A magnitude 8.3 earthquake hit off the coast of Chile on Wednesday, shaking buildings in the capital city of Santiago and generating a tsunami warning for Chile, Peru.
Chile’s government urged residents to evacuate the coastline.
Reuters witnesses said the quake was felt as far away as the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, on the eastern seaboard of South America.
The quake struck 105 miles (169 km) north of Valparaiso and was originally reported as magnitude 7.9, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
Hazardous tsunami waves from the quake were possible along the coasts of Chile and Peru within the next several hours, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said. A tsunami watch was also issued for Hawaii.
The quake struck at a depth of 15.5 miles (25 km), the USGS said. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.
About 20 minutes after the initial earthquake, twin aftershocks of magnitudes 6.2 and 6.4 struck the region, USGS reported.
NEWS UPDATE –
*Chile’s government declared on Thursday a state of emergency for the earthquake-hit region of Coquimbo, which was hardest hit by the Wednesday night temblor and ensuing tsunami waves.
*Residents sifted through rubble on Thursday and saved what they could from homes destroyed by a magnitude 8.3 earthquake in central Chile that killed 11 people, forced 1 million from their homes and sent giant waves crashing into coastal areas.
Aftershocks shook the South American country following Wednesday’s quake, the strongest in the world this year and the biggest to hit Chile since 2010. But some residents expressed relief that the destruction had not been greater.
The northern port city of Coquimbo, where waves of up to 4.5 meters (15 feet) slammed into the shore, was declared an emergency area by the government. The move gives the government a wide range of special powers. It was aimed at speeding aid to the city and allowed soldiers to patrol the streets to ensure security and prevent looting.
Large fishing boats had washed up onto the streets Coquimbo. Others vessels splintered, littering the bay with debris.
“We lost it all. It was horrible,” said 79-year-old Hilda Zambra, whose home in Tongoy, a beach town some 40 km (25 miles) south of Coquimbo, was destroyed by surging waters.
“I don’t know how I got out of there,” she said as a shipment of Red Cross aid arrived in the normally quiet tourist destination and soldiers helped clear streets of debris. “It was dark. I jumped into some stranger’s pickup truck. We left with what we had on our backs.”
The homes of 610 people were so damaged that they were unable to return by late Thursday afternoon, according to government data. Some 179 homes were destroyed, 87,600 remained without electricity and 9,000 without clean water.
The government had ordered evacuations from coastal areas after the earthquake hit, seeking to avoid a repeat of a quake disaster in 2010 when authorities were slow to warn of a tsunami and hundreds were killed.
“We want to thank people for their cooperation, which allowed for a death toll that while unfortunate was not very high considering the strength of the earthquake,” President Michelle Bachelet told reporters.
The latest quake also knocked out power in the worst hit areas of central Chile, although most buildings, roads and ports held up well. The quake was felt as far away as Buenos Aires in Argentina.