Tsunami Hits Chile After 8.3 Earthquake

Santiago: A powerful 8.3-magnitude earthquake has struck off the central coast of Chile, causing buildings to sway in the capital Santiago and triggering a tsunami warning.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet has confirmed three people died when the earthquake struck on Wednesday night, but later government officials lifted the death toll to five people and said one million people had been evacuated.

Tsunami alarms sounded in the port of Valparaiso and authorities issued a tsunami alert for Chile’s entire coast. At least three aftershocks above magnitude-6 hit the area minutes after the initial quake.

Witnesses said the powerful quake was felt as far away as the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, on the eastern seaboard of South America.

A 26-year-old woman was killed by a collapsing wall and another person died from a heart attack, according to media reports.

The coastal town of Coquimbo was hit by waves of up to 4.5 metres after the earthquake, Chile’s navy said.

“We’re going through a really grave situation with the tsunami. We have residential neighbourhoods that have flooded …. the ocean has reached the (Coquimbo) downtown area,” said Coquimbo Mayor Cristian Galleguillos.

The inland city of Illapel, about 46 km from the epicentre, was without electricity or drinking water. People fled their damaged homes and poured into the streets, the mayor said.

Waves of up to three metres are possible along the coast of French Polynesia, the Pacific Tsunami Centre (PTWC) in Hawaii said on Thursday.

The PTWC also issued an alert for tsunami waves of between 0.3 to 1 metres for Japan, Antarctica, and most of the South Pacific, including New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.

Hazardous tsunami waves were possible along the coasts of Chile and also Peru within the next several hours, while a tsunami watch was also issued for Hawaii.

State copper miner Codelco said it had suspended mining operations at its Andina mine and that it had evacuated workers from its Ventanas smelter. Antofagasta Plc said it had halted operations at its flagship Los Pelambres copper mine and would wait until daybreak to assess damage.

Tsunami advisories were issued for parts of South America and as far away as Hawaii, California and French Polynesia.