BREAKING NEWS ! BREAKING NEWS! EARTHQUAKE AT CHILE SET OFF THE TSUNAMI.
( Source from AFP )
A massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake has struck central Chile, shaking the capital for a minute-and-a-half and setting off a tsunami, which triggered international alerts.
Buildings collapsed and phone lines and electricity were down, making the extent of the damage difficult to determine.
At least 16 people were killed when the earthquake struck, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet announced.
"We have had a huge earthquake," Bachelet said, speaking from an emergency response centre in an appeal for Chileans to remain calm.
"We're doing everything we can with all the forces we have. Any information we will share immediately."
Bachelet said early reports were that six people had been killed, and "without a doubt, with an earthquake of this magnitude, there will be more deaths".
She urged people to avoid travelling in the dark, since traffic lights are down, to avoid causing more fatalities.
The quake hit at 3:34am (1734 AEDT) and was centred 325 kilometres southwest of the capital, Santiago, at a depth of 35 kilometres the US Geological Survey reported.
The epicentre was just 115 kilometres from Concepcion, Chile's second-largest city, where more than 200,000 people live along the Bio Bio river, and 60 miles from the ski town of Chillan, a gateway to Andean ski resorts that was destroyed in a 1939 earthquake.
An Associated Press Television News cameraman said some buildings have collapsed in Santiago, where power was out in parts of the city.
An important church was among the buildings that came down in the central city of Providencia, where window glass shattered into the streets and people ran from multistorey buildings, according to TV Chile.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre issued a warning for Chile and Peru, and a less-urgent tsunami watch for Ecuador, Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica.
It said a tsunami could also hit Hawaii later in the day.
"Sea level readings indicate a tsunami was generated. It may have been destructive along coasts near the earthquake epicentre and could also be a threat to more distant coasts," the centre said.
The US west coast tsunami warning centre said it did not expect a tsunami along the west of the US or Canada but was continuing to monitor the situation.
Australia is also on tsunami watch, with the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) warning of a potential threat to NSW, Queensland, Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island.
"Tsunami waves have been observed on the coast of Chile that may threaten Australia," it said in a statement.
Japan's meteorological agency also warned of a tsunami risk across large areas of the Pacific as US geologists said the risk extended as far as the Antarctic.
"There is a possibility that tsunami will widely occur in the Pacific Ocean," an official for the Japanese agency said.
"We are now checking if tsunami may hit Japanese coastal areas."
The largest earthquake ever recorded struck the same area of Chile on May 22, 1960.
The magnitude-9.5 quake killed 1,655 people and left two million homeless. The tsunami that it caused killed people in Hawaii, Japan and the Philippines and caused damage to the West Coast of the United States.