A powerful earthquake with 8.3 magnitude on Richter scale shook Chile’s northern coast on Wednesday (3:00 AM local time) killing at least 5 people and also causing damage to property. Such was an intensity of the quake that it shook off some buildings in the capital city of Santiago, while there are reports of some serious damage as well. The strong tremors prompted authorities to issue a tsunami warning for the Andean nation’s entire Pacific coast.
According to the latest reports, authorities are working to assess damage in several coastal towns that saw flooding from small tsunami waves set off by the quake. 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.
So far, authorities have confirmed that five people had been killed, while one person was listed as missing.
President Bachelet has also urged people who were 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 on Thursday.
Numerous aftershocks, including one at magnitude 7 and four above 6, shook the region after the initial earthquake. This is the strongest tremor since a powerful quake and tsunami killed hundreds in 2010 and leveled part of the city of Concepción 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.
“Earthquake impact is a little like real estate: what matters is location, location, location,” said Susan Hough, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey adding “preparedness and risk reduction in Chile is ahead of that in much of the world, and that makes a difference.”
The tremors were also felt in far off cities of Buenos Aires in Argentina and even in Peru and Brazil. So far, no injuries are reported outside Chile.
(With inputs from the PTI)