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A magnitude 8.2 earthquake sparked tsunami warnings and major coastal evacuations Tuesday night. The shaking loosed landslides that blocked roads, knocked out power and triggered fires that destroyed several businesses.

Deadly earthquake rocks Chile, triggers landslides and destructive fires

Digital writers

Wednesday, April 2, 2014, 8:51 AM -

A powerful earthquake struck off the Chilean coast Tuesday night, triggering evacuations and tsunami warnings, along with at least six reported deaths and several injuries.

Officials say that's a "remarkably low toll" for such a powerful earthquake. 

The magnitude 8.2 tremor struck near Iquique, Chile Tuesday at 8:46 p.m. local time, at a depth of 20.1 km. It was originally rated magnitude 8.0, but was revised upward.

President Michelle Bachelet says she wasn't taking any chances and issued a state of emergency.

Officials say the quake has set off some landslides that have blocked roads, cut power to thousands and have started fires. 

Tsunami watches and warnings covered the entire Pacific coast of Latin America from Chile to Mexico, but by 10:30 Eastern Time, only Chile and Peru remained in a warning. 

The mandatory evacuation orders remained in effect until nearly dawn for coastal areas. 

Authorities in the United States and Canada were monitoring the situation, but no watches or warnings were ever in effect there.

According to the tsunami warning centre, the only U.S. impact may be higher waves for Hawaii's swimmers and surfers on Wednesday. 

SEE ALSO: What happens if an earthquake hits Vancouver?

Two-metre waves came ashore on the nearby northern Chilean coast, and regional television was filled with images of coastal residents calmly evacuating to higher ground.

Chilean authorities reported they were sending troops to the region. Around 300 inmates at a women's prison in the north of the country were reported to have escaped.

The initial quake was so powerful, the shaking experienced almost 500 km away in neighbouring Bolivia's inland and high-altitude capital of La Paz was the equivalent of 4.5-magnitude tremor.

The same region experienced two earthquakes in March greater than magnitude 6, along with hundreds of smaller shocks, although no significant damage was reported.

Several powerful aftershocks have been reported from the latest quake, including one as strong as magnitude 6.2.

Shaking was reported in buildings across the region. The mayor of the northern Chilean town of Arica told The Associated Press that several buildings made of adobe suffered damage, and several injuries were reported. Some 90 per cent of customers in the city were reportedly without power.

Chile has experienced several powerful quakes over the past century, including the strongest earthquake ever recorded, a magnitude 9.5 tremor that killed more than 5,000 people.

More recently, an magnitude 8.8 quake in 2010 killed around 500 people and destroyed 220,000 homes.

With files from the Associated Press.

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