Five people have been killed in a massive earthquake measuring 8.2 on the Richter Scale that hit off Chile's northern coast Tuesday and triggered tsunami waves, authorities said Wednesday.
According to the University of Chile Seismological Service, the powerful tremor hit off northern Chile's coast at 8.46 p.m. (11.46 p.m. GMT) and the epicentre was located 99 km northwest of the mining port of Iquique, near the Peruvian border, Xinhua reported.
The US Geological Survey initially reported the quake at 8.0 magnitude.
The South American country is located in one of the seismically most active regions in the world. The nation is a long, narrow strip of land between the Andes mountain ranges to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Chile borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far south.
Chilean authorities used television to order the evacuation of coastal areas, urging citizens to leave their homes and towns speedily.
The Chilean National Office for Emergency said more than 10,000 people in some coastal towns have been evacuated. Power went out and communication lines were affected in some areas where landslides blocked roads and highways to the region.
The office also said 300 inmates escaped from a women's prison in the city of Iquique and the military was sending a planeload of special forces to prevent looting.
At least 10 strong aftershocks, including a 6.2-magnitude tremor, have so far been felt after the major quake.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre has said the quake generated a large tsunami with the biggest wave reported at 2.3 metres. The Chilean Navy said tsunami waves have hit some coastal areas.