Chile earthquake: Looting reported as Tsunami-hit regions wake up to scenes of devastation

People have been seen stealing in aftermath of quake (see video below)

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Some parts of Chile were waking up to scenes of devastation on Thursday morning after a magnitude 8.3 earthquake shook homes and sent tsunamis crashing against the country’s coastline.

Waves up to 5metres (16 feet) were observed at Conquimbo, closest to where the quake struck, while others of about two metres were reported at Tongoy.

Both areas have been declared catastrophe zones by the Chilean president, Michelle Bachelet, and images and videos showed scenes of devastation where the tsunami hit.

Five people have died and dozens were injured in the quake – though officials hailed city planning measures for keeping the impact well below the large tremor of 2010, which killed more than 500.

But while many residents expressed fear and there was panic in the immediate aftermath of the quake, some have taken to looting damaged shops (see video below).

Troops have been deployed to patrol the streets in the worst-affected areas to deter looting, creating scenes reminiscent of the 2010 disaster.

That army response was the first time armed soldiers had been deployed to the streets in Chile for more than two decades. It took 10,000 armed forces personnel to quell the widespread looting and disorder.

The impact of the quake on Wednesday night was compounded by the fact that thousands of Chileans have been heading to the coast ahead of a week of celebrations for the nation’s independence day.

Maria Angelica Leiva, speaking to Reuters, said it had been an “awful” night. “We ran out of the house with our grandchildren and now we are on a hill hoping it will be over soon.

“It is all very dark, and we just hope the sea hasn't reached our house.”

Tsunami warnings in place across Chile have now been lifted, though the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre has advised that unusually-large waves and irregular sea activity will continue to hit other coastal Pacific nations over the coming 24 hours.