Chile quake death toll exceeds 300, tsunami threats across Pacific

16:13, February 28, 2010      

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Chileans sit in the street near debris caused by earthquake in Sandiago, capital of Chile, Feb. 27, 2010. (Xinhua/Victor Rojas)

More than 300 people have been killed in Chile after a 8.8-magnitude megaquake hit the country on Saturday, the national emergency office said.

The office had said earlier on Saturday that the death toll was 214.

MASSIVE DAMAGE

The quake, one of the world''s most powerful in decades, rocked Chile at 3:34 a.m. local time (0634 GMT) on Saturday, knocking down homes and hospitals and triggering a tsunami that rolled menacingly across the Pacific.

The epicenter was only 115 km from Concepcion, Chile''s second largest city with a population of 670,000.

The earthquake was felt in Concepcion, Santiago, Rancagua, Talca, Temuco, Valdivia, Valparaiso, Montt Port, Vicuna, La Serena, Capiapo and Calama.

According to Sergio Barrientos, science chief of the Seismology Institute of the University of Chile, the quake was 50 times bigger than the Haiti quake on Jan. 12.

Chilean Interior Minister Edmundo Perez Yoma said Saturday''s earthquake was a cataclysm of historical dimensions. "Since 1960 we have never had an earthquake like this." But he expected to normalize the country in the coming 48 or 72 hours.

The national emergency office said there are some 400,000 victims in Biobio, one of the most affected areas.

Meanwhile, the airport of Santiago has been closed due to structural problems in its main building, and is expected to be habilitated in 48 hours.

In many municipalities in the Metropolitan Region of Santiago, the electricity supply was interrupted.

Between the regions of Valparaiso and Araucania, in a range of some 800 km, water supply, sewage systems and telephone services have been disrupted in many zones.


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