A state of emergency has been issued in Chile’s northern port city of Coquimbo after 15-foot waves slammed into the nearby coast, triggered by Wednesday’s 8.3-magnitude earthquake that claimed 11 lives and prompted 1 million people to flee their homes.
Authorities are currently rushing aid to Coquimbo, where security has been increased to prevent looting after more than 100 homes were leveled. The homes of 610 people have been so damaged that they are unable to return, while tens of thousands more have been left with no electricity or clean water. Piles of debris and splintered fishing boats litter the roads.
“We lost it all. It was horrible,” 79-year-old Hilda Zambra, whose beachfront home some 25 miles south of Coquimbo was washed away by the waves, told Reuters.
Chile often experiences earthquakes and President Michelle Bachelet said the low death toll was due the residents’ response to government mandated evacuations. “We want to thank people for their cooperation, which allowed for a death toll, that while unfortunate, was not very high considering the strength of the earthquake,” she said.
The government “learned a series of lessons” from previous disasters, Bachelet said.
More than 500 people died when an 8.8-magnitude earthquake rocked southern Chile in 2010.