Santiago, Sep 17 (IANS) At least five people were killed and a million people evacuated after a massive earthquake jolted Chile, shattering window panes, forcing people to run onto the streets in panic and triggering a tsunami alert for the country’s coastline.
Five people were killed in the powerful 8.3-magnitude quake that struck Chile on Wednesday night. About one million people were evacuated from affected areas, said Ricardo Toro, director of the National Office of Emergency, CNN reported.
The US Geological Service reported the earthquake of 8.3 magnitude but the University of Chile’s Geology Center raised it later to 8.4 magnitude.
The epicentre was out at sea, 246 km from Santiago, Xinhua quoted the US Geological Service as saying.
The temblor struck Chile five years after an 8.8-magnitude earthquake in 2010 in central Chile killed more than 500 people and destroyed 220,000 houses.
Dennis Cortez, mayor of the town of Illapel tweeted that a 25-year-old woman died after a wall collapsed inside a restaurant following the quake that jolted the South American country at 7.55 p.m.
At least 12 are reported to have been injured so far. The intensity of the quake was so strong that buildings shook, windows broke and people poured onto the streets in the country’s major cities, including Valparaiso and Santiago, about 250 km from the epicentre.
The tremor was felt as far as the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires. The town of Illapel was also jolted by three aftershocks, all above 6.0 magnitude.
A tsunami alert has been issued by the Chilean authorities for the country’s entire coastline, extending to the entire west coast of South America, Hawaii, and New Zealand.
Early reports by Chilean TV station, 24 Horas, said that waves hit the towns of Pichidangui, Valparaiso and Coquimbo. Waves of up to 2.5 metres high were headed towards shore, according to Chile’s reporting systems in the Pacific Ocean.
The government activated emergency response measures, with spokesman Marcelo Diaz calling on all Chileans “to stay calm and to take safety measures”.
The airport of Santiago was evacuated and the country’s airline LAN rerouted all planes.