By EVA VERGARA, Associated Press Writer – 5 mins ago
SANTIAGO, Chile – A massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake capable of tremendous damage struck Chile early Saturday, shaking the capital for a minute and a half. Buildings collapsed and phone lines and electricity were down.
President Michele Bachelet declared a "state of catastrophe" in central Chile and said the death toll was 16 and rising.
"We have had a huge earthquake, with some aftershocks," Bachelet said, appealing from an emergency response center for Chileans to remain calm. "Despite this, the system is functioning. People should 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 16 people had been killed, and "without a doubt, with an earthquake of this magnitude, there will be more deaths."
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — A massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake capable of tremendous damage struck central Chile early Saturday, shaking the capital for a minute and a half and setting off a tsunami.
Buildings collapsed and phone lines and electricity were down, making the extent of the damage difficult to determine. At least 6 people were killed, President Michele Bachelet said.
"We have had a huge earthquake," Bachelet said, speaking from an emergency response center 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 traveling in the dark, since traffic lights are down, to avoid causing more fatalities.
The quake hit at 3:34 a.m. (0634 GMT; 1:34 a.m. EST) and was centered 200 miles (325 kilometers) southwest of the capital, Santiago, at a depth of 22 miles (35 kilometers) the U.S. Geological Survey reported.
The epicenter was just 70 miles (115 kilometers) 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 multistory buildings, according to TV Chile.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a warning for Chile and Peru, and a less-urgent tsunami watch for Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica and Antarctica. 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 epicenter and could also be a threat to more distant coasts," the center said.
The U.S. west coast tsunami warning center said it did not expect a tsunami along the west of the U.S. or Canada but was continuing to monitor the situation.
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 2 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.
Associated Press Television News cameraman Mauricio Cuevas contributed to this story.
(CNN) -- A massive magnitude 8.8 earthquake struck Chile early Saturday, producing powerful aftershocks and triggering a tsunami.
The epicenter of the earthquake was located off the coast in Maule, near the city of Concepcion, 212 miles (341 kilometers) from the capital of Santiago. The quake struck at 3:34 a.m. (1:34 a.m. ET).
At least 47 people have been confirmed dead, according to government officials, with the death toll expected to rise.
Concepcion is Chile's second largest city with a population of 200,000. There are reports of collapsed buildings in Santiago. The quake was felt in several Chilean towns and in parts of Argentina as well. Some buildings in Buenos Aires were evacuated.
dam that is crazy...putting it in perspective to the only earthquake i remember, the 1989 bay area one...it was a 6.9...8.8 must be fuckin massive...hope things are as good as they possibly can be there...
world is gettin craaaazy again....rip to the fallen...prodigy prayers are with ya fam....
NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 19 minutes ago
SANTIAGO, Chile - A devastating earthquake struck Chile early Saturday, toppling homes, collapsing bridges and plunging trucks into the fractured earth. A tsunami set off by the magnitude-8.8 quake threatened every nation around the Pacific Ocean — roughly a quarter of the globe.
Interior Minister Edmundo Perez Yoma said the most powerful quake to hit the country in a half-century killed at least 82 people, but the death toll was rising quickly.
President Michelle Bachelet declared a "state of catastrophe". Buildings were damaged in the capital Santiago, more than 200 miles away from its epicenter.
At least 23 aftershocks were reported, including one registering at 6.9 on the Richter scale.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake struck 56 miles northeast of the city of Concepcion at a depth of 22 miles at 3:34 a.m. (1:34 a.m. ET).
Jessica Sigala, a geophysicist with the USGS told NBC News that the quake released 500 times more energy than the than the one that hit Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on January 12. The quake was felt in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which is located more than 800 miles away.
Jen Ross, a journalist based in Santiago, told NBC's TODAY that she felt "three minutes of shaking".
Tsunami warnings were issued over a wide area, including Hawaii, South America, Australia and New Zealand, Japan, the Philippines, Russia and many Pacific islands.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said a tsunami was generated that could cause damage along the coasts of all the Hawaiian islands.
NBC station KNHL reported that the first tsunami wave was expected to reach Hawaii's coastline at 11:19 a.m. local time (4:19 p.m. ET).
"Urgent action should be taken to protect lives and property," the Warning Center said in a bulletin. "All shores are at risk no matter which direction they face."
California also warned its coastal cities to prepare for possible tsunami waves. A tsunami advisory was issued for the coast of California and an Alaskan coastal area from Kodiak to Attu islands. An advisory means there may be strong currents, but that widespread inundation is not expected to occur.
Reuters reported that a tsunami caused by the quake caused "serious damage" to Chile's sparsely populated Juan Fernández Islands, where Scottish sailor Alexander Selkirk was marooned in the 18th Century inspiring the novel Robinson Crusoe.
An Associated Press Television News cameraman said some buildings collapsed in the capital Santiago, which lies about 200 miles north of the epicenter.
In the moments after the quake, people streamed onto the streets of the capital, hugging each other and crying.
Broadcaster TVN reported that several hospitals had suffered structural damage and had been evacuated.
'It's like the end of the world'
"Never in my life have I experienced a quake like this, it's like the end of the world," one man told local television from the city of Temuco, where the quake damaged buildings.
Simon Shalders, who lives in Santiago, told Sky News: "There was a lot of movement. The houses were really shaking, walls were moving backwards and forwards, and doors were swinging open.
"Santiago has got a history of earthquakes and basically there's not a lot of old construction in Santiago because of these earthquakes.
"The new buildings in Santiago are designed to withstand fairly strong quakes and they probably held up pretty well."
There were blackouts in parts of Santiago and communications were still down in the area closest to the epicenter.
Santiago resident Leo Perioto told CNN that "windows were wobbling a lot" in his six-story building.
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"The whole building was shaking," he added. "We could feel the walls moving from side to side."
An earthquake of magnitude 8 or over can cause "tremendous damage," the USGS said. The quake that devastated Port-au-Prince on January 12 was rated magnitude 7.0.
'Threat to more distant coasts'
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the Chile quake generated a tsunami that may have been destructive along the coast near the epicenter "and could also be a threat to more distant coasts."
According to a 2002 census, Concepcion is one of the largest cities in Chile with a population of around 670,000.
In 1960, Chile was hit by the world's biggest earthquake since records dating back to 1900.
The 9.5 magnitude quake devastated the south-central city of Valdivia, killing 1,655 people and sending a tsunami which battered Easter Island 2,300 miles off Chile's Pacific seaboard and continued as far as Hawaii, Japan and the Philippines.