Chile has been walloped yet again, this time by an "8.4-magnitude earthquake in the central-north zone" of the country, Santiago daily La Tercera reported Thursday.
The offshore event struck Wednesday night at 7:54 p.m. local time near the city of Illapel. The government's National Emergency Office (ONEMI) has so far confirmed five deaths, three from heart attacks and two from fallen debris. Another person is reported missing. ONEMI estimates that one million people have been evacuated in coastal areas in response to a tsunami alert that authorities issued for the entire length of Chile's extensive Pacific shoreline.
Tsunami waves did come ashore in Concón, a popular tourist destination approximately 140 kilometers northwest of Santiago, which was also shaken hard by the quake.
Deputy Interior Secretary Mahmud Aleuy described the earthquake as the "sixth strongest in the history of Chile and strongest in the world so far this year." It was Chile's third 8.0-magnitude or larger event in just the past five years. An 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck the south-central part of the country on Feb. 27, 2010. Four years later, on April 1, 2014, an 8.2-magnitude quake hit the northern city of Iquique.
Numerous videos of the powerful earthquake have surfaced in recent hours, including one taken in a Santiago supermarket, where employees appear to have locked customers in during the event. In the recording, frightened shoppers can be heard yelling things like "open the damn door."
The quake struck just ahead of Chile's "fiestas patrias" (national celebrations), which coincide with the country's Independence Day (Sept. 18) and tend to last several days.