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A major 8.8 magnitude earthquake struck southern Chile early Saturday, triggering tsunamis in the region. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said that at least 78 people have been killed in the earthquake.

The Republic of Chile, locating in a region where the Pacific and Nazca plates meet, features a string of volcanoes. The Latin American country has been plagued by earthquakes and volcanoes.

According to records, about 50 large earthquakes and 20 tsunamis have occured in Chile during the last 500 years. Economic losses brought about by the quakes has reached at least US$100 million per year.

The following are some basic facts about Chile:

Chile lies along the Pacific coast of South America, extending from Peru and Bolivia in the north to Cape Horn in the far south. To the east, Chile is separated from Argentina by the high Andes mountains. Its coastline stretches about 10,000 km.

Chile has an area of approximately 756,000 sq km. Its population was about 16.6 million in 2008. The great majority of Chileans are Christians, most of them Roman Catholics. The official language is Spanish.

Chile won its independence in 1818 from Spanish rule, which began in the 16th century. The country won the War of the Pacific (1879-83) against Peru and Bolivia.

Chile abounds in minerals, forestry and fishing resources. It has the largest copper reserve in the world, which accounts for a third of the world's total. Its gross domestic product (GDP) in 2008 reached 173 billion dollars, with per capita GDP standing at US$10,109.

Chile's major trading partners include the United States, Argentina, Brazil, China and Japan.

Chile is a member of the Latin American Integration Association and was admitted to the Rio Group in 1990 and to APEC in 1994. Chile is also one of the founding members of the World Trade Organization.

Chile was the first South American country to establish diplomatic relations with China on Dec. 15, 1970. 

(Xinhua News Agency February 28, 2010)

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