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Major quake in Chile forces evacuations

SANTIAGO, Chile — A powerful magnitude-8.2 earthquake struck off Chile's northern coast Tuesday night, causing landslides that blocked roads and setting off a small tsunami that forced an evacuation of coastal areas, but the region apparently escaped major damage and casualties.

In the city of Arica, 86 miles from the quake's epicenter, minor injuries were reported and some homes made of adobe were destroyed, officials said. The quake shook modern buildings in nearby Peru and in Bolivia's high altitude capital of La Paz.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake struck 61 miles northwest of the Chilean city of Iquique at 8:46 p.m., hitting a region that has been rocked by numerous quakes over the past two weeks. Chile is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries.

Psychiatrist Ricardo Yevenes said he was with a patient in Arica when the quake hit. "It quickly began to move the entire office, things were falling," he told a local television station. "Almost the whole city is in darkness."

The quake was so strong that the shaking experienced in Bolivia's capital about 290 miles away was the equivalent of a 4.5-magnitude tremor, authorities there said.

At least 10 strong aftershocks followed in the first few hours, including a 6.2 tremor. More aftershocks and even a larger quake could not be ruled out, said seismologist Mario Pardo at the University of Chile.

Some roads in northern Chile were blocked by landslides, causing traffic jams among people leaving the coast. But coastal residents remained calm as they headed inland while waves measuring almost 6 ½ feet struck their cities.

Evacuations also were ordered in Peru, where waves forced about 200 people to leave the seaside town of Boca del Rio. But there were no injuries or major damage, said Col. Enrique Blanco, the regional police chief in Tacna, a Peruvian city of 300,000 near the Chilean border. "The lights went out briefly, but were re-established," Blanco said.

A tsunami alert was issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center for all of Latin America's Pacific coast. Chile's Emergency Office warned that a large tsunami wave was expected to hit Robinson Crusoe island and others in the Juan Fernandez archipelago, hundreds of miles off Chile's central coast.

Authorities in Hawaii were on alert, but no tsunami watch was issued. The tsunami center said any higher waves would hit Hawaii starting 3:24 a.m. Hawaii Standard Time.

Major quake in Chile forces evacuations 04/01/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 2, 2014 1:25am]
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