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Powerful Chile quake kills at least five, 1 million evacuated

The toll was given in the early hours of Thursday by Deputy Interior Minister Mahmoud Aleuy. He said the figures were preliminary.

A massive 8.3-magnitude earthquake struck the center of Chile on Wednesday, triggering the evacuation of coastal areas and warnings that tsunami waves could reach as far as Japan.

Thousands of terrified residents rushed out onto the streets in the capital Santiago. The quake was felt as far away as Argentina, where buildings also swayed.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) put the shallow offshore quake at a magnitude of 8.3 and said it hit just 228 kilometers (about 140 miles) north of Santiago, a city of 6.6 million people.

The quake, which struck at 7:54 pm, hit at a depth of eight kilometers, USGS said. Seismologists also reported two aftershocks, both above 6.0.

The Chilean government put the main earthquake at 8.0 on the Richter scale.

Interior Minister Jorge Burgos said that the evacuation of coastal towns and cities was ordered as a precautionary measure.

The quake was felt as far away as Buenos Aires, about 1,400 kilometers away, while a tsunami warning was initially in place for the whole of Chile and Peru’s Pacific coastline.

“We fled our building and everything started to move very strong,” resident Pablo Cifuentes told local Cooperativa radio.

In coastal La Serena, in the north of Chile, “people were running in all directions,” said resident Gloria Navarro.

A similar fear seized residents in Argentina, while El Salvador, in Central America, was also on the lookout for destructive waves.

“We went into a panic and the floor kept moving. We went out into the hallway and down the stairs,” Celina Atrave, 65, who lives in a 25-story high-rise near downtown Buenos Aires, told AFP.

As far as Japan

The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said that “hazardous” tsunami waves were possible for some parts of Chile’s shoreline, including above three meters the tide level. Tsunami waves were also possible along French Polynesia, Hawaii and California, officials said, as well as smaller waves as far afield as Japan and New Zealand.

The precautionary alert for Peru was later called off, civil defense officials said, but scared residents in the city of Ilo, close to the border with Chile, remained out on the streets and on higher ground nonetheless.

In April last year, a deadly 8.2-magnitude earthquake in northern Chile killed six people and forced a million to leave their homes in the region around Iquique.

And a February 27, 2010 quake that struck just off the coast of Chile’s Maule region measured 8.8 in magnitude, making it one of the largest ever recorded.

It killed more than 500 people and inflicted an estimated $30 billion in damages.



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