Huge quake batters Chile

Huge quake batters Chile

122 die as buildings topple, roads collapse; temblor triggers tsunami

Huge quake batters Chile

Devastation: Vehicles that were driven along a highway that collapsed are seen overturned near Santiago after an 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck central Chile early on Saturday. AP

President Michelle Bachelet said there were 122 confirmed deaths and that the death toll could increase. Telephone and power lines were down, making it difficult to make an early assessment of the damage, but serious damage was reported in two southern cities.

“Never in my life have I experienced a quake like this, it’s like the end of the world,” a man told local television from the city of Temuco, where the quake damaged buildings and forced staff to evacuate the regional hospital.

The US Geological Survey said the earthquake struck 90 km northeast of the city of Concepcion at a depth of 35 km at 3:34 am (0634 GMT). Chilean television and radio stations said several buildings collapsed in the city of Curico and that there was damage to buildings in the historic centre of the capital Santiago, about 320 km north of the epicentre.

The capital’s international airport was forced to close, a highway bridge collapsed and chunks of buildings fell into the street. Television pictures showed cars crushed when part of a multi-storey parking garage collapsed.

Broken glass and masonry were strewn across roads in Santiago and several strong aftershocks rattled jittery residents in the hours after the initial quake. In the moments after the quake, people streamed onto the streets of the capital, hugging each other and crying.  There were blackouts in parts of Santiago and communications were still down in the area closest to the epicentre. Emergency officials said buildings in the historic quarters of two southern cities had been badly damaged.

Bachelet urged people to stay calm and to remain at home to avoid road accidents. “With a quake of this size we undoubtedly can’t rule out more deaths and probably injuries,” she said.

An earthquake of magnitude 8 or over can cause “tremendous damage,” the USGS says. The quake that devastated Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince on January 12 was measured as magnitude 7.0.

Tsunami warning
Bachelet said a huge wave swept into the southern island of Juan Fernandez, and radio stations said it caused serious damage. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the tsunami may have been destructive along the coast near the epicentre “and could also be a threat to more distant coasts.”

It issued a Pacific-wide tsunami warning for countries in Latin America, and as far away as the US state of Hawaii as well as Japan, Russia, the Philippines, Indonesia and the South Pacific.

Saturday’s quake shook buildings as far away as Argentina’s Andean provinces of Mendoza and San Juan. A series of strong aftershocks rocked Chile’s coastal region from Valdivia in southern to Valparaiso, about 800 km to the north.

The tsunami warning centre said there was a possibility the US state of Hawaii could be elevated to watch or warning status.

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