SANTIAGO: A powerful offshore earthquake measuring 7.6 rocked northern Chile late on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila), sparking a new tsunami warning and sending thousands of people fleeing for higher ground a day after a deadly tremor killed six people.
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, who was assessing damage from Tuesday’s 8.2 jolt, was among those forced to evacuate as the latest quake sowed terror among exhausted and nervous residents.
“People are running around terrified,” a resident of the northern city of Iquique told Canal 13 in a telephone interview. “It is still moving, it is terrible,” the resident added.
There were no immediate reports of fatalities or major damage from the new quake and authorities lifted the tsunami alert two hours later.
Bachelet, surveying damage from Tuesday’s quake in the city of Arica, was evacuated to higher ground.
“People seem calm but you can tell they are prepared and are carrying bags,” she said.
Bachelet had declared some areas of northern Chile disaster areas and met on Wednesday with emergency relief officials to evaluate the situation.
Sirens rang as the tsunami warning was issued and thousands of people who had just endured the latest quake were again ordered to evacuate inland from coastal areas.
Peru to the north also declared another tsunami warning, according to its navy, but later rescinded it.
The new temblor struck in the Pacific Ocean at 11:43 p.m. (1:43 a.m. Manila time), 20 kilometers (14 miles) south of the city of Iquique, the navy’s alert service said.
Tuesday’s tremor and many subsequent aftershocks were felt as far inland as landlocked Bolivia and sparked evacuation warnings up the Pacific coast of South America and into Central America.
Police and soldiers patrolled the streets to prevent looting after Tuesday’s quake in the north of Chile, which escaped a major catastrophe after nearly one million people evacuated their homes along the lengthy coast.
The chaos—and a collapsed wall—allowed some 300 inmates to escape a women’s prison in Iquique, the city closest to the huge quake’s epicenter. Authorities said 110 of them had been recaptured.
The earthquake caused copper prices to jump to a three-week high in the major mining country.
No houses collapsed, but roofs sagged, windows broke and products tumbled from shelves at shopping centers in Iquique, located about 1,800 kilometers (1,120 miles) north of the capital Santiago.
Some 2,500 homes were damaged in the town of Alto Hospicio, near Iquique, the National Emergency Office said.
Thousands of people slept in the open on high ground surrounding the city during the night. They returned home after authorities lifted the tsunami alert 10 hours later.
People stood in long lines to get fuel at service stations, with gasoline rationed to a maximum of $20.
The sea rushed 200 meters inland, flooding some streets, authorities said. Fishermen reported that 80 boats had been destroyed, sunk or floated out to sea.