Chile quake death toll rises to 11

18th Sep 2015
Chile quake death toll rises to 11

By Ben Tavener

 

SAO PAULO (AA): The death toll from a huge earthquake that struck central Chile has risen to 11, the country’s interior ministry confirmed Thursday.

Local media reported that some of the fatalities were caused by falling rocks and masonry, while other victims suffered heart attacks.

At least nine victims were injured and one person is also still unaccounted for, according to the Interior Ministry’s National Emergency Office, the ONEMI.

The agency also reported that 610 people had been left homeless, and 175 houses sustained significant structural damage, according to local news site La Tercera.

A million people were forced to leave their homes after the magnitude-8.3 quake struck Wednesday about 46 kilometers (29 miles) west of the city of Illapel in the Coquimbo region which is 229 kilometers north-northwest of the capital, Santiago.

The earthquake triggered a tsunami that officials said reached a maximum height of 4.6 meters (15.1 feet) on the coast nearest the epicenter.

Tsunami warnings were issued for the country’s entire Pacific coast but have since been canceled in Chile, neighboring countries and Pacific island nations, including Hawaii, French Polynesia and Easter Island.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet traveled Thursday to the quake-hit region to survey the damage and relief efforts. She declared a state of emergency for the Coquimbo region, home to around 700,000 people.

“Now comes the time for assessing, to see how we can help and support those who have been affected,” Bachelet was quoted by local media. “People can rest assured, we will use all the tools at our disposal to help them,” she added, praising the emergency services for their quick response.

The president also warned of aftershocks, which she said the government was actively monitoring. At least five major subsequent tremors, between magnitudes 6.4 and 7.0, have since rocked the region, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

Bachelet also said some of the official festivities in honor of the country’s independence on Sept. 18 will be canceled.

Authorities convened again Thursday evening to provide updates on rescue efforts. The ONEMI said emergency teams would “continue meticulous work to survey damage and resources required by various regional offices”.

Officials said Wednesday’s quake was Chile’s sixth most powerful earthquake on record, and the strongest anywhere in the world this year. It was also the strongest and deadliest since a magnitude-8.8 earthquake struck southwest of Santiago in 2010, killing at least 525 people.

Commentators said officials are keen to be seen acting quickly, after being heavily criticized for a sluggish response five years ago.

Chile was also shaken by the largest earthquake ever recorded, a massive magnitude-9.5 shock, back in 1960. That disaster killed at least 2,231 victims in the south of the country.

Author: Benjamin Tavener
[Photo: Chile aftermath of earthquake in Coquimbo.17 September 2015. Photographer: Andres Miranda Munizaga/AA]

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