Chile earthquake

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Eleven people are dead and 20 were injured when a massive earthquake measuring 8.3 struck off the coast of Chile, triggering tsunami waves of almost 4.5 metres.

Buildings in the capital Santiago shook as people rushed into the open, while the government issued evacuation orders to clear beach towns near the epicentre. The tremblor struck 46km west of Illapel, and 229km north-northwest of Santiago. 

The Chilean government confirmed the deaths of 11 people, and evacuated one million people across Chile when the tsunami warning was issued.  About 600 people are still without shelter.

The United Nations has praised Chile's Disaster Risk Reduction policies for saving lives in the disaster, crediting resilient infrastructure, early warning systems and urban planning with minimising the death toll.

President Michelle Bachelet declared the towns of Coquimbo and Tongoy to be catastrophe zones, and the army has been sent in to the region.

Communications manager for World Vision Chile, Fabrizio Guzman, said the quake struck during rush hour and caused congestion that left many people stranded in the streets as they tried to return home.

"There were many frightened people running through the streets when the earthquake began," he said. "The quake felt really intense and seemed to last for several minutes."

Residents of Valparaiso, a coastal city, received alerts via mobile phone to evacuate.

There have been 90 aftershocks since the major earthquake, USGS reported, leaving people concerned for their safety and all school classes in the affected areas suspended. 

How do tsunamis happen?

This video shows you how tsunamis occur, and what the impact can look like.

The powerful earthquake triggered tsunami alerts around the Pacific.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre forecasted potential waves of up to three metres for French Polynesia, and waves of up to one metre for Vanuatu, Cook Islands, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Hawaii and New Zealand, but while strong currents and undertows have been noted, most countries have escaped unscathed.

Chile is no stranger to massive quakes. The largest on record, a magnitude-9.5, hit the South American country in 1960 killing more than 5,000 people. In 2010 a magnitude-8.8 quake and ensuing tsunami killed more than 500 people, destroyed 220,000 homes, and washed away docks and other waterfront infrastructure. It was that disaster that prompted the implementation of the mobile phone warning system that was used for the first time in this earthquake. 

Chile also has a strict building code that requires all new structures to be able to withstand magnitude-9.0 earthquakes. 

Ten percent of donations to emergency funds are spent on administration.

How do earthquakes happen?

Learn what causes earthquakes and how you can help others become disaster ready: 2.5 mins