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Six people are confirmed dead after an 8.2 magnitude earthquake struck off Chile’s northern coast Tuesday evening, triggering a small tsunami.

According to Chilean Interior Minister Rodrigo Penailillo, many of the victims died from heart attacks or falling debris. The extent of damage to infrastructure is not immediately known.

The extent of the damage from Tuesday night’s quake couldn’t be fully assessed before daybreak, President Michelle Bachelet said, but she wasn’t taking any chances, declaring a state of emergency for the northern part of the country and deploying armed forces to prevent looting. Military officials are also rounding up prisoners who escaped from a women’s prison in the city of Iquique. Officials said 39 of the 300 prisoners who escaped have been recaptured.

Nearly a million residents were forced to evacuate after the quake hit the coast and the tsunami watch was expanded to neighboring countries like Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia. Those warnings have since been canceled.

Chile is one of the world’s most earthquake-prone countries because the Nazca tectonic plate plunges just off the coast beneath the South American plate, pushing the towering Andes cordillera to ever-higher altitudes, according to ABC.

The quake, which struck 6 miles beneath the ocean floor and 61 miles west-northwest of Iquique, triggered landslides that blocked roads, knocked out power for thousands, damaged an airport and provoked fires that destroyed several businesses. In Arica, another city close to the quake’s offshore epicenter, hospitals treated minor injuries, and some homes made of adobe were destroyed, authorities said.

The earthquake was so strong that the shaking it caused in La Paz, Bolivia, 290 miles from the epicenter, was the equivalent of a 4.5-magnitude tremor, authorities there said. The quake triggered at least eight strong aftershocks in the first few hours, including a 6.2 tremor.

The Chilean government will continue to assess the damage of the latest quake. We’ll keep you updated with the latest developments.


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