8.8 magnitude earthquake hits Chile, tsunami warning issued for Hawaii
A massive 8.8 magnitude earthquake rocked Chile early Saturday. A tsunami warning has been issued for Hawaii.
A devastating earthquake struck Chile early Saturday, toppling homes, collapsing bridges and plunging trucks into the fractured earth. A tsunami set off by the magnitude-8.8 quake threatened every nation around the Pacific Ocean - roughly a quarter of the globe.Skip to next paragraph
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Chileans near the epicenter were tossed about as if shaken by a giant. It was the strongest earthquake to hit Chile in 50 years and one of the strongest ever measured anywhere. President-elect Sebastian Pinera said more than 120 people died, but that number was rising quickly.
In Talca, just 65 miles (105 kilometers) from the epicenter, furniture toppled as the earth shook for more than a minute in something akin to major airplane turbulence. The historic center of town largely collapsed, but most of the buildings of adobe mud and straw were businesses that were not inhabited during the 3:34 a.m. (1:34 a.m. EST, 0634 GMT) quake.
Neighbors pulled at least five people from the rubble while emergency workers, themselves disoriented, asked for information from reporters.
Collapsed roads and bridges complicated north-south travel in the narrow Andean nation. Electricity, water and phone lines were cut to many areas - meaning there was no word of death or damage from many outlying areas.
In the Chilean capital of Santiago, 200 miles (325 kilometers) northeast of the epicenter, a car dangled from a collapsed overpass, the national Fine Arts Museum was badly damaged and an apartment building's two-story parking lot pancaked, smashing about 50 cars whose alarms rang incessantly.
Experts warned that a tsunami could strike anywhere in the Pacific. Emergency officials set off shrieking alarm sirens across parts of Hawaii, which could face its largest waves since 1964 starting at 11:19 a.m. (4:19 p.m. EST, 2119 GMT), according to Charles McCreery, director of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.
Police and troops in Tonga began evacuating people from low-lying coastal areas and experts warned that tsunami waves were likely to hit Asian, Australian and New Zealand shores within 24 hours of the earthquake. The U.S. West Coast and Alaska, too, were threatened.
Waves 6 feet (1.8 meter) above normal hit Talcahuano near Concepcion 23 minutes after the quake, and President Michelle Bachelet said a huge wave swept into a populated area in the Robinson Crusoe Islands, 410 miles (660 kilometers) off the Chilean coast. There were no immediate reports of major damage from the waves.
Bachelet said she had no information on the number of people injured in the quake. She declared a "state of catastrophe" in central Chile but said Chile has not asked for assistance from other countries.
"The system is functioning. People should remain calm. We're doing everything we can with all the forces we have," she said.