At least five people have lost their lives in a massive 8.3-magnitude earthquake in the South American country of Chile.
Chile’s Deputy Interior Minister Mahmoud Aleuy announced the death toll early on Thursday hours after the earthquake struck the country. He added that one person has gone missing and that one million people have been evacuated from their homes following the temblor.
Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet has announced she will be visiting the affected areas shortly.
The powerful earthquake rocked the central coast of Chile at 7:54 pm local time (2254 GMT) on Wednesday, triggering a tsunami alert.
The epicenter of the huge seismic activity was about 228 kilometers (some 140 miles) northwest of the capital, Santiago, at a depth of 33 kilometers (20.5 miles) in the Pacific Ocean, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
The preliminary quake was followed by two powerful aftershocks measuring 6.2 and 6.2, the USGS said.
“We fled our building and everything started to move very strong,” said Pablo Cifuentes, a resident of Chile’s capital city of Santiago.
Meanwhile, Chile’s navy announced that waves of up to 4.5 meters (15 feet) struck Coquimbo, the capital city of Chile’s Elqui Province.
“We’re going through a really grave situation with the tsunami. We have residential neighborhoods that have flooded… The ocean has reached the (Coquimbo) downtown area,” Cristian Galleguillos, the mayor of the coastal city, said.
The tsunami alert has also caused growing concern among the people of Argentina and El Salvador, who fear they may be affected by destructive waves.
Chile, one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world, has experienced more than a dozen earthquakes with magnitudes of 7.0 and above since 1973.