A tsunami warning is in effect for the entire Pacific coast of South America after a deadly, magnitude-8.2 earthquake struck off the coast of Chile Tuesday night, setting off landslides and shaking buildings as far north as Bolivia and Peru. There have been 40 aftershocks and five people are confirmed dead.
Although early reports suggest there have been no serious injuries or damage to infrastructure, Chilean officials ordered citizens to evacuate coastal regions as the first wave of the tsunami, measuring nearly eight feet, reached the country’s northern coast. A tsunami watch also has been ordered for most of Central America, including Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico.
U.S. officials say there is no imminent threat to Hawaii, Alaska, California, Oregon or Washington, although they are monitoring the situation closely. If tsunami waves are generated, they could hit Hawaii as soon as 3:24 a.m. HST, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.
Bill Knight, a scientist with the center, said the U.S. is in little danger of a tsunami, with early data indicating the waves generated by the tremor will be too small to pose any threat by the time they reach the West Coast. Analysts are still assessing the threat to Hawaii, but have issued no official warning so far.
The U.S. Geological Survey reports the quake struck approximately 100 km northwest of the mining port of Iquique in Chile, near the border with Peru, and at a relatively shallow depth of about 12.5 miles below the seabed.
Chile has seen a number of major earthquakes in recent years, including a magnitude-8.8 earthquake in 2010 that caused a tsunami that decimated a number of coastal towns in south-central Chile, killing 526 people and destroying some 220,000 homes. Chile is also the site of the strongest earthquake ever recorded – a magnitude-9.5 quake that struck in 1960, killing more than 5,000 people.