At least six people were reported dead after a massive magnitude 8.2 earthquake rocked the northern part of Chile on late Tuesday. Local officials ordered an evacuation of low-lying coastal areas along the northern port cities of Iquique and Arica while President Bachelet dispatched 100 riot police officers and 300 soldiers to assist Carabineros [Chile's national uniformed police force- NANESB!] and local officers in rounding up an estimated 300 inmates who escaped a damaged prison and prevent looting.
Closed circuit TV cameras in pharmacies and shopping centers showed customers running for the doors as the massive temblor shook merchandise from shelves and knocked over displays. Evacuations were ordered for the coastal cities of Arica, Iquique, Tocopilla, Pisagua and Antofagasta. The earthquake was the most powerful to hit Chile since the February 2010 magnitude 8.8 earthquake off the central coast of Chile killed more than 500 and caused an estimated US $5 billion in damages. Tremors from Tuesday's quake were reportedly felt as far away as La Paz, Bolivia and tsunami warnings were issued in Peru and parts of Ecuador.
Chile is part of the "ring of fire"- an area of considerable seismic and volcanic activity that essentially circles the Pacific Ocean and also includes Colombia, Mexico, the west coast of the USA, Alaska, Russia's Far East, Japan, the Philippines and Indonesia. The relatively low death toll for such a powerful earthquake was attributed in part to the stricter building codes Chile has enacted since a devastating magnitude 9.5 earthquake off the coast of Valdivia in 1960- said to be the most powerful earthquake ever recorded- as well as northern Chile being sparsely populated compared to the central part of the country.