The debris of a collapsed wall on a street is shown in central Santiago, early Saturday, Feb. 27,...
Dozens Dead, Buildings Toppled, Officials Say, in Quake Dozens of Times More Intense Than Haiti's
By EMILY FRIEDMAN
Feb. 27, 2010
A massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake rocked Chile early this morning, killing at least 78 and prompting tsunami warnings in areas as far away as the western coast of the United States.
The earthquake, which hit just after 3 a.m. local time, was 64 times stronger than the one that devestated Haiti last month but was much deeper, likely making the number of casualities far fewer than those in the Caribbean nation.
The minute-and-a-half-long quake was less than 100 miles north from the southwest coastal city of Concepcion, the second-largest city in Chile, but caused damage as far away as the capital Santiago nearly 200 miles away.
Hospitals in the area have been evacuated and the airport in Santiago has been shut down as the country braces to cope with at least 13 aftershocks measuring 5.0 magnitude or stronger. Phone lines and power also are out of service.
Ronald Scott, an American who was staying at a hostel in Santiago when the earthquake hit, told ABC News that while he was terrified, the damage he has witnessed was far less extensive than what he saw reported from Haiti. "It was very scary," Scott said. "The first thing I did was jump underneath the first table I could find and even that was about to collapse on me."
"Everything just started jumping up and down, the lights went out and everything sounded like a railroad train," he said. "The buildings were shaking, but they're still standing because of the construction."
The buildings in Chile are constructed to earthquake standards and therefore can sustain more of a jolt than those in other places.
"Everything is still standing," said Scott. "The only things that are not broken were not nailed down in the house."
Elliot Yamin, a former contestant on "American Idol," had just finished performing at a music festival in Vina Del Mar, Chile, when he said the "rumbling started."
"At first, it was more of a kind of swaying back and forth and then it was a really fast kind of shaking," said Yamin.
In a sixth-floor hotel room, Yamin said he quickly moved to a doorway and then the hallway, and eventually got out of the building safely. Still, Yamin said he feared for his life.
"I thought it was a [6.0-magnitude or a 7.0-magnitude]; I had no idea it was an 8.8," he said. "The shaking and rumbling was just so-- I didn't know if I would make it down the stairs."
"It was surreal. People were panicking and a couple of pregnant women in the hospital were crying," Yamin said. "I shed a few tears. I was pretty emotional."
Yamin saidthe chaos has mostly died down now and that the aftershocks became far less frequent.