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Ten Killed as Huge Quake Hits Off Coast of Chile, but Tsunami Warnings Are Now Lifted

After Wednesday's magnitude 8.3 earthquake the Chilean government today raised the death toll to ten people, but lifted tsunami warnings for the country's coast.
September 16, 2015, 11:45pm
Photo Paul Plaza/EPA

The Chilean government today raised the death toll from Wednesday's magnitude 8.3 earthquake to 10 people, and lifted tsunami warnings for the country's coast.

The quake and heavy waves afterwards caused flooding in coastal towns, damaged buildings, and knocked out power in the worst hit areas of central Chile, as well as shaking buildings in the capital city of Santiago about 175 miles to the south.

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The earthquake hit 81 miles northwest of the city of Iquique, near the town of Canela, just before 8pm local time on Wednesday at a depth of 5.2 miles, said the US Geological Survey.

Interior Minister Jorge Burgos told a news conference today that the port of Coquimbo had suffered severe damage, adding that it was the largest quake in the world this year.

President Michelle Bachelet said she planned to travel to the areas worst affected by the quake, the biggest to hit the country since 2010. "Once again we're having to deal with another harsh blow from nature," she said in a televised statement.

This video shows the impact of the earthquake in a Santiago bowling alley.

Evacuación de Costanera Center después del terremoto. Se activo la alarma de inmediato. — Gabriel Leal M. (@glealmartinez)September 17, 2015

— RT (@RT_com)September 17, 2015

Felipe Gordon, a 34-year-old resident of coastal city Viña del Mar, told VICE News he lived 200 meters from the beach and was evacuating to higher land.

"At first the people were going crazy," Gordon said. "The sirens started right after the first aftershock."

Dozens of strong aftershocks continued to rattle central Chile, a largely agricultural region south of the mining belt, on Thursday.

A 26-year-old woman was killed by a collapsing wall in Illapel, near the quake epicenter. Another person died from a heart attack in Santiago, according to media reports.

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Most buildings in Illapel had stayed standing, residents said. Quake-prone Chile has strict building regulations that limit potential damage, so newer buildings are able to withstand even strong quakes. Many homes in Illapel and surrounding areas are simple, adobe houses and are more prone to damage.

The brunt of the damage was borne by coastal areas where houses and fishing-boats were smashed by waves. The coastal town of Coquimbo was hit by waves of up to 4.5 meters (15 feet) after the earthquake, Chile's navy said.

— vicky (@Vickivillalobos)September 16, 2015

The effects of the quake were also felt in Argentina, with eyewitness reports that the quake shook buildings in Buenos Aires. This video shows the quake rocking a swimming pool in the city of Tunuyan, in the west Argentinian province of Mendoza, around 95 miles east of Santiago.

Image via USGS

"We're going through a really grave situation with the tsunami. We have residential neighborhoods that have flooded. The ocean has reached the downtown area," said Coquimbo Mayor Cristian Galleguillos.

Residents reported looting of evacuated houses in Los Vilos, another seaside town, its mayor said.

Chile is due to celebrate its national holiday on Friday, but roads were cut off and public transport canceled between Santiago and the north, local media reported.

Videos posted on YouTube showed people heading away from the coastline in the city of Valparaiso as an announcer on a public broadcasting system warned citizens of a possible tsunami. Other videos showed coastal waters entering a street.

Reuters contributed to this report.