Sunday 25 September 2016

Chile earthquake kills ten and forces one million people to evacuate their homes

* 8.3 magnitude quake hits 280 km north of Santiago
* Government officials say ten people killed
* One million forced to flee their homes
* Tsunami warnings for coastal areas

Published 17/09/2015 | 12:53

Members of the media gather in front of a damaged building after an earthquake hit areas of central Chile, in Illapel town, north of Santiago, Chile, September 17, 2015. Reuters/Ivan Alvarado
Members of the media gather in front of a damaged building after an earthquake hit areas of central Chile, in Illapel town, north of Santiago, Chile, September 17, 2015. Reuters/Ivan Alvarado
A view of a damaged building after an earthquake hit areas of central Chile, in Illapel town, north of Santiago, Chile, September 17, 2015. Reuters/Ivan Alvarado
Residents gather next to a damaged building after an earthquake hit areas of central Chile, in Illapel town, north of Santiago, Chile. Reuters/Ivan Alvarado
A police vehicle patrols a commercial area after an earthquake hit areas of central Chile, in Illapel town, north of Santiago, Chile. Reuters/Ivan Alvarado
Debris of a destroyed house sit on a street in Illapel, Chile, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015. A magnitude 8.3 earthquake 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. (AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo)
Residents gather next to a damaged building after an earthquake hit areas of central Chile, in Illapel town, north of Santiago, Chile, September 17, 2015. Reuters/Ivan Alvarado
A view of a damaged building after an earthquake hit areas of central Chile, in Illapel town, north of Santiago, Chile, September 17, 2015. Reuters/Ivan Alvarado
Bottles lie on the the ground in a shop after an earthquake hit areas of central Chile, in Illapel town, north of Santiago, Chile, September 17, 2015. Reuters/Ivan Alvarado

At least 10 people have died and more than a million forced to evacuate their homes following a major earthquake in Chile.

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Several coastal towns were flooded from small tsunami waves prompted by the quake, which shook the Earth so strongly that rumbles were felt across South America.

The magnitude-8.3 quake lasted for three minutes, causing buildings to sway in the capital, Santiago, and prompting authorities to issue a tsunami warning for the nation's entire Pacific coast.

President Michelle Bachelet urged people who had been evacuated to stay on high ground until authorities could evaluate the situation.

In the past year, the nation has endured devastating floods in the north, wildfires in the south and two volcano eruptions.

"Once again we must confront a powerful blow from nature," said Ms Bachelet.

Authorities said 10 people had been killed, mostly in the areas closest to the epicentre. That number could climb as emergency crews reach hard-hit areas.

Mahmud Aleuy, the Interior Ministry's deputy secretary, said one million people were forced out of their homes and electrical power was cut off to 240,000 households. Many returned home by midday on Thursday.

Dozens of aftershocks, including one at magnitude-7 and seven at magnitude-6 or above, shook the region after the initial earthquake - the strongest tremor since a magnitude-8.8 quake and tsunami killed hundreds in Chile in 2010.

Tsunami advisories were in effect for Hawaii and parts of California. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre originally issued a tsunami watch for Hawaii but downgraded the alert to an advisory.

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

The 2010 quake killed more than 500 people, destroyed 220,000 homes, and washed away docks, river fronts and seaside resorts. The quake released so much energy it shortened the Earth's day by a fraction of a second by changing the planet's rotation.

Chile is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries. Just off the coast the Nazca tectonic plate plunges beneath the South American plate, pushing the towering Andes cordillera to ever-higher altitudes. The strongest earthquake ever recorded on Earth happened in Chile - a magnitude-9.5 tremor in 1960 that killed more than 5,000 people.

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