Chilean President Michelle Bachelet says at least three people have died in a powerful 8.3 earthquake and several strong aftershocks that have prompted the evacuation of the coast and a tsunami warning.
President Bachelet appeared on television late Wednesday to report the death toll from the quake, which occurred just before 8 p.m. local time.
“Once again we must confront a powerful blow from nature,” she said, recalling the 2010 earthquake that took the lives of 500 people and leveled parts of the Chilean city of Concepcion.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center says hazardous waves more than three meters above normal tides are possible for the entire Chilean coast, which stretches more than 4,200 kilometers.
Higher than normal waves are also possible as far south as Antarctica and as far west as Malaysia. The U.S. National Weather Service has issued a tsunami warning for the Pacific island state of Hawaii. New Zealand has issued tsunami warnings for parts of its coast.
The mayor of the coastal town of Illapel, north of Santiago and near the epicenter of the quake, reported that one of the three deaths was in Illapel, and the town is without power. Flooding has been reported in some coastal cities. Santiago has evacuated its main airport. Boats are heading out to sea and people on land are leaving coastal areas for higher ground.
Wednesday’s quake was centered about 500 kilometers north of Santiago and was felt as far away as Buenos Aires, on the opposite side of the continent.
U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby has said via Twitter that the United States stands “Ready to assist as needed.” He said “Our thoughts are with the people of Chile tonight.”
A magnitude 8.8 earthquake and resulting tsunami hit south-central Chile in 2010, killing more than 500 people and destroying more than 200 homes.