8.3-MAGNITUDE EARTHQUAKE STRIKES OFF COAST OF CHILE

chile_earthquake_map_2_31x13_1600

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. Authorities reported one death in a town north of the capital.

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 tremor since a powerful quake and tsunami killed hundreds in 2010 and leveled part of the city of Concepcion in south-central Chile.

Officials ordered people to evacuate low-lying areas along the 2,400 miles (3,900 kilometers) of Chile’s Pacific shore, from Puerto Aysen in the south to Arica in the north. Fishing boats headed out to sea and cars streamed inland carrying people to higher ground. Santiago’s main airport was evacuated as a precaution.

Authorities said some adobe houses collapsed in the inland city of Illapel, about 175 miles (280 kilometers) north of Santiago.

Illapel’s mayor, Denis Cortes, told a local television station that a woman had been killed in the city but declined to give any details.

Electricity was knocked out, leaving the city in darkness. “We are very scared. Our city panicked,” Cortes said.

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. Chilean authorities put the magnitude at 8.4.

U.S. officials said the quake struck just offshore in the Pacific at 7:54 p.m. (6:54 p.m. EDT, 1154 GMT) and was centered about 141 miles (228 kilometers) north-northwest of Santiago. It said the quake was 4.8 miles (5 kilometers) below the surface.