Department helping Irish families contact their loved ones
THE Department of Foreign Affairs is helping worried Irish families contact their relatives in earthquake- ravaged Chile.
There are no reports of any Irish casualties following the massive quake which measured 8.8 on the Richter Scale and hit the South American country on Saturday morning.
Communications within the country are in chaos with downed power and telephone lines and ruptured gas pipes hampering rescue efforts.
A spokesperson for the department confirmed that no Irish are believed to have been hurt in the quake, however the honourary consul in Santiago, and the embassy in Buenos Aires in neighbouring Argentina, are investigating the situation.
"We have had many calls from people who are concerned about their relatives in Chile because communications are down. We're assisting people in contacting their relatives," he added.
The quake was so strong that it was picked up by a monitoring station in Co Wicklow, over 7,000 miles from the epicentre.
Tom Blake, experimental officer with the School of Cosmic Physics, part of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, said the earthquake was one of the most powerful on record.
"Without a shadow of a doubt, it is one of the most powerful recorded. Bear in mind, the strongest ever recorded was 9.6, this is 8.8.
"The 9.6 event occurred in 1960 and that started the whole movement towards tsunami-alert systems across the Pacific," he added.
As part of an outreach programme, the institute has measuring equipment in 50 schools around the country and some of these also picked up the quake.
"I have already been contacted by some of the teachers who say they have recorded it on their systems, which the children will see when they go into school tomorrow morning," said Mr Blake.