|Tsunami danger looms following 8.2 magnitude jolt off Chilean northern coast
Chile ordered evacuations following nn 8.2-magnitude earthquake that rattled the Pacific coast Tuesday, killing at least five people. Tsunami waves of more than 2 meters lashed the shore. (Pictured, residents of Iquique, northern Chile shelter in a stadium).
Panicked residents poured into the streets and President Michelle Bachelet declared parts of northern Chile to be disaster zones.
“The street lights were busted, people ran terrified. After the earthquake there were several aftershocks,'' Veronica Castillo told AFP from Arica, 1,000 miles north of the Chilean capital Santiago.
In the northern city of Iquique, closest to the epicenter, some 300 prisoners escaped from a jail.
The quake struck at 8:46 pm local time a depth of 10 kilometers, 83 kilometers from Iquique on the northern coast, the United States Geological Survey said.
The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued an alert for residents living along more than 4,800 kilometers of coastline in South and Central America.
It said waves of more than 2 meters had been generated.
Chilean Interior Minister Rodrigo Penailillo said at least 5 people were killed and three seriously injured. He said late Tuesday the tsunami alert would last at least another six hours.
Disaster relief agency ONEMI's director Ricardo Toro said the quake had not caused major damage.
Still, the control tower at Iquique airport was hit, as were roads out of the city. Power cuts in the city of Arica left 80 percent of it in the dark.
Amid Chile's evacuation order, its Ecuadoran and Peruvian counterparts also issued warnings.
Ecuador later reduced its alert from red to amber but maintained the higher level of vigilance on the exposed Galapagos Islands out in the Pacific.
Tremors were felt as far inland as Bolivia, and the quake was followed by a weaker 6.2 magnitude aftershock.
In Chile, Toro said the first waves of the tsunami had reached Pisagua, on the northern coast, and were expected to travel south over five hours.
The rush to evacuate to safe areas caused traffic jams, but no cuts in telephone service or drinking water were reported. There were power outages in some areas.
Chile's Deputy Interior Minister Mahmud Aleuy reported that in Iquique the sea had withdrawn 2.5 meters from the coast, a prelude to the arrival of a dangerous surge.
In Peru, the southern coastal area was also put on alert while roads along the coast were closed, said the mayor of the capital, Susana Villaran.
Honduras in Central America also declared a tsunami alert, but Nicaragua called off one it had declared earlier.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center also issued a warning for Colombia and Panama, and “watches'' for at least six other countries.