Massive 8.8 Earthquake Strikes Chile

A massive earthquake struck Chili on Saturday, February 27, rocking buildings and killing hundreds of people.

It was the worst disaster to strike this South American city in the past 50 years. Along with ripping up buildings, smashing bridges and destroying property on land, the upheaval caused eight-foot tidal waves that struck the shore. The country's president, Michelle Bachelet, declared a "state of catastrophe." Other countries in the Pacific began to brace for tsunami waves, expected to arrive in the aftermath of the upheaval.

The 2010 Chilean earthquake occurred off the coast of the Maule Region of Chile on February 27, 2010, at 03:34 local time (06:34 UTC), rating a magnitude of 8.8 on the moment magnitude scale and lasting 90 seconds. It was strongly felt in six Chilean regions (from Valparaíso in the north to Araucanía in the south), that together make up 80 percent of the country's population. The cities experiencing the strongest shaking—IX (Ruinous) on the Mercalli intensity scale—were Arauco and Coronel, Chile. The earthquake was felt in the capital Santiago at Mercalli intensity scale VIII (Destructive). Tremors were felt in many Argentine cities, including Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Mendoza and La Rioja. Tremors were felt as far north as the city of Ica in southern Peru (approx. 2400 km). The earthquake triggered a tsunami which devastated several coastal towns in south-central Chile and damaged the port at Talcahuano. Tsunami warnings were issued in 53 countries, causing minor damage in the San Diego area of California and in the Tōhoku region of Japan, where damage to the fisheries business was estimated at ¥6.26 billion (USD$66.7 million). The earthquake also generated a blackout that affected 93 percent of the country's population and which went on for several days in some locations. President Michelle Bachelet declared a "state of catastrophe" and sent military troops to take control of the most affected areas. The latest death toll as of May 15, 2010 is 521 victims (down from early reports on March 3 of 802).

At least 521 people killed, 56 missing, about 12,000 injured, 800,000 displaced and at least 370,000 houses, 4,013 schools, 79 hospitals and 4,200 boats damaged or destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami in the Valparaiso-Concepcion-Temuco area. At least 1.8 million people affected in Araucania, Bio-Bio, Maule, O'Higgins, Region Metropolitana and Valparaiso. The total economic loss in Chile was estimated at 30 billion US dollars. Electricity, telecommunications and water supplies were disrupted and the airports at Concepcion and Santiago had minor damage. The tsunami damaged or destroyed many buildings and roads at Concepcion, Constitucion, Dichato and Pichilemu and also damaged boats and a dock in the San Diego area, USA.

The US Geological Survey reported the large earthquake hit offshore from Maule, Chile.

In the Chilean capital Santiago, north of the epicentre, there were reports of buildings shaking and blackouts.

The earthquake struck 56 miles northeast of Concepcíon at a depth of 34 miles.

It was initially reported at a magnitude of 8.3, reportedly lasting for 10 to 30 seconds. Geologists described the earthquake as "very big" and 80 times bigger than the earthquake that hit Haiti earlier this year.