Thousands of residents of this small city in northern Chile slept outside Thursday after a powerful earthquake destroyed their homes, forced more than 1 million to evacuate and killed at least 10 people in the quake-prone South American nation.
Several coastal towns were flooded from small tsunami waves set off by late Wednesday’s quake, which shook the Earth so strongly that rumbles were felt across South America.
The magnitude-8.3 quake lasted for three minutes, causing buildings to sway in the capital, Santiago, and prompting authorities to issue a tsunami warning for the Andean nation’s entire Pacific coast. People sought safety in the streets of inland cities, while others along the shore took to their cars to race to higher ground.
“I thought it was the end of the world and we were going to die,” said teary-eyed Manuel Moya, 38, sleeping with his wife on the ground outside their destroyed home in Illapel, 175 miles (280 kilometers) north of Santiago and 34 miles (55 kilometers) east of the quake’s epicenter. The town and surrounding areas have about 35,000 residents.
Moya said he and his wife were in bed and watching television when the quake hit. Fearing they would be killed if they remained inside, they ran outside in their underwear. By the end of the shaking, their home, made of concrete, had been reduced to rubble.
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Chile's interior ministry has declared a state of emergency in a central region struck by a powerful earthquake.
One million people had to leave their homes and at least 10 people died when the 8.3-magnitude quake hit on Wednesday night.
In the coastal town of Coquimbo, waves of 4.7m (15ft) hit the shore. Small tsunami waves hit as far away as Alaska.
President Michelle Bachelet visited Coquimbo on Thursday.
Tsunami waves also hit the coast further north and south of the quake's epicentre, with waves half a metre higher than usual as far north as La Punta.
The quake - the strongest in the world this year - lasted for more than three minutes and there were dozens of aftershocks.
Gloria Navarro, who lives in the coastal town of La Serena, said people were "running in all directions".
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