Chile earthquake sparks tsunami warning and evacuation of thousands
Deaths reported and people on coast spending night in the hills after magnitude 8.2 undersea quake triggers emergency
- theguardian.com, Wednesday 2 April 2014 02.26 EDT
An earthquake of magnitude 8.2 has jolted northern Chile, triggering a tsunami alert and the evacuation of thousands of people from coastal areas. At least five people were killed and more than 300 women escaped from a coastal prison.
The quake was centred under the Pacific Ocean 61 miles north-west of the city of Iquique and struck at 8.46pm as thousands of residents were arriving home from work.
As sirens blared and emergency warnings urged residents to evacuate by foot to higher ground, in coastal cities traffic jams ensued as panicked residents sought to escape the coast. The first tsunami surge measured 2.5 metres (8.2ft) and flooded low-lying areas of Iquique including a medical clinic and bus terminal.
While thousands of residents sought refuge in the hills, an ad-hoc security force of police and members of the Chilean armed forces searched Iquique for the estimated 329 female prisoners thought to have escaped. Initial reports from Chilean investigative police said 16 prisoners had been apprehended. Firefighters, meanwhile, battled a huge blaze in central Iquique and the lack of water and electricity added to a sense of chaos.
In Santiago, a contingent of special forces police boarded a Hercules transport plane and were flown north to provide reinforcements and help prevent looting. In Iquique, police took control of service stations and provided perimeter security for supermarkets. Government officials said attempts to loot stores and abandoned homes in Iquique were rebuffed by police.
Earthquake Off Chile’s Coast, Tsunami Warnings Issued
Published on Apr 2, 2014
More than 900,000 people evacuate Chile’s coastal areas after 8.2-magnitude quake.
Chile earthquake: five dead as tsunami warning triggers coastal evacuation – live updates
- Earthquake triggers tsunami warnings, mass evacuations
- Five people are reported to have died in the aftermath
- Authorities have called for ‘preventative evacuation’
We’re going to wrap up our live coverage of the earthquake and aftermath in Chile for the moment. Here’s a summary of how events unfolded today:
An 8.2 magnitude earthquake struck 60 kilometres northwest of the city of Iquique on Tuesday evening in Chile at 8:46pm, killing at least five people and allowing 300 prisoners to escape a nearby prison. Tremors have continued following the initial quake, and there have been more than 20 aftershocks in the region according to the United States Geological Survey.
A tsunami alert was issued for the Chilean coast and a precautionary evacuation was ordered. The tsunami warning has since been cancelled for Peru and Chile, although an advisory remains in place for Hawaii.
There are reports of some flooding in the streets of coastal areas but no damage from tsunami waves. The Chilean president has ordered a state of emergency for Arica, Parinacota and Tarapacá.
Updated at 5.44pm AEST
My colleague Jonathan Franklin has just filed this update on events in Chile:
An 8.2 earthquake jolted Northern Chile killing at least 5 people and permitting more than 300 female inmates to escape a coastal prison. The quake, some 60 kilometres northwest of the city of Iquique, hit at 8:46pm as thousands of residents were arriving home from work.
As air raid sirens blared and emergency warnings urged residents to evacuate by foot to higher ground, in several coastal cities traffic jams ensued as panicked residents sought to escape the coast. The first tsunami surge measured 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) and flooded low lying areas of Iquique including a medical clinic and a bus terminal.
While thousands of residents sought refuge in the hills, an ad-hoc security force of police and members of the Chilean Armed Forces searched Iquique for the estimated 329 female prisoners thought to have escaped in the aftermath of the earthquake. Initial reports by Chilean investigative police PDI reported some 16 prisoners had been apprehended. Firefighters meanwhile battled a huge blaze in central Iquique and the lack of water and electricity added to a sense of chaos.
More to follow soon.
Updated at 5.41pm AEST
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has indicated in their latest release that a major Tsunami is not expected to strike Hawaii – but it should be stressed the tsunami advisory is still in place:
Based on all available data a major tsunami is not expected to strike the state of Hawaii. However…sea level changes and strong currents may occur along all coasts that could be a hazard to swimmers and boaters as well as to persons near the shore at beaches and in harbours and marinas. The threat may continue for several hours after the initial wave arrival.
Updated at 5.13pm AEST
The latest update from the United States Geological Survey indicates there have been at least 25 after shocks following the initial 8.2 magnitude quake. The subsequent shocks range from 4.7 to 6.2 magnitude and are scattered in the same region off the Chilean coast.
Here’s a little background on the state of emergency declared by Chilean president Michelle Bachelet from Jonathan in Chile:
Under Chilean law the state of emergency provision signed by President Bachelet allows members of the armed forces to patrol the streets and assist with law enforcement.
For many Chileans, the sight of military troops on the streets rekindle ugly memories of the Pinochet dictatorship in which thousands were killed and many more systematically tortured by security forces. But because of looting during earlier national emergencies – notably the 2010 earthquake in Southern Chile city of Concepcion – Chilean authorities, including socialist president Michelle Bachelet, are not shy about bolstering public security in moments of national disaster.
Aftershocks and further earthquakes are continuing. There have been more than 10 aftershocks since the initial 8.2 magnitude quake.
In the last few hours low and medium sized earthquakes have struck Arica, Parinacota, Tarapaca and Antofagasta.
With the coastal regions of Chile evacuated, tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of people have fled to higher ground.
Tsunami warning sirens were set off when a magnitude 8.2 earthquake hit at a depth of approximately 10km off the Pacific coast of the north of Chile. In videos taken shortly after the alert, people could be seen fleeing through the streets and climbing to hilltops.
Tsunami warning cancelled for Peru, Chile
The Pacific Tsunami Warning centre has cancelled the tsunami warnings for Peru and Chile.
“Sea level readings indicate a tsunami was generated,” said the statement. “It may have been destructive along coasts near the earthquake epicentre.”
A tsunami advisory remains in place for Hawaii.
There have been 11 hospitals evacuated due to floods, but all others are operating normally, National Director of ONEMI, Ricardo Toro said. The evacuated hospitals are: Mussels, Chañaral, Guasco, Taltal Toltén, Corral, Queilén, Achao, Balmaceda, Swans and Puerto Chacabuco.
The Chilean president has declared a state of emergency for Arica and Parinacota and Tarapacá, reports CNN.
There has been some flooding in the streets of coastal areas, but no damage from the tsunami waves which reportedly reached more than 2m in some areas.
Tsunami advisory issued for Hawaii
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has issued a tsunami advisory for Hawaii.
“Based on all available data, a major tsunami is not expected to strike the state of Hawaii,” it said.
“However, sea level changes and strong currents may occur along all coasts that could be a hazard to swimmers and boaters as well as to persons near the shore at beaches and in harbours and marinas.”
The first wave generated by the earthquake is expected to reach Hawaii at 3:24 a.m. There is already a tsunami warning in place for Chile and Peru.
Ricardo Toro, head of the ONEMI national emergency services agency, has confirmed to media the entire Chilean coastline has been evacuated.
The Chilean minister of the interior has confirmed the five deaths to media. Peñailillo also said 11 coastal hospitals have been evacuated for fears of tsunami and a planeload of prison guards and riot police is en route to Iquique.
Omeni has confirmed some roads have been cut by landslides in Arica, Tarapaca, San Marcos and by floods in Coquimbo. Drinking water has been “preemptively” stopped in Arica.
Reports: five dead in earthquake
CNN is reporting five people have been reported dead in the aftermath of the earthquake. Two reported earlier are believed to have died from heart attacks.