SANTIAGO, November 15 (RIA Novosti) - At least two people have been killed
and more than 100 injured in a major earthquake in north Chile.
The quake, measuring 7.7 on the Richter scale, hit at 12:43 p.m. local
time (15:43 p.m. GMT) on Wednesday, and was centered on Chile's Atacama
desert, some 100km (62 miles) north-west of the town of Calama. The area
is relatively thinly populated.
Both of the deaths happened in the city of Tocopilla, where many people
were also left homeless after the quake destroyed some 100 houses.
Chile's government said it was flying in emergency shelters to the
The earthquake, which was so powerful it was felt by people on the
other side of the continent, caused massive damage to thousands of homes,
as well as cutting off roads and knocking out electricity across northern
However, the death toll and the damage to property would undoubtedly
have been much higher had the earthquake occurred in a more
densely-populated area and had it not struck deep underground.
In August, some 500 people perished when an 8.0 magnitude earthquake
hit an area near Lima, the capital of neighboring Peru.
A magnitude-7.7 earthquake has struck northern Chile, the US
Geological Survey (USGS) has said.
There are no reports of any deaths from the powerful quake, which
was measured in Tocopilla, Antofagasta region, at 12:40 local time
But the USGS warned that the quake may have caused "substantial
damage and casualties" due to its location and size.
Carmen Fernandez, director of Chile's national emergency office,
told the AFP news agency: "It is a major quake."
The 60km deep earthquake, which lasted about 40 seconds, was felt
in the capital Santiago more than 1,000km to the south, as well as
neighbouring Peru and Bolivia.
Television pictures showed panicked residents fleeing into the
streets, but the worst effects of the quake appear to be cuts to
electricity supplies and blocked roads.
Two hours after the initial earthquake, the USGS reported two
further quakes in quick succession in the same location, measured
at magnitudes of 5.1 and 5.7 respectively.
Earthquakes are relatively commonplace in Chile. The world's
strongest-ever recorded quake was felt in the South American
country in 1960, with the magnitude-9.5 earthquake killing almost
15,000 Homeless in Chile Quake
TOCOPILLA, Chile (AP) — Strong aftershocks from a powerful
earthquake hit northern Chile on Thursday as the government erected
a working military hospital and promised hundreds of other portable
dwellings for 15,000 left homeless by the quake.
Government and army workers scrambled to distribute tons of
food, water and medicine after the 7.7 magnitude quake struck near
the desert village of Quillagua in the foothills of the Andes on
Wednesday, killing at least two people and injuring more than 150.
Major aftershocks shook the region Thursday, including one of
magnitude 6.2 and another of magnitude 6.8, the U.S. Geological
Survey said. There were no immediate reports of further damage or
The earthquake destroyed or damaged 4,000 houses and the local
hospital, blocking roads, crushing cars and knocking out power
across northern Chile, officials said.
This port city of 27,000 and the nearby mining town of Maria
Elena were the hardest hit, and presidential spokesman Ricardo Lagos
Weber said both would be declared disaster areas to expedite aid
Four Cabinet ministers were in the area coordinating recovery
and aid efforts. President Michelle Bachelet also flew there
Housing Minister Patricia Poblete said many structures cannot
be saved, and firefighters and other workers began demolishing the
most severely damaged homes. Dr. Cristian Castillo told The
Associated Press "80 percent of our hospital is useless."
Two women were killed in Tocopilla, 25 miles from the
epicenter, when their houses collapsed, authorities said. Hospital
director Juan Urrutia said at least 117 people were treated there
for injuries or panic.
In tiny Quillagua, with a population of around 100, one person
suffered minor injuries and 15 houses were damaged.
Electricity was restored in large areas of Tocopilla. Army
trucks were distributing water to residents as supply was still cut
off in most of the city.
In Maria Elena, 1,200 homes were damaged — or 70 percent of
the city's total, authorities said. Residents were still without
running water and electricity late Wednesday.
Lagos Weber said about 170 people were taken to hospitals
across the region, but that many of the injuries were not serious.
About 10 road workers who had been trapped near Tocopilla when a
section of a tunnel they were repairing collapsed were all rescued
in good condition Thursday.
Hundreds of residents slept in cars or tents in front of their
houses. Schools were being used as shelters for those left homeless
by the quake.
But officials said many are refusing to go to shelters,
fearing their homes will be looted if left unattended.
"We slept in the car, because we have to care for whatever the
quake didn't destroy," resident Luis Porcel told the AP.
Chile's largest copper mines are in the quake area, and
production was halted as electric power was cut for several hours
Wednesday before being restored. The nation is the world's largest
At a badly damaged restaurant Wednesday night, a dozen men
drank beer by candlelight.
"What else can I do? I lost everything. So I'll just have a
few drinks," said Samuel Araya, a 57-year-old miner in this town of
Blanca Pizarro said she took refuge under her kitchen table
when the quake struck and seconds later the roof collapsed on the
table. "I'm alive by a miracle," she said.
The quake struck around midday Wednesday 780 miles north of
the capital, Santiago, and was followed by several aftershocks,
according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
It was so strong it shook Santiago and was felt on the other
side of the continent in Sao Paulo, Brazil — 1,400 miles to the
"It was incredible. I thought my last day had come when I saw
the mountain shaking under a large cloud of dust," said Maria Ines
Palete, a resident of Quillagua.
The quake occurred in one of the most seismically active
regions in the world, where the Nazca tectonic plate is shoving
itself beneath the South American plate.
A 1939 quake in Chile killed 28,000 people and in 1960, a
magnitude-9.5 quake — the strongest recorded in the 20th century —
killed 5,700 people. On June 13, 2005, a magnitude-7.8 quake near
Tarapaca in northern Chile killed 11 people and left thousands