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Experts: Chile's magnitude-8.2 quake not 'the big one'

Chile Earthquake Sparks Tsunami Warnings For Multiple Countries

IQUIQUE, Chile (AP) -- Authorities in northern Chile discovered surprisingly light damage and just six reported deaths Wednesday from a magnitude-8.2 quake - a remarkably low toll for such a powerful shift in the Earth's crust.

President Michelle Bachelet arrived in Iquique before noon to review damage after declaring a state of emergency. Hours earlier, she sent a military plane with 100 anti-riot police to join 300 soldiers deployed to prevent looting and round up escaped prisoners.

Thousands of people evacuated from low-lying areas were returning home after a spending a long night outside due to the threat of a tsunami. The government's mandatory order to leave the coast was spread through cellphone text messages and Twitter, and reinforced by blaring sirens in neighborhoods where people regularly practice earthquake drills.

Seawater flooded city streets and washed away some fishing boats in Iquique, but by early Wednesday no major tsunami damage was apparent. Chile's entire coast was initially subject to the mandatory evacuation order, which lasted nearly 10 hours in coastal communities closest to the offshore epicenter.

The shaking that began at 8:46 p.m. Tuesday also touched off landslides that blocked roads, knocked out power for thousands, damaged an airport and started fires that destroyed several businesses. Some homes made of adobe were destroyed in Arica, another city close to the quake's offshore epicenter.

Mining in Chile, which is the world's top copper producing nation, was not affected, although world prices for the red metal jumped as the quake raised supply concerns because most of the Chilean mining industry is in the northern regions.

About 300 inmates escaped from a women's prison in the city of Iquique, forcing the closure of the border with Peru. Officials said some two dozen had been captured early Wednesday.

Bachelet, who just returned to the presidency three weeks ago, waited five hours after the quake struck to address her nation. It was not lost on many Chileans that the last time she presided over a major quake, days before the end of her 2006-10 term, her emergency preparedness office prematurely waved off a tsunami danger. Most of the 500 dead from that magnitude-8.8 tremor survived the shaking, only to be caught in killer waves in a disaster that destroyed 220,000 homes and washed away large parts of many coastal communities.

"The country has done a good job of confronting the emergency. I call on everyone to stay calm and follow the authorities' instructions," Bachelet tweeted after Tuesday night's temblor.

She put her interior minister in direct charge of coordinating the emergency response, and announced that schools would be suspended in evacuated areas while authorities assessed the damage.

The only U.S. impact might be higher waves Wednesday for Hawaii's swimmers and surfers, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii said.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the temblor was centered in the Pacific Ocean 61 miles (99 kilometers) northwest from coastal Iquique. More than 20 significant aftershocks followed, including one of magnitude 6.2.

The quake was so strong that the shaking experienced in Bolivia's capital about 290 miles (470 kilometers) away was the equivalent of a magnitude-4.5 tremor, authorities there said.

But Tuesday night's quake was not the big one seismologists expect eventually.

"Could be tomorrow, could be in 50 years; we do not know when it's going to occur. But the key point here is that this magnitude-8.2 is not the large earthquake that we were expecting for this area. We're actually still expecting potentially an even larger earthquake," said Mike Simons, a seismologist at the Geological Survey.

Chile is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries because just off the coast, the Nazca tectonic plate plunges beneath the South American plate, pushing the towering Andes cordillera to ever-higher altitudes. Nowhere along this fault is the pressure greater than in far northern Chile, an area known as the "Iquique seismic gap".

The USGS says the seismic gap last saw a major quake in 1877, when a magnitude-8.8 quake unleashed a tsunami that caused major damage along the Chile-Peru coast and fatalities as far away as Hawaii and Japan. Another quake of similar force hit just north of the area in 1868.

"This is the one remaining gap that hasn't had an earthquake in the last 140 years," said Simons. "We know these two plates come together at about 6, 7 centimeters a year, and if you multiply that by 140 years then the plates should have moved about 11 meters along the fault, and you can make an estimate of the size of earthquake we expect here."

The latest activity began with a strong magnitude-6.7 quake on March 16 that caused more than 100,000 people to briefly evacuate low-lying areas. Hundreds of smaller quakes followed in the weeks since, keeping people on edge.


Luis Andres Henao reported from Santiago. Also contributing to this report were Eva Vergara in Santiago, Michael Warren in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Frank Bajak in Lima, Peru.

Join the discussion

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jsamo83 April 02 2014 at 1:33 PM

Why does the headline have a little blue box that says WATCH but when you click there's nothing to watch, only words? It was the same way yesterday about the guy that broke his leg catching a baseball

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niqs13 April 02 2014 at 1:36 PM

I could not imagine living somewhere where they are predicting a BIG earthquake anyday anytime now. That is so scary. I mean living in Colorado I worry about Yellow Stone exploding someday and for sure we would never survive. Prayers for Chili

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JiMandCar April 02 2014 at 1:45 PM

Thoughts and Prayers, God Bless all .

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teeveequeen April 02 2014 at 1:50 PM

FINALLY ... something to bump that missing plane OFF THE HEADLINES !!!

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1 reply
nuttberry teeveequeen April 02 2014 at 2:35 PM

And just when we were moving on, someone has to bring it up again!

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bbnpl4545 April 02 2014 at 1:02 PM

First California and now Chile. Look at the globe. It lines right up across the north & south Pacific ocean. Maybe a big one is comming.

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2 replies
Sandy bbnpl4545 April 02 2014 at 1:45 PM

Been planning a vacation in the Pacific Northwest this summer and the LA quake and this one in Chile is making me think all sorts of thoughts!!

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2 replies
teeveequeen Sandy April 02 2014 at 1:54 PM

it should make you think just how POWERFUL Mother Nature is ...

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nuttberry Sandy April 02 2014 at 2:41 PM

I live in San Diego, 100 miles south of LA and felt nothing. A few years ago we got a 7.2 here - nothing collapsed here as the buildings are built to withstand much higher. Carry on with your plans for the summer - it's beautiful in the Pacific Northwest.

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stevenjonessales bbnpl4545 April 02 2014 at 1:52 PM

California and now Chile????? Oh no. That's why it is called the Pacific ring of fire you moron.

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boucheraljoe April 02 2014 at 3:22 PM

the're all shook up

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sbfulkerson April 02 2014 at 3:18 PM

So many earthquake's all of a sudden sort of emulating Biblical end times prophecy. It's the lords wake up callings . The time is here and now. It is written to the " time being when we'd lest expect it. Well I figured it would all " be later " ...

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dxroeder April 02 2014 at 2:01 PM

This is part of the understanding of our mountains that has evolved during my lifetime. Thank you, fellows-geophysicists
Dietrich Roeder, Murnau Geodynamics, Lakewood, Colorado, USA

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Badboy April 02 2014 at 1:32 PM

It's the start of the end of the world, you will see!

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2 replies
teeveequeen Badboy April 02 2014 at 1:51 PM

is that you, Chicken Little ???

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qaqs9000 Badboy April 02 2014 at 2:31 PM

Sorry to see that one big blob of lava landed on your face guy. At least it didn't hit your tongue.

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narimember April 02 2014 at 4:56 PM

Glenn Beck sued for defamation!. Since this wonderful site won't let me comment there, here it is. A diaper head is sueing Glenn Beck? Get over it. Leave the country. No more ***********. No more problems. islam is NOT a peaceful religion!

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