At least five people are confirmed dead after a major earthquake of magnitude 8.2 struck off Chile’s north west coast triggering a Tsunami alert for all of South and Central America’s Pacific coastline.
The authorities immediately ordered an evacuation of all coastal areas telling people to get to higher ground or to reception centres.
The quake was very shallow, only 20 km below the seabed, and struck less than 100 km northwest of the mining port of Iquique, near the Peruvian border.
According to experts the quake’s strength has the potential to generate a destructive tsunami that can strike coastlines near the epicenter within minutes and more distant coastlines within hours.
The Chilean navy reported the first tsunami wave hit the coast within 45 minutes of the quake. It measured just under two metres.
The evacuation was partially hampered by landslides which are said to have blocked some roads.Airports in the area have been closed
However the authorities have reported no extensive structural damage.
Alerts have gone out for the coasts of Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
The last major earthquake to strike Chile was in 2010. It was 8.8 in magnitude and triggered a tsunami that caused major damage in several coastal towns and killed over 500 people.