Powerful quake off Chile slams waves into coastal towns; eight killed

Chile lifted the tsunami warning early on Thursday it had put in place after Wednesday`s major earthquake, the government said.

Santiago: Strong aftershocks rippled through Chile on Thursday after a magnitude 8.3 earthquake that killed at least eight people and slammed powerful waves into coastal towns, forcing more than a million people from their homes.

The government ordered evacuations from coastal areas after the powerful quake hit on Wednesday evening, seeking to avoid a repeat of a quake disaster in 2010 when authorities were slow to warn of a tsunami that killed hundreds.

As the risk subsided, the government lifted its tsunami warning on Thursday morning.

The quake and heavy waves afterward caused flooding in coastal towns, damaged buildings and knocked out power in the worst hit areas of central Chile. It shook buildings in the capital city of Santiago about 280 km (175 miles) to the south.

The port of Coquimbo suffered major damage in the quake, which was the strongest in the world this year, Interior Minister Jorge Burgos told a news conference. The city was hit by waves of up to waves of up to 4.5 meters (15 feet) after the earthquake, Chile`s navy said. 

President Michelle Bachelet said she planned to travel to the areas worst affected by the quake, the biggest to hit the country since 2010.

"Once again we`re having to deal with another harsh blow from nature," she said in a televised statement.

Chile is the world`s top copper producer and operations were suspended at two big copper mines as a precaution, sending prices on the London Metal Exchange to two-month highs in early Asian trading on concern over disruptions to supplies. Prices dipped again after there were no initial reports of damage to mines after daybreak.

State copper miner Codelco said it was keeping operations at its Andina mine suspended, but it had restarted operations at its Ventanas smelter.

Both Codelco and Antofagasta, which halted operations at its Los Pelambres copper mine, said they were now carrying out inspections but they did not have any reports so far of damage. Los Pelambres is the closest major mine to the quake epicenter.

The quake was felt as far away as Buenos Aires in Argentina.

"It`s been awful. We ran out of the house with our grandchildren and now we are on a hill hoping it will be over soon," said Maria Angelica Leiva from the coastal town of Navidad. 

"It is all very dark, and we just hope the sea hasn`t reached our house," she said.

Tsunami advisories were issued for parts of South America, Hawaii, California and French Polynesia, although waves were generally expected to be small. As far away as New Zealand, authorities warned of "unusually strong currents" and urged residents in eastern coastal areas to stay out of the water and off beaches.

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