chile evacuation thousands flee

Powerful Earthquake Hits Chile, 100,000 People Evacuated

A powerful earthquake that hit the Southern American nation of Chile has led to the evacuation of over 100,000 people from its coastal regions, reports AFP. The earthquake was measured at 6.7 on the Richter Scale and struck at 6:16 pm local time. The US Geological Survey had earlier measured the earthquake to be of 7.0 magnitude – which was scaled down later.

In the meantime, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) which had earlier issued a bulletin saying that there was no threat of a tsunami, issued a subsequent bulletin that said that sea level readings indicate that a Tsunami was indeed generated. The bulletin adds that the tsunami “may have been destructive along coasts within 200 km of the earthquake epicenter”. In case no major waves are observed two hours after the quake, it also told the local authorities to assume that the threat has passed.

chile earthquake evacuation

The epicenter of the quake was centered 38 miles (60 kilometers) northwest of the port city of Iquique and happened 20 kilometers below the sea-bed. It was followed by a series of strong aftershocks – one of which measured 6.2 on the Richter scale. Several other aftershocks were felt with two of them measuring 4.9 on the Richter scale.

Owing to the Tsunami warning, Chilean authorities in order to be safe, ordered the evacuation of the coastal towns of Arica, Iquique and Antofagasta due to fears of a “minor” tsunami. The evacuation alert lasted about three hours and involved 100,000 people. Chile’s Undersecretary of the Interior Mahmud Aleuy told reporters, “Everything worked flawlessly. Chile is a seismic country and people reacted appropriately.”

Apart from a few broken windows and fallen rocks, no severe damage has been reported from Chile following the latest quake. Officials however do warn of powerful aftershocks that can be expected. According to Reuters, the initial quake did not damage the large copper mines that dot the Northern region of the country. It reports that all the mines, are functioning normally.

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The fear of a powerful Tsunami was heightened because of the memories from the February 2010 earthquake that hit the Chile. That quake measured 8.8 on the Richter scale and was followed by a tsunami that destroyed several towns. 500 people were reported killed and $30 billion worth of infrastructure damaged. Even more remarkable was the fact that the same earthquake had managed to shift the earth’s axis of rotation by three inches. This was followed by another major quake in 2012 that measured 7.2 on the Richter scale.

chile earthquake and tsunami

[Image Via EPA/Alex Diaz and Red Conciencia Argentina]