Chile Earthquake: 11 Dead, Buildings Destroyed, Tsunami Alert Canceled in Hawaii

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By Erin McClam

People in devastated Chilean towns combed through rubble and braced against aftershocks on Thursday after a magnitude-8.3 earthquake killed 11 people and forced 1 million from their homes.

The quake, which struck Wednesday night, was so strong that it was felt across South America. Thousands of miles away, a tsunami advisory was in effect Thursday for the California coast, but forecasters said they expected only stronger currents.

A tsunami advisory for Hawaii was canceled after wave levels dropped enough that forecasters decided the threat was over. The water rose as much as 3 feet in Hilo early Thursday morning.

PHOTOS: Powerful Earthquake Rocks Chile

In the small Chilean city of Illapel, thousands of people slept outside after the quake destroyed their homes. People began to return, but Chilean authorities said more than 600 people were still in shelters and almost 100,000 still without power.

People in Coquimbo, Chile, recover items from destroyed houses next to a ship dragged by the waves after a powerful earthquake.Mauricio Ubilla / Reuters

“I thought it was the end of the world and we were going to die,” Manuel Moya told The Associated Press after the quake leveled his home, which was made of concrete.

Melisa Pinones, a restaurant owner in Illapel, told Reuters: “Everything is a mess. It was a disaster, a total loss. Bottles and glasses shattered, and the pipes in the bathroom and kitchen burst.”

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Aftershocks shook the country all morning, and people said they feared another big quake.

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The government lifted its own tsunami warning. The navy said the northern port city of Coquimbo had been hit by waves as tall as 15 feet, and fishing vessels washed up onto the streets.

Schools were closed across the country. It was only the latest natural disaster to befall Chile, which endured two volcano eruptions, widespread floods and wildfires in the past year.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed.