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Santiago - A major earthquake of magnitude 8.0 struck off the coast of Chile on Tuesday, triggering a tsunami that hit the northern part of the country and a tsunami warning for all of South and Central America's Pacific coast.
The US Geological Survey said the quake was very shallow, only 10km below the seabed, and struck at 6.46pm (23h46 GMT) about 100km north-west of the mining port of Iquique, near the Peruvian border.
The Chilean navy said the first tsunami wave had hit the coast within 45 minutes of the quake.
“An earthquake of this size has the potential to generate a destructive tsunami that can strike coastlines near the epicentre within minutes and more distant coastlines within hours,” the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said.
Iquique is a key copper exporting port, close to the country's main copper mines.
Mining companies Codelco and BHP Billiton said that had not yet received reports of damage to mines.
The warning said that aside from Chile, the coasts of Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua were also at risk. A tsunami of up to 1.9m could strike the town of Pisagua, Chile, within 44 minutes of the quake, it said.
In 2010, an 8.8-magnitude quake triggered a tsunami that caused major damage in several coastal towns in central-south Chile and killed hundreds of people. - Reuters