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Powerful Earthquake Rattles Chile  

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A massive earthquake measuring 8.8 magnitude on the Richter scale struck southern Chile early Saturday, knocking out power and driving people in panic into the streets.

At least six people were killed by the earthquake, which was capable of major damage, said President Michelle Bachelet.

The earthquake struck 320 km southwest of Santiago at a depth of 59.4 km 3:34 AM (0634 GMT), according to the US Geological Survey.

A Xinhua reporter said that when the earthquake struck, he felt his house shaking and heard a squeaky sound for nearly 40 seconds. Shortly after that, electricity was disrupted and everything fell into darkness.

Telecommunications also were disrupted, with almost all telephone and mobile phone calls disconnected, the reporter said.

Many people in the neighborhood ran out to the street in panic. Helicopters were seen hovering in the air.

Witnesses said many building were damaged but how big the scale of the damage was not immediately clear.

Tsunamis carrying waves as high as 1.5 meters and traveling at 800 km per hour to the north and south were generated by the tremendous earthquake, CNN reported.

Imminent danger warnings were issued for the entire coasts of Chile and Peru and a less-urgent tsunami watch was issued for Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica and Antarctica.

(Xinhua News Agency February 27, 2010)