Vehicles and boats lie on the shore after a tsunami and magnitude 8.2 earthquake hit the northern port of Iquique, Chile on April 2, 2014. Credit: Reuters
A major earthquake of magnitude 8.2 struck off the coast of northern Chile on Tuesday, causing five deaths and triggering a tsunami that pounded the shore with more than six foot tall waves. Officials said the dead included people who were crushed by collapsing walls or were killed by heart attacks. The government evacuated Chile's northern coast and President Michelle Bachelet declared the area a disaster zone, promising troops and police reinforcements to maintain public order while damage was repaired after landslides blocked roads. Still, the massive Collahuasi mine evacuated workers so they could be with their families. A tsunami warning was issued for the Pacific coast of Mexico through Central and South America. "An earthquake of this size has the potential to generate a destructive tsunami that can strike coastlines near the epicenter within minutes and more distant coastlines within hours," the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said. A tsunami advisory was issued for Hawaii, although no disaster was expected to hit the island state. "Sea level changes and strong currents may occur along all coasts that could be a hazard to swimmers and boaters as well as to persons near the shore at beaches and in harbors and marinas," the warning center said. Authorities in Peru started evacuating communities in the southern coastal region of Ica. Electricity was partially lost in the Peruvian cities of Tacna, Moquegua and Arequipa but there were no reports of deaths or serious damage there. Nearly 11,000 miles northwest of Chile across the ocean, Japan's Meteorological Agency said a tsunami of up to one meter high might hit Japan's Pacific coast about 5am on Thursday, local time. After collecting more data, it said it may issue a tsunami advisory.