Death Toll Rises to 12 in Chilean Earthquake

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
By Phil Helsel

A 12th death was confirmed Thursday in the aftermath of a massive 8.3-magnitude earthquake that struck off the coast of Chile the day before, officials said.

Around 1 million people fled their homes after the huge earthquake struck at around 6:45 p.m. ET about 29 miles west of Illapel. The quake sparked fears of tsunamis and an advisory was put in place in Hawaii and California, which were later cancelled.

RELATED: Are American Cities Ready for Massive Tsunamis

A state of emergency was declared in the region around the coastal city of Coquimbo, which the Navy said had been hit by waves up to 15 feet.

Nearly 70,000 people in and around Coquimbo were without power Thursday afternoon, Chile's National Emergency Office of the Ministry of Interior and Public Security said.

The U.S. is prepared to offer assistance if asked, Secretary of State spokesman John Kirby said Thursday.

Chile is prone to powerful earthquakes. The most powerful earthquake ever recorded, a magnitude-9.5 earthquake, struck in Southern Chile in 1960.

PHOTOS: Powerful Earthquake Rocks Chile

Seismologists said Chile's heavy investment in structural reinforcement of buildings and constant refinement of its tsunami alert system helped prevent what would have been a catastrophe in less prepared nations.

"Chile has good codes and good compliance, which together have reduced the vulnerabilities of their building stock over the decades," Richard Olson, director of Florida International University's Extreme Events Institute, told The Associated Press.

"I would rather be there in one of their cities than in many other countries in an earthquake," he said.

The Associated Press and Hanna Guerrero contributed.