A massive earthquake struck off the coast of Chile late Tuesday near the port city of Iquique, according to the U.S. Geological Survey — killing two, injuring three, and triggering tsunami warnings for a long arm of Latin America's Pacific coast.
The mayor of Tarapaca in northern Chile attributed the deaths to cardiac arrest.
The magnitude 8.2 tremblor struck roughly 62 miles northwest of Iquique and was shallow at 12.5 miles below the seabed, the USGS said.
Officials urged all residents near coastal areas to evacuate inland because of tsunami fears, but warned warned people to exercise caution while doing so.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, part of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, issued an "expanding tsunami warning" along the coasts of Chile and Peru. A tsunami warning for Ecuador was canceled, as were tsunami watches in a much broader area encompassing Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and El Salvador.
The tsunami alert "will keep for six hours," according to a tweet from Chile's Minister of the Interior and Public Security.
Chile's navy said the first tsunami hit the coast within 45 minutes of the quake. A wave measuring almost six feet was generated off the northern coast, the U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.
"It may have been destructive along coasts near the earthquake epicenter and could also be a threat to more distant coasts," said the center. "Authorities should take appropriate action in response to this possibility."
A major earthquake of magnitude 8.0 struck off the coast of Chile on Tuesday, sparking a tsunami warning for all of South and Central America's Pacific coast. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Newslook
Chile's emergency office said it had received initial reports that the huge quake caused landslides, which were partially cutting off some roads and highways.
Chilean television broadcast images of traffic jams as people scrambled to evacuate.
Some houses were destroyed in the nearby city of Arica, according to Mayor Salvador Urrutia. And some older structures were ruined in the village of Huara, according to Mayor Carlos Silva.
The town of Iquique is a key copper exporting port, close to Chile's main copper mines. State-owned miner Codelco reported no harm to its workers or mines, and said its operations in northern Chile were normal.
Tuesday night's earthquake came on the heels of a March 16 quake with a magnitude-6.7, also off of Iquique, which is home to 180,000 people.
A monstrous 9.0-magnitude quake that hit Japan in 2011 triggered a tsunami that reached heights of up to 133 feet, leaving 16,000 dead, 6,000 injured and more than 3,000 missing, according to NOAA.
And the Chile quake comes nearly a decade after a Dec. 26, 2004 quake with a magnitude of 9.0 triggered a horrific tsunami in the Indian Ocean that killed at least 216,000 people in one of the world's worst natural disasters on record.
Chile is vulnerable to quakes: A magnitude-8.8 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in central Chile in 2010 killed more than 500 people, decimated 220,000 homes and washed away docks, riverfronts and seaside resorts.
The strongest earthquake ever recorded on the planet also struck Chile — a magnitude-9.5 quake in 1960 that killed over 5,000 people.