Chile Rocked By Deadly 8.3 Magnitude Earthquake

Wednesday, September 16th 2015, 11:36 pm
By: News On 6

A powerful magnitude-8.3 earthquake hit off Chile's northern coast Wednesday night, causing buildings to sway in Santiago and other cities and sending people running into the streets.

At least four aftershocks above magnitude-6 and other strong shakes rattled the region as tsunami alarms sounded in the port of Valparaiso in the first major quake since a powerful quake and tsunami killed hundreds in 2010 and leveled part of a southern Chilean city.

The tremor was so strong that people on the other side of the continent, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, reported feeling it.

Officials ordered people to evacuate low-lying areas along the 2,400 miles of Chile's Pacific shore, from Puerto Aysen in the south to Arica in the north. Cars streamed inland carrying people to higher ground.

Authorities said some adobe houses collapsed in the inland city of Illapel, about 175 miles north of Santiago and close to the epicenter.

Illapel's mayor, Denis Cortes, told a local television station that electricity was out in the city. "We are very scared. Our city panicked," he said.

Cortes said at least one person was killed and 15 others hurt after being struck by collapsing walls.

The U.S. Geological Survey initially reported the quake at a preliminary magnitude of 7.9 but quickly revised the reading upward to 8.3. U.S. officials said the quake struck just offshore in the Pacific at 7:54 p.m. and was centered about 141 miles north-northwest of Santiago. It said the quake was 4.8 miles below the surface.

CBS News

"The first one was long and frightening and the aftershocks are still coming," Santiago resident Timothy Luader told CBS News.

Luader said he was home alone with his newborn son when the quake hit, but that the baby "slept through the whole thing."

"When you see Chilean grabbing their go bags and jamming their doors open, you know it's serious," Luader said.

U.S. Olympic skier Travis Ganong is among the American skiers in Chile training for the World Cup ski racing season. Gangong posted video to Instagram after the quake.

Chilean authorities issued a tsunami alert for the country's entire coast, and U.S. officials posted an alert for Hawaii. Chile's emergency office warned that big waves caused by the quake could hit the coast by 11 p.m.

"Based on all available data, a major tsunami is not expected to strike the state of Hawaii," the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said in a statement late Wednesday. "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 harbors and marinas. The threat may continue for several hours after the initial wave arrival."

If tsunami waves impact Hawaii, the estimated earliest arrival of the first tsunami wave is 3:11 a.m. HST on Thursday, CBS affiliate KGMB reported. Forecasters said waves of 0.3 to 1 meter above the tide level were possible.

Tsunami advisories, less urgent than watches or warnings, were also issued for California and New Zealand.

CBS Los Angeles reported the advisory went into effect at 6:45 p.m. local time for coastal areas from San Onofre State Beach to Ragged Point, according to the National Tsunami Warning Center.

Estimated tsunami start times would begin Thursday morning as early as 4:46 a.m. for Newport Beach; 4:47 a.m. for the Los Angeles harbor; and 5:06 a.m. for Santa Barbara.

The NOAA says "widespread inundation of land is not expected for advisory areas." The maximum wave height was expected to be less than a foot.

A magnitude-8.8 quake and ensuing tsunami in central Chile in 2010 killed more than 500 people, destroyed 220,000 homes, and washed away docks, riverfronts and seaside resorts. That quake released so much energy, it actually it shortened the Earth's day by a fraction of a second by changing the planet's rotation.

The quake had huge ramifications, both political and practical, prompting the Andean nation to improve its alert systems for both quakes and tsunamis.

Chile is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries because just off the coast, the Nazca tectonic plate plunges beneath the South American plate, pushing the towering Andes cordillera to ever-higher altitudes.

The strongest earthquake ever recorded on Earth happened in Chile -- a magnitude-9.5 tremor in 1960 that killed more than 5,000 people..