremor in 1960 that killed more than 5,000 people.