Chile Quake Toll Mounting amid Tsunami Warnings

Nearly 80 people have been killed and scores others left homeless by a devastating earthquake that struck central Chile Saturday morning. Lasting for nearly a minute and a half, the tremors  — measuring 8.8 on the Richter — set off a tsunami that may have caused damage along the coast near the epicenter some 70 miles (115 kilometers) from Concepcion, Chile’s second-largest city, said reports.

With deputy interior minister Patricio Rosende already confirming 76 deaths, President Michelle Bachelet has declared a “state of catastrophe” in the country.

Buildings were collapsed by the quake that downed power supply lines and disarrayed communication networks causing huge difficulty to authorities attempting to assess the quantum of damage.

The US Geological Survey that the quake hit 200 miles (325 kilometers) southwest of the capital, Santiago, and at a depth of 22 miles (35 kilometers) at 3:34 a.m. (0634 GMT; 1:34 a.m. EST).

Epicenter of the quake was just 70 miles (115 kilometers) from Concepcion, Chile’s second-largest city, where more than 200,000 people live along the Bio Bio river, and 60 miles from the ski town of Chillan.

A tsunami warning has been issued to all Pacific islands and the Pacific rim, including most of Central and South America and as far as Australia and Antarctica, reported the Times Online website.

According to the Newsolio (blog), a tsunami has crashed into the town of Talcahuano, Chile as well as other towns such as Coquimbo, Antofagasta and Caldera near the epicenter of the quake.

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