Tsunami hits Chile after 8.8-magnitude quake, toll 78(Fifth Lead)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Santiago, Feb 27 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Hours after a devastating earthquake killed at least 78 people in Chile Saturday, a massive tsunami hit the Robinson Crusoe island of the Latin American country, President Michelle Bachelet said.

The three-meter wave hit the island, the largest in the Chilean Juan Fernandez archipelago, and was heading toward Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean where evacuations to higher ground were underway.

“A village on the island is half-flooded, people have been evacuated to higher elevations,” the president said, adding there had been extreme damage from the tsunami.

The 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit the country at 3.34 a.m. (1204 IST), some 89 km to the north of Chile’s second largest city Concepcion.

President Bachelet rushed to the national disaster centre to assess the situation and help in relief efforts.

The tremor also damaged buildings in Santiago, about 320 km north of the epicentre, besides disrupting telephone and power lines in some areas.

Several aftershocks, including one that measured 6.9 on the Richter scale, followed the initial quake.

Chilean state television said the president was expected to arrive in the quake-hit area. Areas near the stricken Biobio Region, Maule and Araucania, were declared a zone of catastrophe.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre has issued a warning along the coast of Chile and Peru, and issued a tsunami watch for Colombia, Ecuador, Antarctica, Panama and Costa Rica.

Some 50 nations have been placed under a tsunami advisory. Areas of concern are the Hawaiian Islands, French Polynesia, Australia, and Japan.

Russia’s far eastern region was also advised, but local emergency authorities have said that the region is in no danger.

–IANS/RIA Novosti

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