A massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck Chile early Saturday, killing at least 78 people, collapsing buildings and setting off a tsunami.
Chilean TV showed devastating images from the country’s second city of Concepcion of collapsed homes, a large building completely engulfed in flames and injured people lying in the streets or on stretchers. It said the earthquake destroyed many roads, making it impossible for vehicles to get through, and there was no electricity or water.
Tsunami warnings were issued over a wide area, including South America, Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand, Japan, the Philippines, Russia and many Pacific islands.
A huge wave reached a populated area in the Robinson Crusoe Islands, 410 miles (660 kilometers) off the Chilean coast, said President Michele Bachelet. There were no immediate reports of major damage there, she added.
Bachelet said the death toll was at 78 and rising, but officials had no information on the number of people injured. She declared a “state of catastrophe” in central Chile.
In the capital, Santiago airport was shut down and will remain closed for at least the next 24 hours, airport director Eduardo del Canto said. The passenger terminal has suffered major damage, he told Chilean television in a telephone interview. TV images show smashed windows, partially collapsed ceilings and pedestrian walkways destroyed.
In Concepcion, nurses and residents pushed some of the injured through the streets on stretchers. Others walked around in a daze wrapped in blankets, some carrying infants in their arms.
The quake hit 200 miles (325 kilometers) southwest of Santiago, at a depth of 22 miles (35 kilometers) at 3:34 a.m. (0634 GMT; 1:34 a.m. EST), the U.S. Geological Survey reported.
The epicenter was just 70 miles (115 kilometers) from Concepcion, where more than 200,000 people live along the Bio Bio river, and 60 miles (95 kilometers) from the ski town of Chillan, a gateway to Andean ski resorts that was destroyed in a 1939 earthquake.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center called for “urgent action to protect lives and property” in Hawaii, which is among 53 nations and territories subject to tsunami warnings.
“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 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.