An earthquake with a magnitude of 8.3 struck off the coast of Chile on Wednesday, killing at least five people and injuring many more, while tidal waves of up to 4.5 metres hit the country.
The quake occurred at 7.54 p.m. about 55 km west of Illapel in central Chile at a depth of 25 km, according to the US Geological Survey. Several strong aftershocks have followed. One million people have been evacuated from their homes. Interior Minister Mahmoud Aleuy said 245,000 families were left without power.
Tsunami are also possible along the coasts of Peru, Ecuador, Japan and Hawaii, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.
Chilean authorities urged coastline residents to evacuate.
The Japan Meteorological Agency is studying the possibility of tsunami reaching other Pacific countries including Japan.
Chile is one of the world’s most seismically active nations. In February 2010, a magnitude 8.8 quake and tsunami killed more than 500 people. In April last year, a deadly 8.2-magnitude earthquake in northern Chile killed six people and forced a million to leave their homes in the region around Iquique, in the country's far north.
Yesterday's quake was the sixth biggest most powerful in Chile's history, and the strongest anywhere in the world this year, Aleuy said.
Tsunami waves were also possible in French Polynesia, Hawaii and California, officials said, as well as smaller waves as far away as Japan and New Zealand.