A powerful 8.3 magnitude earthquake rocked Chile, killing 11 people and forcing 1 million to evacuate the coastal area. The quake prone South American nation endured billions in damage, and 240,000 homes were left with power.
Several aftershocks could be felt after the initial earthquake, which was the strongest since an 8.8-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 2010 caused the deaths of hundreds and leveled part of the city of Concepcion in south-central Chile.
The earthquake lasted for three minutes, swaying and shaking buildings in the capital city of Santiago. An ensuing tsunami warning was issued for the entire Pacific coast by the authorities.
“I thought it was the end of the world and we were going to die,” Manuel Moya, whose house in Illapel was destroyed in the incident, said, as reported by Fox News. Moya said he and his wife were watching television when they felt tremors, following which they ran outside. After the merciless minutes of shaking, their concrete home had been collapsed to rubble. “They said it was a magnitude 8 but it felt like a 10,” he further said.
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Illapel is 175 miles north of Santiago and 34 miles east of the epicenter of the quake, which struck offshore in the Pacific at 7:54 p.m. It originated about 141 miles north-northwest of Santiago, and was 7.4 miles below the surface.
The earthquake caused a lot of damage and several to evacuate the coastal areas, but the country’s regular upgrading of structural reinforcement of buildings and tsunami alert system prevented what could otherwise have been an incident with severer aftermath.
“Chile has good codes and good compliance, which together have reduced the vulnerabilities of their building stock over the decades,” Richard Olson, director of Florida International University’s Extreme Events Institute, said. “I would rather be there in one of their cities than in many other countries in an earthquake.”
“Earthquake impact is a little like real estate: What matters is location, location, location,” Susan Hough, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey, said. “But it is true that preparedness and risk reduction in Chile is ahead of that in much of the world, and that makes a difference.”
President Michelle Bachelet told citizens that the government was working to assess the damage the earthquake had caused. “Once again we have to confront a tough blow from nature,” she said.
Evacuation orders were received by residents and civilians on their cellphones immediately after the earthquake struck, according to France 24. “The alerts worked well,” Patricio Farria, a fisherman who had shop close to the coast but was ruined in the catastrophe, said. “We had enough time” to evacuate. “Two people died here, but there could have been many more. I think Bachelet learned her lesson.”
“Everyone who felt Wednesday’s earthquake had the experience of 2010,” Paulina Gonzalez, a civil engineer teaching building design for earthquakes at the University of Chile in Santiago, said. “Many went to higher ground even before the official evacuation alerts.”
The most devastating earthquake on Earth occurred in Chile. A massive quake of magnitude 9.5 struck the land in 1960, one that killed 5,000 people.
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