Update as of 4:10 a.m. EDT: A tsunami reached Chile's coast on Wednesday with waves as high as 6.5 feet, hours after an 8.2-magnitude earthquake hit the country Tuesday evening, news reports said.
"We're leaving with the children and what we can, but everything is clogged up by people fleeing buildings by the beach," Liliana Arriaza, a 32-year old mother of three children, said according to Reuters. The report added that Chilean President Michelle Bachelet would be visiting the location Wednesday.
ABC News reported that at least six people were now dead while 900,000 people and 11 hospitals were evacuated along the Chilean coastline. The report added that the Chilean government extended its tsunami warnings for northernmost Chile and mandatory evacuation orders remained in effect until nearly dawn for certain northern coastal areas.
After experiencing rumbles for nearly two weeks, an 8.2-magnitude earthquake struck off the northern coast of Chile on Tuesday night killing at least five people, Associated Press reported early Wednesday morning. The powerful quake set off a small tsunami and forced evacuations along the country's entire Pacific coast.
The people who perished were either crushed to death or suffered fatal heart attacks, according to AP. While the country seemed to escape the quake without serious damage to its infrastructure or high causalities, severe shaking set loose landslides that blocked roads and thousands lost power while several businesses were consumed by fires and an airport was damaged. Nearly 300 inmates escaped from a women’s prison in the city of Iquique and the Chilean military sent a planeload of troops from its Special Forces to help authorities protect businesses from being looted.
Interior Minister Rodrigo Penailillo said President Michelle Bachelet revealed they are taking “any measure” to keep the Chilean people safe, while AP reported the government had deployed “hundreds of soldiers” to the quake site.
"We have taken action to ensure public order in the case of Iquique, where we've had a massive escape of more than 300 female prisoners from the Iquique jail, so that the armed forces and police can coordinate and provide tranquility and security to the residents," he said.
While a tsunami warning still remains in effect for northern Chile, alerts for other South American countries have reportedly been lifted. The tsunami warning will remain in effect for northern Chile for at least another six hours, the country's Emergency Office said.
"We regard the coast line of Chile as still dangerous, so we're maintaining the warning," geophysicist Gerard Fryer at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center told AP.
A tsunami advisory was issued for Hawaii and residents of Honolulu were advised to stay away from its shorelines, marinas and streams that connect directly to the ocean, NBC reported, until 8 a.m. Hawaii-Aleutian Time on Wednesday (2 p.m. EDT).
The quake was first reported to have been 8.0 in magnitude but was later upgraded to 8.2. The U.S. Geological Survey said it struck 61 miles northwest of Iquique, followed by more than 10 aftershocks, of which one was measured to be a 6.2-magnitude tremor.
The strongest earthquake ever recorded on Earth, a magnitude-9.5 tremor, occurred in Chile in 1960. It killed more than 5,000 people.
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