A powerful M8.3 earthquake hit near the coast of central Chile at 22:54 UTC on Wednesday, September 16 and produced a tsunami which affected the entire Pacific basin. Tsunami warnings have been issued along the coasts of Chile, State of California, Hawai'i Island, New Zealand, Japan and American Samoa. 1 million people have been evacuated along the Chilean coast, and 12 were reported dead, as of September 18, 2015.
This is the third most powerful earthquake that has stricken the South America over the last five years. A quake in February 2010 registered a magnitude of 8.8 while the most powerful earthquake ever recorded on the planet also occurred in Chile, near Lumaco, in May 1960, and registered a magnitude of 9.5.
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The quake and its strong aftershocks have occurred as a result of thrust faulting on the interface between the Nazca and South America plates in central Chile, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). It was felt all the way to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
At least 12 people have died in the quake and about 1 million people have been evacuated as the tsunami waves warning has been issued for the Chilean coast, the Chilean government stated.
642 people were left homeless and numerous regions reported severe infra-structural damage. Power supplies have been cut off for more than 87 000 households and about 9 000 homes were left without drinking water. Transport has been disrupted across the country.
A state of emergency has been declared for the region of Coquimbo, as over 600 people have been left homeless and 47 000 households remain without electricity as of September 18.
Despite the severity of the earthquake, the number of fatalities was relatively low, according to the officials, who believe this was due to strict building codes and city's general preparedness.
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Severe damage to buildings and landslides have been reported in Coquimbo and Canela regions, according to Chilean Deputy Minister Mahmud Aleuy Peña y Lillo. Chilean Interior Minister Jorge Burgos said the Chilean government ordered a prompt evacuation of coastal cities.
Tsunami waves of about 4.75 meters (15.6 feet) were measured near Coquimbo city on the evening of September 16 while a wave estimated at 1.78 meters (5.8 feet) was reported in Valparaiso.
Tsunami advisories were issued for Hawai'i and parts of Southern California on the morning of September 17. The advisories for Southern California and Hawai'i were canceled on the following day, and no damage has been reported, the National Weather Service office in Los Angeles stated.
Very small waves were recorded along the coast of Southern California during Thursday morning, while a tsunami wave of 1 meter (3 feet) reached Hawai'i.
1 meter (3 feet) high tsunami waves reached the coast of Japan on September 18. An 0.25 meter (0.8 feet) high tsunami has been reported at Christchurch, New Zealand.
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By 16:00 UTC on September 18, USGS registered a total of 39 earthquakes, including the initial M8.3. Additional aftershocks that are still expected remain of primary concern, as they can lead to additional damage and put the rescue and recovery teams in danger. "They could last for weeks, even into months," Randy Baldwin, USGS geophysicist stated for CNN.
Featured image: Drone footage of quake damage in Chile, September 17, 2015. Image credit: TVN