27.02.2010 / 06:34 GMT


A huge earthquake has shaken Chile, killing more than 746 people, causing buildings to collapse, starting fires and unleashing a tsunami across the Pacific. With a magnitude of 8.8, it opened cracks in the earth, flipped cars and devastated the city of Concepcion, 70 miles from the epicentre.

The Chilean president, Michelle Bachelet, declared a "state of catastrophe" as emergency teams scrambled over rubble looking for survivors. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre issued an alert for countries in Latin America as well as Japan, Russia, the Philippines, Indonesia and French Polynesia. A massive wave hit Robinson Crusoe island, the largest of the Juan Fernandez archipelago, where at least three people were killed. Residents were evacuated from the coastal areas of Easter Island.

Collapsed roads and bridges complicated travel across the country. Electricity, water and phone lines were cut to many areas, so there was little word of casualties or damage from more remote areas.

Powerful aftershocks shook the country's coastline. There were 29 of magnitude 5 or greater, and one reaching 6.9, the US Geological Survey reported.

The earthquake was so devastating that many buildings have collapsed like a game of cards. Many buildings are in complete shambles, and huge parts of the buildings have fallen onto the street, and are making the relief work all the more difficult. Trees and power lines have also been knocked down, and the situation is totally chaotic all over the earthquake ravaged region. The Santiago airport was also damaged.

The disaster was the strongest earthquake to hit Chile in 50 years and one of the strongest ever measured.



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