8.8 Magnitude Earthquake Rocks Chile, Many Feared Dead

An 8.8 magnitude earthquake struck south-west of the Chilean capital of Santiago, killing at least 80 people, reports said. The tremor caused tsunami warnings to be raised in Hawaii, New Zealand, and Australia. Several buildings have reportedly collapsed in Santiago, with at least a dozen people confirmed dead.

Flights coming from and into the capital’s international airport have all been canceled. Passenger planes scheduled to arrive in Santiago have been diverted to Argentina. Officials said the airport could be closed for at least three days.

President Michelle Bachelet has declared a state of catastrophe even as she called on people to remain calm. She also promised that the government will use all available resources to help people in affected areas. The Maule region appears to be the hardest hit by the earthquake, the strongest to hit the country in the last 50 years. Interior Minister Edmundo Perez Yoma said at least 34 people have been killed in Maule.

Chile is prone to earthquakes as it sits on the Pacific Rim of Fire. A 9.5 magnitude earthquake hit the country’s Valdivia City in 1960, killing more than 1,600 people. The recent quake comes just more than a month since a 7.0 magnitude tremor hit Haiti, killing more than 200,000 people.