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8.2-magnitude earthquake off Chile's coast triggers a tsunami

South and Central American Pacific coast villages were evacuating amid a tsunami alert.

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SANTIAGO, Chile — A major earthquake of magnitude 8.2 struck off the coast of Chile on Tuesday night, triggering a tsunami that hit the northern part of the country. Officials reported at least two deaths late Tuesday night, attributed to heart attacks. Residents all along the Pacific coast were forced to evacuate.

The US Geological Survey said the quake was shallow at 12.5 miles below the seabed and struck about 60 miles northwest of the mining port of Iquique, near the Peruvian border. Chile's interior minister said 300 inmates had escaped from a women's prison near the port in the aftermath.

The Chilean navy said the first tsunami wave had hit the coast within 45 minutes of the quake. Authorities evacuated part of the coast and a tsunami warning was issued for all of South and Central America's Pacific coast.

In 2010, an 8.8-magnitude quake created a tsunami that devastated several coastal towns in central-south Chile, a disaster that killed 526 people.

Chile's ONEMI emergency office said late on Tuesday that landslides were partially blocking some roads and highways, and local radio stations said power went out in Iquique, but the government said it had no reports of deaths or injuries.

Chile is the world's No. 1 copper producer. Iquique is a key copper exporting port, close to Chile's main copper mines. State-owned miner Codelco reported no harm to its workers or mines, and said its operations in northern Chile were normal.

Mining company BHP Billiton said it had not received reports of damage to mines.

More from GlobalPost: Copper: Why the world is worrying about this not-so-precious metal

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center initially said that the coasts of Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua were also at risk, later revising the warnings to apply to Chile and Peru only.

"An earthquake of this size has the potential to generate a destructive tsunami that can strike coastlines near the epicenter within minutes and more distant coastlines within hours," it said.

Authorities in Peru started evacuating communities in the southern coastal region of Ica, RPP radio reported.

Hawaii watch

A tsunami warning could be issued for Hawaii due, US officials said.

If a tsunami wave reaches Hawaii they would strike at 3:24 a.m. local time (9:24 a.m. ET) on Wednesday, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said in a statement.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/chile/140401/82-earthquake-chile-coast-triggers-tsunami