Strong quake in Chile gives tsunami scare to Costa Rica

A strong 8.2-magnitude earthquake has struck off the northwestern coast of Chile, killing at least five people and setting off a small tsunami that prompted evacuations along the country’s Pacific coast.

Costa Rica and nations to the north were the subject of a tsunami watch, but there were no reports of damage. Nations to the south were given a stronger warning alert, but the reports of tsunamis were centered around the earthquake zone.

The U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center canceled the alerts about 10:45 p.m.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake was centered about 100 kilometers northwest of Iquique Tuesday evening. Several aftershocks followed, including one measuring a magnitude 6.2. The main quake took place at 5:46 p.m. Costa Rican time and the strong aftershock was at 5:58 p.m.

Chilean authorities said waves measuring about two meters were striking cities along the coast. Officials quickly ordered evacuations, warning that larger waves are expected later. Waves eventually were reported to have reached as high as seven feet but never reached far enough inland to cause any damage.

Interior Minister Rodrigo Penailillo said at least five people died after being crushed by collapsing walls or experiencing heart attacks. He also said about 300 inmates escaped a woman’s prison in Iquique. Troops have been deployed to prevent looting.

Though there have been no reports of widespread damage, Chile’s emergency office said landslides are partially blocking some roads and highways. Thousands also experienced power outages, while others were forced to spend the night outside.

Chile is one of the world’s most earthquake prone countries. In 2010, an 8.8-magnitude quake rocked central Chile, killing over 500 people and destroying 220,000 homes.

The region hit by Tuesday’s quake had also experienced several smaller temblors in recent days, including a 6.0-magnitude earthquake Sunday.

Just last week Costa Rican emergency agencies took part in a tsunami simulation in Limón where they simulated a tsunami originating from an 8.5-magnitude earthquake.

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