Tsunami evacuations ordered after Chile quake

Iquique locals take refuge in the city stadium after a powerful earthquake prompted a tsunami warning for much of Latin America's Pacific coast.
(Aldo Solimano / AFP/Getty Images)

Preventative evacuations had been ordered along the coast of the Arica, Parinacota and Tarapaca regions after a magnitude 8.0 earthquake struck off the coast of northern Chile, according to local media reports.

Waves as high as 5.5 feet were forecast to strike Pisagua, the National Tsunami Warning System reported after the quake struck at 8:46 p.m.

Wider warnings were issued for Peru and Ecuador, while a tsunami watch was in effect for Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua, according to advisories released by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

Related: No tsunami warning for California, West Coast

“A quake of this magnitude has the potential to generate a destructive tsunami that can beat the coastline around the epicenter within minutes and more distant coastlines in a matter of hours,” said the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.


The tsunami threat to Hawaii was still being evaluated. If a tsunami hit Hawaii, the earliest time of arrival would be 3:24 a.m.

“There is a possibility that Hawaii could be elevated to a watch or warning status,” the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.

Iquique is a major port city of about 182,000 people at the edge of Chile’s copper mining Atacama desert region. A magnitude 6.7 quake struck near there March 16, followed by swarms of smaller temblors. The area, where the Nazca tectonic plate collides with the South American plate, experiences numerous earthquakes.

A 7.9 magnitude temblor off the coast from Iquique killed 11 people in 2005.