President declares 'state of catastrophe' as quake of magnitude 8.8 rocks capital and triggers tsunami
A massive earthquake with a magnitude of 8.8 has struck central Chile, killing at least 47 people and triggering a tsunami.
The tremor shook the capital, Santiago, for a minute and a half early this morning, bringing down telephone and power lines. Declaring a "state of catastrophe", the Chilean president, Michelle Bachelet, said 47 people were confirmed dead and more deaths were likely.
"We have had a huge earthquake," Bachelet said. "We're doing everything we can with all the forces we have. Any information we will share immediately. Without a doubt, with an earthquake of this magnitude, there will be more deaths."
Speaking to a local television station in Temuco, one witness said: "Never in my life have I experienced a quake like this, it's like the end of the world."
The Pacific tsunami warning centre said the quake generated a tsunami that could cause destruction along nearby shores "and could also be a threat to more distant coasts". It issued a tsunami warning for Chile and Peru, while Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica and Antarctica are also on alert.
Chile's navy said officials had lifted the tsunami warning in southern Chile, local radio reported. The Joint Australian tsunami warning centre warned of a "potential tsunami threat" to the states of New South Wales and Queensland, Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island.
The quake was centred 200 miles south-west of Santiago at a depth of 22 miles, according to the US Geological Survey. It warned that an earthquake of magnitude 8 or above could cause "tremendous damage". The quake that devastated Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, in January was magnitude 7.0.
The quake shook buildings as far away as Argentina. A series of strong aftershocks rocked Chile's coast, from Valdivia in the south to Valparaiso, about 500 miles to the north. The epicentre was 70 miles from Concepcion, Chile's second largest city, with a population of around 670,000.
The largest earthquake ever recorded struck the same area of Chile on 22 May 1960. The magnitude-9.5 quake killed 1,655 people and left 2 million homeless, and caused a tsunami that killed people in Hawaii, Japan and the Philippines.
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