Latin America & Caribbean

Chile quake: State of emergency declared for Coquimbo

Media captionDrone footage shows earthquake damage in the town of Los Vilos

Chile's government has declared a state of emergency in a central region struck by a powerful earthquake.

At least 11 people died in Wednesday's 8.3-magnitude quake - the strongest in the world this year - that sent tsunami waves as far away as Japan.

The coastal town of Coquimbo, close to the epicentre, saw waves of 4.7m (15ft) hit the shore.

Hundreds of people spent Thursday night in temporary shelters, while tens of thousands are without electricity.

About one million people had to leave their homes after Chile sounded a tsunami alert when the quake struck, although most are reported to have returned.

Tsunami waves also hit the coast further north and south of the quake's epicentre, with waves half a metre higher than usual as far north as La Punta.

Gloria Navarro, who lives in the coastal town of La Serena, said people were "running in all directions".

"Everything is a mess," restaurant owner Melisa Pinones told Reuters from the city of Illapel. "It was a disaster, a total loss."

Image copyright AP
Image caption Coquimbo saw tsunami waves of almost five metres in height
Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption More than 500 homes were badly damaged in the quake
Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Chile's president said an intelligent response meant the death toll was low

Across parts of central Chile, residents began clearing up after what was the country's sixth most powerful recorded earthquake.

Large parts of the sea front in the fishing village of Tongoy were destroyed, and more than 500 homes were badly damaged across the region, according to emergency response teams.

Emergency powers mean aid will reach Coquimbo quicker, and allow troops to be deployed on to the region's streets.

Visiting Coquimbo on Thursday, President Michelle Bachelet paid tribute to people's response, saying that the death toll, "while unfortunate, was not very high considering the strength of the earthquake".

The US Geological Survey (USGS) said the tremor struck off the coast of Coquimbo, 46km (29 miles) west of the city of Illapel at 19:54 local time (22:54 GMT).

The USGS said it was at a depth of 25km, while Chilean seismologists calculated its depth at 11km.

Small tsunami waves were felt along the west coast of the US and Canada. A one-metre (3ft) wave also reached in Hawaii.

The earthquake struck as thousands of Chileans were travelling to the coast ahead of a week of celebrations for independence day.

President Bachelet said some of Friday's official festivities would be cancelled.

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