A strong 8.2-magnitude earthquake has struck off the northwestern coast of Chile, killing at least five people and setting off a small tsunami that prompted evacuations along the country's Pacific coast. Chilean Interior minister Rodrigo Peñalillo confirmed that five people had died, “four are men and a woman in Iquique and Alto Hospicio, caused by heart attack and crushing”.
Chilean Interior minister Rodrigo Peñalillo confirmed that five people had died, four are men and a woman in Iquique and Alto Hospicio, caused by heart attack and crushing.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake was centered about 100 kilometers northwest of Iquique Tuesday evening. It was followed by several aftershocks, including one measuring 6.2 in magnitude.
All emergency committees are on operation and the evacuation along the coast is preventive but nobody can return to their homes until the order has been given said Deputy interior minister Mahmud Aleuy.
The official added that there had been a land slide in Arica, extreme north of the country, some highways have been cut and so far there has been no reports of serious damages to homes.
As to the tsunami alert Aleuy said that the worst was suffered by Iquique, 1.850 kilometers to the north of Santiago where waves averaged 2.5 to 3 meters high. However in other coastal areas, the sea was up 1.5 meters.
Aleuy also reported that the control tower at the Iquique airport had been knocked out and that the city of 180.000 people, in the hub of the country's copper industry, was without power and water service. Flights to the north of the country have been cancelled.
Likewise in Valparaiso, Chilean navy vessels were abandoning the harbor in the event of a tsunami and something similar was happening in the port of San Antonio, 102 kilometers southeast of Santiago.
The seismology center from the University of Chile said the 8.2 point earthquake was felt at 23:47 GMT and was centered 85 kilometers off the northern coast.
The earthquake came on the heels of a March 16 quake with a magnitude-6.7 off Iquique, next to the Atacama desert region. The area, where the Nazca tectonic plate collides with the South American plate, experiences numerous earthquakes.
Chile is vulnerable to quakes: a magnitude-8.8 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in central Chile in 2010 killed more than 500, decimated 220,000 homes and washed away docks, riverfronts and seaside resorts.
The country also suffered one of the strongest earthquake ever recorded on the planet, with magnitude-9.5 quake in 1960 that killed over 5,000 people.
The quake also triggered a tsunami warning for neighboring Peru and Ecuador and a tsunami watch for Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and El Salvador, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
After the quake, authorities in Peru began evacuating communities in the southern coastal region of Ica.