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8.3-magnitude earthquake strikes off coast of Chile

A 8.3-magnitude earthquake struck near the central coast of Chile Wednesday, sparking fears of tsunami waves as far as Hawaii, officials said.
People remain in the street during a strong quake in Santiago on Sept. 16, 2015. (Photo by Alejandro Ruston/AFP/Getty)
People remain in the street during a strong quake in Santiago on Sept. 16, 2015.

An 8.3-magnitude earthquake struck near the central coast of Chile Wednesday, shaking buildings and causing at least three deaths, officials said. Tsunami advisories were issued for the region and as far away as Hawaii.

The earthquake struck 44 miles west-northwest of Illapel, and north of Santiago, at 6:54 p.m., the U.S. Geological Survey said. It said the earthquake was the largest to hit the area in over 100 years.

President Michele Bachelet said Wednesday night that three people have been confirmed dead — a 35-year-old woman killed in a roof collapse in Illapel; a 20-year-old woman killed by falling rock in Monte Patria; and an 87-year-old man in Maipu who died of a heart attack.

She said the port city of Coquimbo was one of the most affected regions. The mayor of Coquimbo told TV Chile that there was infrastructure damage, and communication was poor. Illapel Mayor Denis Cortes told TV Chile that the the town of around 30,000 was without power.

Chile's National Emergency Office of the Ministry of Interior and Public Security urged residents to evacuate coastal regions and remain calm.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said tsunami waves measuring 3 meters (around 10 feet) higher than the tide level are possible for some coasts along Chile, and tsunami waves between 1 to 3 meters above tide level are possible for French Polynesia.

Video broadcast by TV Chile showed water flooding in the streets of the coastal community of Concon.

The tsunami warning center issued a tsunami watch for the state of Hawaii, and it said if a wave is generated the earliest arrival time in Hawaii is expected to be at 3:11 a.m. local time (9:11 a.m. ET).

Smaller waves could also hit some coasts of Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, and as far as Japan, the tsunami warning center said.

A Reuters witness said the quake shook buildings in Chile's capital, Santiago. Video showed people in the streets after buildings were evacuated in Valparaiso.

TV Chile reported that Santiago's airport was evacuated as a precaution, but it was later reopened. Bottles shook on grocery store shelves in the city. Santiago is about 160 miles to the south of Illapel.

Chile's state copper miner Codelco said it was evacuating its workers at its Ventanas division.

The USGS first said it was a preliminary 7.9-magnitude earthquake, then quickly upgraded it to an 8.3. It was felt in Central Chile and Western Argentina, the USGS said.

Aftershocks measuring between 6.3-magnitude and 5.7-magnitude were reported after the initial quake, according to the USGS.

Wednesday's quake was larger than one that hit the area in 1906, when an 8.2-magnitude earthquake struck, the USGS said. In 2010, there was a 7-magnitude earthquake in the area. 

NBC News' Hanna Guerrero and Reuters contributed. This article originally appeared on