Tsunami Warning Briefly Sounded After Strong Aftershock in Chile
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A new tsunami warning was heard on Wednesday shortly after two aftershocks measuring 6.0 and 5.9 respectively jolted Chile and spurred panic along the coastal area.
The two aftershocks jolted Chile on Wednesday within one minute to each other, the US Geological Survey (USGS) reported on its website.
The aftershocks sparked panic in the southern-central town of Concepcion, one of the hardest-hit cities in the Saturday quake. Sirens were heard and hundreds of people rushed out their shelters to higher ground.
Chilean officials later lifted the tsunami alert. But most of the people there said they would still choose to stay outside during the following days, out of fear of more aftershocks.
The 6.0-magnitude quake shook Maulee, about 115 kilometers from Concepcion, the most affected major city in the 8.8-magnitude tremor that rocked Chile on Saturday morning. The quake was preliminarily rated at 6.3.
The 5.9-magnitude quake jolted offshore Bio-Bio just seconds earlier. Its epicenter was 39 kilometers from Concepcion, at a depth of 35 kilometers.
Hours earlier, President Michelle Bachelet predicted that the number of the deaths from the quake and ensuing Tsunami could exceed the 799 now counted.
The president told a local radio that more people could have died in the quake and the quake-triggered tsunami waves and the death toll is expected to rise in coming days.
Bachelet's words confirmed some local reports saying that the death toll could further go up due to the underestimated deaths in one of the hardest-hit cities of Constitucion. Some earlier local reports put the number of missing as high as 500 in Constitucion alone.
According to the National Office of Emergency, the number of affected still stood at 2 million.
Most of the deaths were registered in the Maule region with at least 554 people died. In the capital city of Santiago, which has a population of 6.2 million, 38 people were known to have died in the earthquake.
The earthquake and subsequent tsunami ravaged towns and cities along a 700-km stretch of Chile's Pacific coast. Downed bridges and damaged or debris-strewn highways made transit difficult if not impossible in many areas.
Quake-caused damage to Chile are so far estimated to be up to US$30 billion, or a fifth of the country's gross domestic product.
(Xinhua News Agency March 4, 2010)