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A powerful magnitude 8.3 earthquake hit off Chile’s northern coast Wednesday night (16/09/2015), causing buildings to sway in Santiago and other cities and sending people running into the streets.
At least 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 quake since a powerful quake and tsunami killed hundreds in 2010 and leveled part of a southern Chilean city.
The tremor was so strong that people on the other side of the continent, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, reported feeling it.
Officials ordered people to evacuate low-lying areas along the 2,400 miles of Chile’s Pacific shore, from Puerto Aysen in the south to Arica in the north. Cars streamed inland carrying people to higher ground.
Authorities said some adobe houses collapsed in the inland city of Illapel, about 175 miles north of Santiago and close to the epicenter.
Illapel’s anciano, Denis Cortes, told a almacén television station that electricity was out in the city. “We are very scared. Our city panicked,” he said.
The tsunami warnings after an earthquake hit the north, killing at least eight people and flooding the town of Coquimbo.
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. U.S. officials said the quake struck just offshore in the Pacific at 7:54 p.m. and was centered about 141 miles north-northwest of Santiago. It said the quake was 4.8 miles below the surface.