Reporting from Bogota, Colombia – One of the biggest earthquakes in recorded history rocked Chile on Saturday, killing at least 300 people, toppling buildings and freeways, and sending sirens wailing thousands of miles away as governments scrambled to protect coastal residents from the ensuing tsunami.
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet declared parts of the country “catastrophe zones” in the wake of the 8.8 magnitude quake, which was centered about 70 miles offshore from the port city of Concepcion.
With images still fresh of Haiti’s devastation from an earthquake last month, the world woke up to new disaster — and fears of another catastrophic toll. But the Chile quake struck at a relatively deep 21.7 miles, and building codes are strict in a country that 50 years ago was struck by the biggest earthquake ever recorded: a magnitude 9.5.
Nonetheless, Bachelet said in an address to the nation Saturday night that a million buildings had been damaged. And with television footage showing topsy-turvy structures, severed bridges and highways whose pavement looked as if it had been tilled by some giant farm machine, the death toll was expected to rise.