Major Earthquake Off Shore Of Chile Kills 5; Prompts Coastal Evacuations

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Authorities kept hundreds of thousands of people out of their beds early Wednesday after a magnitude-8.2 earthquake struck off Chile's northern coast. Five people were crushed to death or suffered fatal heart attacks, a remarkably low toll for such a powerful shift in the Earth's crust.

The extent of damage from Tuesday night's quake couldn't be fully assessed before daybreak, President Michelle Bachelet said, but she wasn't taking any chances. She declared a state of emergency in the region and sent a military plane with 100 anti-riot police to join 300 soldiers deployed to prevent looting and round up escaped prisoners.

The shaking loosed landslides that blocked roads, knocked out power for thousands, damaged an airport and provoked fires that destroyed several businesses. About 300 inmates escaped from a women's prison in the city of Iquique. In Arica, another city close to the quake's offshore epicenter, hospitals treated minor injuries, and some homes made of adobe were destroyed, authorities said. Chilean Interior Minister Rodrigo Penailillo announced the five deaths.

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