Chile suffered a major earthquake on Tuesday evening of about an 8.2 magnitude, which set off a tsunami and forced evacuations all along the coast.
The quake struck 50 miles southwest of Cuya in northern Chile, in an area that is sparsely populated. Major damage was avoided, according to reports, as were casualties, but the event caused landslides and power outages that affected a women’s prison in Iquique, where 300 prisoners escaped. The military is reportedly sending out forces to help keep order and protect against looting and vandalism.
The situation was being watched carefully on Tuesday night due to the possibility of aftershocks; Chilean Interior Minister Rodrigo Penailillo said President Michelle Bachelet was fully informed of everything that was going on with the jailbreak and was on task.
“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 tranquility and security to the residents,” he said.
Many who have already lost their homes are worried that the quake was simply a forerunner to something even bigger, and experts say there is a possibility of aftershocks.
“The big question is – is this magnitude 8.1 earthquake the ‘big one’ that we have been expecting in northern Chile, or is this a foreshock to an even bigger earthquake to come?” said Cornell University structural geologist Rick Allmendinger. “As big as an 8.1 is, it probably has not released all of the stored up energy on the subduction earthquake fault in northern Chile. For the sake of all of our friends in the region, we’re hoping that there isn’t a bigger one still to come.”
Image via Thinkstock