Five killed as Chile struck by 8.2 magnitude earthquake

Chilean president declares northern Chile a disaster area after huge quake and tsunami

LAST UPDATED AT 09:19 ON Wed 2 Apr 2014

AT LEAST five people have died and many more were injured after an 8.2 magnitude earthquake struck just off the coast of Chile last night, triggering a tsunami alert.

According to the US Geological Society the quake struck at 8.46pm local time (11.46pm GMT), 52 miles northwest of the mining area of Iquique, near the Peruvian border, the BBC reports. Officials said that those who died were crushed by falling debris or suffered heart attacks.

In addition to the deaths there were reports of fires, power cuts and landslides in the north of the country. Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from areas affected by the quake, and the government has declared a state of emergency.

Many public services were unaffected by the tremor, but 300 prisoners escaped from a female penitentiary in Iquique, and although 26 were immediately apprehended, most remain at large, Reuters reports.

The Chilean Interior Minister Rodrigo Penailillo said President Michelle Bachelet was being kept up to date with the emergency response. He added that armed forces and police were working to "provide security" in Iquique after the prison break.

Bachelet declared parts of northern Chile to be disaster zones, the Daily Telegraph reports.

The epicentre of the quake was under the sea, prompting a tsunami alert. Two metre high waves struck the coast within 45 minutes, but the tsunami warning was cancelled for Chile and Peru at around 8am GMT. A tsunami advisory remains in place for Hawaii. · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.