The large 8.2-magnitude earthquake that hit northern Chile last night triggered a small tsunami with waves measuring about 6.5 feet and prompted the government to declare affected regions to be disaster zones. ABC News reports at least six people killed (other outlets have the toll at five) by falling walls or heart attacks, and tens of thousands people evacuated from their homes.
A number of coastal areas, including Hawaii, were issued tsunami warnings, but the immediate risk seems to have passed:
Tsunami advisory issued for Hawaii following Chile earthquake; Major tsunami not expected http://t.co/BbhSxT9DqF— Mike Walker (@New_Narrative) April 2, 2014
An animation from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center and other groups shows how the quake could cause massive waves:
According to the Chilean government, Tarapaca, Arica and Parinacota have been dubbed disaster areas and law enforcement officers have been sent to those regions to maintain order. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet told residents of the three disaster zones "to keep calm and follow instructions from the authorities," adding that the country "faced the emergency well," and that "the government will work for as long as necessary to confront this emergency."
In Iquique, roughly 300 prisoners escaped from a female penitentiary (about 26 have been recaptured) and in other areas power outages, landslides and looting have been reported. One woman who was evacuating a northern town told Reuters that "we're leaving with the children and what we can, but everything is clogged up by people fleeing buildings by the beach." LATAM Airlines has cancelled some flights in and out of Iquique, Antofagasta and Arica.
Footage aired on Chile's LaTerceraTV appears to show office workers react to increasingly violent shakes:
Another video shows people hold on to what looks like a bar and a column as the building moves:
Experts now fear that another, more devastating earthquake could hit Chile — at some point — according to CNN:
"This magnitude 8.2 is not the large earthquake that we were expecting in this area," said Mark Simons, a geophysicist at Caltech in Pasadena, California. "We're expecting a potentially even larger earthquake." It could be tomorrow. Or it could be 50 years. "We do not know when it's going to occur," he said. Here's why: Chile sits on an arc of volcanos and fault lines circling the Pacific Ocean known as the "Ring of Fire." This area sees frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
In 2010, the country was hit by a massive 8.8 earthquake, that killed more than 500 people. But officials are relieved that, at least this time, the disaster appears to have been contained.