Huge Aftershock Sends Families Fleeing in Chile

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A powerful aftershock hit northern Chile late Wednesday, sending fearful residents onto the streets or up nearby hills just a day after a 8.2-magnitude earthquake triggered tsunami alerts and mass evacuations.

In the hard-hit port city of Iquique, families bundled up and some slept alongside main roads after the 7.6 aftershock.

A family sleeps on the side of Av. La Tirana in Iquique, Chile, after a strong aftershock hit the region.Hudson Trivick Silva

"My family has been up for hours,” said 26-year-old Hudson Trivick Silva, who helped carry his invalid cousin up a hill and away from the coast. “During the siren I threw him on my back and went up the hill. Then it was my other cousin’s turn, and between the two of us got him up.”

The new quake was located 12 miles south of Iquique at a relatively shallow depth of 12.4 miles, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said that while there was no widespread tsunami threat, the latest tremor could generate a local tsunami, although the tsunami threats were canceled.

Silva said that while he was scared, he tried to stay upbeat in front of the 30-some members of his family who were evacuating, and especially his three nieces.

“The truth is that fear is always there, but in a big family and kids … I made jokes so that they wouldn’t get scared,” the sound engineer added.

Chile's emergency office said there were no initial reports of casualties or serious damage from the major aftershock, although President Michelle Bachelet was evacuated from her hotel in the city of Arica where she had gone to inspect the damage from the earlier quake.

After experiencing several hundred quakes in the past two weeks, many Chileans weren’t overly rattled by the quakes and aftershocks.

Strict building regulations enforced due to Chile's history of violent seismology have been credited with minimizing the death toll. By early Thursday, just six deaths had been confirmed.

A beefed-up tsunami monitoring and prediction system performed with flying colors in the wake of Tuesday's quake, according to researchers.

- F. Brinley Bruton

Reuters contributed to this report.