Just before 8PM local time yesterday evening, a massive earthquake rocked Chile. The 8.3 magnitude quake caused buildings to bend and sway, grocery store shelves to spill goods into aisles, and waves over 3.5 meters (more than 11 feet) high to smash against the coastline. Over one million people have been evacuated, but luckily, thanks to a successful cell phone warning system, the death toll is very low.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake’s epicenter was about 46km (about 29 miles) west of Illapel, a town about three hours’ drive north of the Chilean capital. Some witnesses report that the initial earthquake lasted over two minutes, which is quite long for any quake, especially one of this strength. Fortunately, Chile has a cell phone warning system in place, which began after an earthquake and tsunami in 2010 killed 525 people. Because of that system, emergency officials were able to notify people quickly of the danger and issue widespread evacuation orders. On the eve of a national holiday, many vacationers were already crowded in beachside surf towns, where the risk of flooding from tsunami waves was the greatest. The warnings that came via cell phone included specific times for expected waves, giving as little as five minutes for people to move to higher ground. In total, Chilean officials are reporting that over one million residents and visitors have been evacuated from coastal areas.

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In addition to the big waves caused by the quake in Chile, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii said waves of up to a meter could hit New Zealand as much as 24 hours after the earthquake. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a tsunami travel time map illustrating, in number of hours, how and where the effects of the earthquake would radiate outward from the epicenter.

If there is a bright side to the disaster, it’s that officials canceled the tsunami alert for all areas of Chile early this morning. However, there is still some time left on the tsunami travel map, as we wait to see how this quake will impact nations on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.

Via The Guardian

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