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Deadly 8.2 Earthquake Displaces Thousands in Chile


A powerful 8.2-magnitude earthquake struck off northern Chile Tuesday night, setting off a small tsunami. Five people died and more than 80,000 have been displaced.

The quake struck at 8:46 p.m., triggering tsunami warnings and forcing evacuations along Chile's entire Pacific coast.

"Everyone is staying up until super late in the mountains," evacuee Diego Moyano said.

Chilean authorities have cancelled tsunami warnings for most of the country's coastal areas.

The shaking damaged several homes and businesses, as well as an airport. It also set off landslides that blocked roads and left thousands without power.

Some 400 anti-riot police and soldiers have been deployed to prevent looting and to round up 300 inmates who escaped from a women's prison.

Tuesday's earthquake was followed by at least eight strong aftershocks that shook buildings as far away as Bolivia and Peru.

"You could feel the wall moving, as well as the floor. And there's a tent in a veranda back in the garden and you could really see that moving back and forth," Tina Andrews, and American tourist, recalled.

The earthquake even triggered microscopic seismic measurements as far away as New York's Central Park.

Chile is located on the so-called Ring of Fire, an arc of volcanoes and fault lines circling the Pacific Ocean basin that's prone to frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Experts caution an even bigger quake could be on the way.

"We expect another 8.8, 8.9 earthquake here sometime in the future," Mark Simons, a seismology professor at CalTech, said. "It could be tomorrow; it could be in 50 years."

In 2010, about 500 people were killed when an 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck the country. During the past two weeks, hundreds of earthquakes have been shaking Chile's far-northern coast.

Meanwhile, a small earthquake that hit Los Angeles last week could point to the "big one."  

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that a 7.5-magnitude quake there could kill thousands of people and cause up to $250 billion in damages.

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