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  • 2 April 2014, 15:56

Chile Quake Triggers Indonesia Tsunami Warning

Indonesians have been warned stay off beaches amid fears a tsunami could hit the coast hours after being generated by an earthquake off Chile.

Six people were reported killed in the powerful 8.2 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami in northern Chile.

The Chilean navy said some areas in the north of the country were hit by waves 45 minutes after the quake was felt at 6.46pm (10.46pm UK time) on Tuesday.

Waves measuring up to seven feet were reported and a mass evacuation began as Chile's president Michelle Bacheletdeclared a state of emergency and northern parts of the country disaster zones.

The tsunami alert was in place for Chile and Peru for several hours, before it was called off by officials.

Indonesian officials have warned waves up to 0.5m high "will possibly affect several areas" including Java, Bali, Sulawesi and Borneo in the coming hours.

We are urging the provincial and district governments within these areas to take precautions by urging people to stay away from beaches," disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

"People must remain calm."

No evacuations have been ordered so far.

More than 170,000 people died in Indonesia's Aceh province on western Sumatra island after it was hit by a quake-generated tsunami in 2004.

Chile's interiorminister Rodrigo Penailillo said those killed there had either died from heart attacks or from being crushed. Several others have been seriously injured.

Politicians in Chile ordered the "preventative evacuation" of hundreds of thousands of people from coastal areas, which was hampered by landslides which had blocked roads.

Terrified residents flooded the streets desperate to reach higher ground, while schools were used as shelters.

Chilean journalist Jorge Garreton told Sky News: "Northern Chile has been expecting an earthquake. There were a number of exercises in the recent past. People know where they have to go to the safety zones.

"The northern cities are low-lying so they have to go up to the mountains. They have been advised not to take vehicles but to walk."

The huge tremor occurred 62 miles (99km) northwest of the mining town of Iquique, near the Peruvian border.

Several fires broke out in Iquique, while 300 inmates escaped from a women's prison amid the chaos, dozens of whom were recaptured.

Thousands of homes lost power and the government sent in troops to prevent looting.

MrPenailillo added: "We have taken action to ensure public order in the case of Iquique, where we've had a massive escape of more than 300 female prisoners from the Iquique jail, so that the armed forces and police can coordinate and provide tranquillity and security to the residents."

The tsunami warning initially placed the entire Pacific Coast of Latin America on alert but was later downgraded to just Chile and Peru.

"An earthquake of this size has the potential to generate a destructive tsunami that can strike coastlines near the epicentre within minutes and more distant coastlines within hours," the US Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) said.

The quake happened just 12.5 miles (20.1 km) below the seabed - making it feel even more powerful.

The tremor shook buildings in parts of the nearby nations of Bolivia and Peru.

At least eight strong aftershocks followed in the first few hours, including a 6.2 tremor.

More aftershocks and even a larger quake could not be ruled out, said seismologist Mario Pardo at the University of Chile.

The area has been rocked by several quakes in the last two weeks. A 6.7 magnitude quake on March 16 prompted more than 100,000 people to briefly evacuate low-lying areas.

US officials said there was no imminent threat of a tsunami along the coasts of Hawaii, Alaska, California, Oregon or Washington.

An 8.8 magnitude quake caused a tsunami that killed more than 500 people in Chile in February 2010.

Sky News's Greg Milam said: "They learned a lot of lessons from the quake in 2010 about the need not only of getting the warnings out, but also about giving people somewhere to go.

"They won't have supplies sitting in the shelters day-by-day, but they will have capabilities to get those supplies there.

"There was an evacuation a couple of weeks ago. There was no tsunami on that occasion but that would have been a wake-up call, as the earthquakes here over the past few weeks have been a wake-up call about the need to be prepared."

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