Powerful earthquake shakes Chile's capital to the core

By Melissa Hills and agencies

At least five people have died after a massive 8.3 magnitude earthquake struck Chile's capital causing buildings to sway and people to take refuge in the streets.

BNO News reports that 25-year-old woman was killed in Illapel of Choapa Province after a wall collapsed at a restaurant.

One person died in Maipú of Santiago Province after suffering a heart attack when the earthquake struck.

A 20-year-old person killed in the commune of Monte Patria in Limarí Province after being crushed by rocks.

An elderly person died at Carlos Van Buren Hospital in Valparaiso after suffering heart problems during the earthquake.

The quake triggered the evacuation of coastal areas and warnings that tsunami waves could reach as far as Japan and New Zealand.

Several strong aftershocks hit within minutes as tsunami alarms sounded in the nearby port of Valparaiso.

People recover items from a destroyed shop caused by the waves in Concon city, Chile. Photo: Reuters
A map of the region where the earthquake hit in Chile. Photo: 7 News

Around 10 people were also hurt as terrified residents rushed out onto the streets in the capital Santiago.

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

In Santiago, there were scenes of pandemonium as thousands fled swaying buildings, an AFP reporter said.

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

A woman prays in the street after an 8.3 magnitude quake in Chile. Photo: Reuters

There were similar scenes of panic in coastal La Serena, in the north of Chile.

"People were running in all directions," said Gloria Navarro.

A similar fear seized residents in Argentina.

"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.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre says that large tsunami waves observed along the Chilean coast after the quake.

The quake was even felt 1400 kilometres away in Buenos Aires, in Argentina.

Santiago residents watch the sea in Chile after a powerful quake. Photo: Reuters

Tsunami waves were also possible along French Polynesia, it said, as well as smaller waves as far afield as Alaska, Japan and New Zealand.

The U.S. Geological Survey initially reported the quake at a preliminary magnitude of 7.9 but quickly revised the reading upward to 8.3.

Residents stand on a street outside their houses after an earthquake hit Chile's central zone, in Santiago, Chile. Photo: Reuters

U.S. officials said the quake struck just offshore in the Pacific at 7:54pm (6:54pm EDT, 1154 GMT) and was centered about 141 miles (228 kilometers) north-northwest of Santiago.

It said the quake was 4.8 miles (5 kilometers) below the surface.

People took to the streets for safety in Santiago when the quake struck. Photo: YouTube

A magnitude-8.8 quake and ensuing tsunami in central Chile in 2010 killed more than 500 people, destroyed 220,000 homes, and washed away docks, riverfronts and seaside resorts.

That quake released so much energy, it actually 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 because 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.

Morning news break – September 17