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More than 300 female prisoners took advantage of the huge earthquake that hit the northern coast of Chile and escaped late Tuesday, officials said.

The prisoners set fire to the site after the massive jailbreak, which happened as the penitentiary was being evacuated, according to El Mundo newspaper.

Officials said that by around 4:30 a.m. local time (3:30 a.m. ET) around 39 had been recaptured close to the prison in Iquique, a port city near the epicenter of the magnitude-8.2 quake.

Some 300 members of the Chilean military had taken over security in Iquique, Interior Minister Rodrigo Peñailillo told El Mundo.

Meanwhile, President Michelle Bachelet ordered Chile's army and air force to take control of the quake-hit region.

- F. Brinley Bruton