Chile earthquake: Death toll rises

  • 18/09/2015
People recover items from a shop destroyed by waves in Concon city, northwest of Santiago, following yesterday's quake (Reuters)
People recover items from a shop destroyed by waves in Concon city, northwest of Santiago, following yesterday's quake (Reuters)

A million people have been evacuated from their homes in Chile after an 8.3-magnitude quake that killed at least 10 people and triggered tsunami waves along its northern coast.

Wednesday night's (local time) earthquake was the sixth most powerful in the history of geologically volatile Chile and the strongest anywhere in the world this year, officials said.

In northern Chile, people were evacuated to higher ground as strong aftershocks followed through the night, triggering a tsunami alert for the Chilean coast.

Huge waves of up to 4.5 metres came crashing onshore in the Coquimbo region.

The fishing village of Tongoy was among the worst-hit, with television showing entire areas along the seafront completely destroyed.

Two-metre waves also struck the tourist port of Valparaiso, according to the Chilean navy, flattening several beachfront restaurants.

President Michelle Bachelet was travelling to the quake-hit area on Thursday to assess the relief effort.

"We know there can be aftershocks and we are monitoring the situation minute by minute," she said.

The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said tsunami waves were also possible in French Polynesia, Hawaii and California, officials said, as well as smaller waves as far afield as Japan and New Zealand.

The north Chilean coastal city of Illapel was among the hardest-hit, with power knocked out, homes collapsing and at least one fatality.

Daybreak revealed the damage to the northern town of 30,000, with shacks destroyed, store shelves overturned and the local cemetery a chaos of broken crosses, vases and coffins.

The quake occurred at a shallow depth, 228km north of Santiago, a city of 6.6 million people.

The tremor was clearly felt as far as Buenos Aires, where panicked residents were sent running out of apartment blocks.

A precautionary alert for Peru was later called off, but scared residents near the Chilean border remained out on the streets and on higher ground.

AFP