South America has been a special part of my life for four decades. I have lived many years in Brasil and Peru. I am married to an incredible lady from Argentina. I want to share South America with you.
A powerful earthquake struck off the northern coast of Chile, the world’s largest copper producer, triggering landslides and a small tsunami, although the region appeared to have escaped large casualties and copper mines reported no major damage.
In the early hours of Wednesday, Rodrigo Penailillo, Chile’s interior minister, said the death toll from the quake had risen to five.
The price of copper traded in New York jumped as much as 6 cents a pound to $3.07 following the 8.2 magnitude earthquake, which struck at 9pm local time. The quake also shook buildings in nearby Peru and in Bolivia’s capital, La Paz, 470km away.
Chile’s Collahuasi mine, a joint venture led by Anglo American and Xstrata close to the epicentre, reported it had suffered no problems. State-owned copper mining company Codelco and London-listed Antofagasta also said their mines were functioning normally, Reuters reported.
The US Geological Survey said the quake was shallow at 20.1km below the seabed and struck about 100km northwest of the mining port of Iquique near the Peruvian border.
Chilean television showed people calmly leaving the coastal strip following a government evacuation order as the first tsunami waves, measuring 2.1m, hit the coast. News pictures of the country’s main port town, Valparaíso, showed the town was deserted.
There were some road traffic jams caused by landslides, but water and electricity supplies continued in most areas, Television Nacional reported.
“Chile is actually quite well prepared for tsunamis,” Bruce Tresgrave, a geophysicist with the US Geological Survey, told Bloomberg TV. “There is always the possibility of communication failure.”
An alert was issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center for all of Latin America’s Pacific coast. The alert was subsequently lifted but authorities in Hawaii were still on tsunami watch.
In 2010, a magnitude 8.8 quake in central Chile killed more than 500 people, destroyed 220,000 homes, left scores without electricity for several days and caused an estimated $7bn of damage. The quake, the sixth largest recorded, released so much energy that it changed the earth’s rotation and shortened the day by a fraction.
At the time, Michelle Bachelet, Chile’s then president, declared a “state of catastrophe” but was later criticised for her handling of the disaster. Ms Bachelet assumed the presidency for a second time this year on March 11.