8.3-Magnitude earthquake strikes off coast of Chile
by PHIL HELSEL and ANDREW RUDANSKY
An 8.3-magnitude earthquake struck near the central coast of Chile Wednesday, sparking fears of tsunami waves as far as Hawaii, officials said.
The earthquake struck 44 miles west-northwest of Illapel, and north of Santiago, at 6:54 p.m., the U.S. Geological Survey said. It said the earthquake was the largest to hit the area in over 100 years.
Illapel Mayor Denis Cortes told TV Chile that there are reports of one death. He said the town of around 30,000 was without power.
Chile's National Emergency Office of the Ministry of Interior and Public Security said in a series of Twitter posts that residents were being urged to evacuate coastal regions and remain calm.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said tsunami waves measuring 3 meters (around 10 feet) higher than the tide level are possible for some coasts along Chile, and tsunami waves between 1 to 3 meters above tide level are possible for French Polynesia.
The tsunami warning center issued a tsunami watch for the state of Hawaii, and said if a wave is generated the earliest arrival time in Hawaii is 3:06 a.m. local time (9:06 a.m. ET).
Smaller waves could hit some coasts of Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, and as far as Japan, the tsunami warning center said.
A Reuters witness said the quake shook buildings in Chile's capital, Santiago. TV Chile reported that Santiago's airport was evacuated as a precaution, but it was later reopened. Bottles shook on grocery store shelves in the city. Santiago is about 160 miles to the south of Illapel.
Chile's state copper miner Codelco said it was evacuating its workers at its Ventanas division.
The USGS first said it was a preliminary 7.9-magnitude earthquake, then upgraded it to an 8.3. It was felt in Central Chile and Western Argentina, the USGS said.
Aftershocks measuring between 6.3-magnitude and 5.7-magnitude were reported after the initial quake, according to the USGS.
Wednesday's quake was larger than one that hit the area in 1906, when an 8.2-magnitude earthquake struck, the USGS said. In 2010, there was a 7-magnitude earthquake in the area.