A massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck Chile early Saturday, shaking the capital of Santiago for 90 seconds and sending tsunami warnings from Chile to Ecuador.
Chile’s TVN cable news channel was reporting 78 deaths, with the toll expected to rise.
The quake downed buildings and houses in Santiago and knocked out a major bridge connecting the northern and southern sections of the country.
It struck at 3:34 a.m. local time and was centered about 200 miles southwest of Santiago, at a depth of 22 miles, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. The epicenter was some 70 miles from Concepcion, Chile’s second-largest city, where more than 200,000 people live.
Phone lines were down in Concepcion as of 7:30 a.m. and no reports were coming out of that area. The quake in Chile was more powerful than the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that caused widespread damage in Haiti on Jan 12, killing at least 230,000, earthquake experts reported on CNN International.
The U.S. Geological Survey and eyewitnesses reported more than a dozen aftershocks, including two measuring magnitude 6.2 and 6.9.
“We have had a huge earthquake,” said Michelle Bachelet, Chile’s president, speaking from an emergency response center in an appeal for Chileans to remain calm. “We’re doing everything we can with all the resources we have.” (continues here at NYT)