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Massive earthquake hits Chile

A magnitude 8.8 earthquake hit Chile early this morning (3:34 local time). The quake has killed at least 78 people. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said she expected the death toll to rise. 25 aftershocks were recorded after the earthquake. One with a magnitude of 6.9.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami warning, the highest level of a tsunami alert, for the entire Pacific region, including Hawaii and places as far away as Russia and Japan. 

California and Alaska are under a tsunami advisory.

"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 National Weather Service said in a statement.

Chilean television and radio stations said several buildings collapsed in the city of Curico and that there was damage to buildings in the historic center of the capital Santiago, about 200 miles north of the epicenter.

The capital's international airport was forced to close, a highway bridge collapsed and chunks of buildings fell into the street. Television pictures showed cars crushed when part of a multi-storey parking garage collapsed.

(Courtesy of CNN and Reuters)