A strong 8.8-magnitude quake struck Chile early Saturday, shaking the capital of Santiago for 90 seconds and sending tsunami warnings from Chile to Ecuador.
At least 47 people were killed, but the death toll is expected to rise. The quake triggered tsunami waves. The waves can be destructive for both the Chilean coast and the coastlines of other countries, particularly Australia and Peru.
Numerous buildings and houses were ruined as a result of the quake. A bridge connecting the northern and southern parts of the country collapsed, the Associated Press reports.
The earthquake struck at 3:34 a.m. local time and was centered about 200 miles southwest of Santiago, at a depth of 22 miles, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. The epicenter was some 70 miles from Concepcion, Chile’s second-largest city, where more than 200,000 people live.
The earthquake in Chile was 1,000 times more powerful than the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that devastated Haiti on Jan 12 and killed at least 230,000.
Eyewitnesses and the U.S. Geological Survey reported more than a dozen aftershocks, including two measuring magnitude 6.2 and 6.9.
The earthquake occurred along the boundary between the Nazca Plate and the South American Plate. At the location of this earthquake, the plates converge at 80 mm/year. The coastal part of Chile has a history of great megathrust earthquakes originating from this plate boundary, such as the 1960 Valdivia earthquake. More recently, this plate boundary ruptured at the 2007 Antofagasta earthquake.
The earthquake is characterized by a thrust-faulting focal mechanism, caused by the subduction of the Nazca plate under the South American plate.
Chilean television is reporting at least 64 deaths. With more casualties possible. The Chilean National Emergency Office Oficina Nacional de Emergencia estimated that the intensity of the earthquake was 9 on the Mercalli scale in the Biobío Region and 8 in Santiago. USGS put the intensity in Santiago and Valparaiso at MM VI.
In Juan Fernández Islands, situated in the Pacific Ocean about 667 km away from the coast of Chile, local residents reported "a wave of great size (una ola de gran tamaño)" in the main city, but it still remains unknown whether there is any damage