Toll climbing An 8.8-magnitude earthquake has struck Chile, killing at least 64 people and forcing a Pacific-wide tsunami alert.
Massive Chile quake sparks tsunami alert
A massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck central Chile early today, killing at least 64 people, violently shaking the Chilean capital and forcing a Pacific-wide tsunami alert. Santiago was plunged into darkness, with telephones down and power and communication systems disrupted. People in pyjamas fled onto the streets. The tremor shook buildings in the Chilean capital, where many people were still awake when the quake struck at 3.34am (6.34am GMT), carrying on their Friday night partying in restaurants and clubs. An AFP correspondent said buildings "shook like jelly". The US Geological Survey estimated the first quake at magnitude 8.8 and shortly after, the area was quickly hit by 6.2 and 5.6 magnitude aftershocks. The Interior Minister Edmundo Perez Yoma , said at least 64 people had died and Chile's president Michelle Bachelet warned the population the toll could rise. The US Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami warning for Chile and Peru, and a tsunami watch for Ecuador, Colombia, Antarctica, Panama and Costa Rica. "Sea level readings indicate a tsunami was generated. It could have been destructive along coasts near the earthquake epicenter and could also be a threat to more distant coasts," the centre said. On the other side of the Pacific, the Philippines' government warned coastal communities to prepare for possible evacuation after the earthquake triggered a tsunami. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said that the Chile earthquake could generate a destructive tsunami that could hit coastlines on the western Pacific. The Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre warned of the "possibility of dangerous waves, strong ocean currents and foreshore flooding" along the coast between Sydney and Brisbane, as well as two islands. New Zealand also issued an alert while Russia was monitoring the risk of a tsunami in its far eastern areas but was yet to issue an alert. The epicentre of the quake was just off the coast, 115km northeast of Concepcion. Santiago is 325km northeast of the epicentre. The quake was at a depth of 35km, the USGS said in its latest bulletin. Chile is located in an active seismic zone and has had devastating quakes in the past including the biggest tremor of the 20th century. In May 1960, the country was ravaged what is now known as Valdivia or Great Chilean Earthquake, which was rated 9.5 on the moment magnitude scale. The resulting tsunami affected southern Chile, Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines, reaching as far as eastern New Zealand and southeast Australia. The estimated death toll from that disaster ranged from over 2,200 to 5,700. The quake magnitude reading is based on the open-ended Moment Magnitude scale which is used by US seismologists and measures the area of the fault that ruptured and the total energy released. *Agencies