Second offshore quake rocks Chile, new tsunami warning forces thousands to flee

New tsunami warning forces thousands to flee for higher ground, just a day after fatal tremor

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 April, 2014, 11:17pm
UPDATED : Friday, 04 April, 2014, 5:24pm

A second powerful offshore earthquake, measuring 7.6, has rocked northern Chile, sparking a new tsunami warning and sending thousands of people fleeing for higher ground a day after a deadly tremor killed six people.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, who was assessing damage from Tuesday's original 8.2 jolt, was among those forced to evacuate on Wednesday as the latest quake brought more worry for exhausted residents.

"People are running around terrified," a resident of the northern city of Iquique told Canal 13. "It is still moving, it is terrible."

There were no immediate reports of fatalities or major damage from the new quake and authorities lifted the tsunami alert two hours later.

Bachelet, surveying damage from Tuesday's quake in the city of Arica, was evacuated to higher ground. "People seem calm but you can tell they are prepared and are carrying bags," she said.

Bachelet had declared some areas of northern Chile disaster areas and on Wednesday met emergency relief officials.

Sirens rang as the tsunami warning was issued and thousands of people who had just endured the latest quake were again ordered to evacuate inland from coastal areas.

The new quake struck in the Pacific ocean 20 kilometres south of the city of Iquique, the navy's alert service said.

Tuesday's tremor and many subsequent aftershocks were felt as far inland as landlocked Bolivia and sparked evacuation warnings up the Pacific coast of South America and into Central America.

That quake triggered a tsunami that travelled thousands of kilometres to hit the shores of Japan early yesterday. But the waves by then were relatively small. The Japan Meteorological Agency said waves of 40 centimetres were monitored in Kuji, in Iwate prefecture, about an hour after the first 20-centimetre tsunami was recorded there.

In Chile, police and soldiers patrolled the streets of northern towns to prevent looting after the original quake and tsunami.

The earthquake caused copper prices to jump to a three-week high. The state-run Codelco mining company, the world's top copper producer, evacuated some facilities on the coast but none suffered damage.

No houses collapsed, but roofs sagged, windows broke and products tumbled from shelves at shopping centres in Iquique, about 1,800 kilometres north of the capital, Santiago.

Some 2,500 homes were damaged in Alto Hospicio, near Iquique, the National Emergency Office said. The sea rushed 200 metres inland, flooding some streets. Fishermen reported that 80 boats had been destroyed, sunk or floated out to sea.

Thousands of people slept in the open on high ground surrounding the city during the night. They returned home after authorities lifted the tsunami alert 10 hours later.