Chile lifts tsunami warnings after 8.2 magnitude earthquake; Hawaii braces for potential tsunami waves

BY Ellen Rolfes  April 2, 2014 at 12:21 PM EST
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An 8.2 magnitude earthquake, with at least 60 aftershocks and minor earthquakes, struck 55 miles off the coast of Chile, prompting evacuations until early Wednesday.

Tsunami warnings were placed on several areas in northern Chile overnight and more than 900,000 people were evacuated from low-lying areas of Chile’s coast as a result.

By Wednesday morning, Chile’s Interior Ministry lifted all warnings for the entire country. Residents have returned home and the overnight earthquake, Reuters reports, appears to have caused only limited structural damage.

Mike Simons, a seismologist at the U.S. Geological Survey told The Associated Press that this earthquake has proven to not be the large quake experts forecast will hit South America’s coastline. “Could be tomorrow, could be in 50 years; we do not know when it’s going to occur,” Simons said. “But the key point here is that this magnitude-8.2 is not the large earthquake that we were expecting for this area.”

The Santiago Times, Chile’s English-language newspaper, reports that as of Wednesday, the Interior Ministry confirmed five deaths and three serious injuries connected to the earthquake were caused by heart attacks and falling debris. The Associated Press reports six people have been killed.

President Michelle Bachelet declared parts of Chile as a disaster zone, promising emergency military support to maintain public order. More than 300 inmates at a women’s jail in Iquique escaped during the evacuation of the prison. According to The Santiago Times, local press have also reported instances of looting.

As of Wednesday morning, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center still has a tsunami advisory in effect for Hawaii, cautioning against swimming and boating activities, which will be hazardous as large waves threaten the entire state.