Chile earthquake: one million people evacuated

 September 17 2015 at 9:05   297    Earthquake Chile Southern California

Chile earthquake: one million people evacuated

As it nears 3am in Chile, one million people are on the streets taking refuge from a major earthquake, which has been followed by flooding and waves of up to 4.5m.

Speaking to reporters in southern California, a Caltech seismologist, Mark Simons, said those affected by the earthquake need to remain vigilant, especially if the 8.3 magnitude portends a larger seismic event. The quake, which was felt as far away as Buenos Aires in Argentina, has killed at last five people.

A tsunami alert remains in place across most of Chile, as well as in Hawaii, New Zealand, Peru and parts of California. This map shows how far the waves generated by the earthquake are expected to travel. It took place 7.54pm local time - just under seven hours ago.

More photographs now from Los Vilos, a town on the Chilean coast that appears to have borne the brunt of this 8.3 magnitude quake.

Chile’s emergency agency has cancelled tsunami warnings for Isla San Felix, the Juan Fernandez Archipelago and the regions of Los Rios, Los Lagos, Aysen and Magallanes. It remains active from the rest of the coast.

Summary

If you’re just joining us, here’s the latest on the 8.3 magnitude earthquake that struck off the coast of Chile about six hours ago.

Five people have been killed in Chile’s largest earthquake since the February 2010 quake that killed more than 500. Around 20 people have been reported injured.
One million people have been evacuated from their homes after buildings swayed and collapsed in some areas. The tremors could be felt as far as Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, more than 1,100km away.

Chile is bracing for tsunamis as flooding is reported up and down the country’s coast. The hardest hit regions have been Conquimbo, where waves of up to 4.5m were recorded, and Tongoy, with waves of up to 2m. Chilean president, Michelle Bachelet said both areas had been declared catastrophe zones and troops would be sent in to deter looting.
Tsunami alerts have been issued for Peru, New Zealand, California, Hawaii and other Pacific states.
Dramatic images and videos have emerged of the damage caused by the earthquake, which was followed by at least 15 aftershocks.

Associated Press has just filed this wrap, by Luis Andres Henao:

A major earthquake just offshore rattled Chileans, killing five people and shaking the Earth so strongly the tremor was felt in places across South America. Authorities worked into the early hours Thursday assessing damage in several coastal towns that saw flooding from small tsunami waves set off by the quake.

The magnitude-8.3 quake hit off northern Chile on Wednesday night, causing buildings to sway in the capital of 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 get to higher ground.

“Once again we must confront a powerful blow from nature,” President Michelle Bachelet said in an address to the nation late Wednesday.

Authorities said early Thursday that five people had been killed and one person was listed as missing.

Bachelet urged people who evacuated from coastal areas to stay on high ground until authorities could fully evaluate the situation during the night. Officials said schools would be kept closed in most of the country Thursday.

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.

Although officials cautioned it was too early to know for sure, it appeared Wednesday’s quake had a much smaller impact than the 2010 tremor. If that turns out to be the case, it will be a sign that Chile’s traditionally strong risk reduction measures and emergency planning had gotten better in the last five years.

The tremor was so strong that people in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on the other side of the continent, reported feeling it. People in Peru and Brazil also reported feeling the shakes. No injuries were reported outside Chile.

Authorities said some adobe houses collapsed in the inland city of Illapel, about 175 miles (280 kilometers) north of Santiago and about 34 miles (55 kilometers) east of the quake’s epicenter.

Illapel’s mayor, Denis Cortes, told a local television station that a woman had been killed in the city but declined to give any details.

Electricity was knocked out, leaving the city in darkness. “We are very scared. Our city panicked,” Cortes said.

A magnitude-8.8 quake and ensuing tsunami in south-central Chile in 2010 killed more than 500 people, destroyed 220,000 homes, and washed away docks, riverfronts and seaside resorts. That quake released so much energy, it actually it shortened the Earth’s day by a fraction of a second by changing the planet’s rotation.

Los Vilos is right on the Chilean coast, only a few kilometres from the epicentre of the earthquake, which we understand took place offshore. Journalist Juan Miranda has published these photographs from the town.

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