Huge earthquake strikes Chile, 85 dead
* Quake kills at least 78 people * Buildings toppled, bridges and roads damaged * Operations halted at two major copper mines (Updates toll, adds details on damage, tsunami quote) By Alonso Soto SANTIAGO, Feb 27 (Reuters) - A massive magnitude-8.8 earthquake struck south-central Chile early on Saturday, killing at least 85 people, knocking down buildings, homes and hospitals, and triggering a tsunami. Local television TV Chile reported that a 15-storey building collapsed in the hardest-hit city of Concepcion, where cracks opened up in the streets. Buildings caught fire, road bridges collapsed and residents huddled in streets full of rubble of masonry and glass from destroyed homes. Many were terrified by powerful aftershocks and desperately trying to call friends and family. President Michelle Bachelet said there were more than 85 deaths just in the Maule region at the quake's epicenter, and that more were possible. Telephone and power lines were down, making it difficult to assess the full extent of the damage close to the epicenter. Chile is the world's No. 1 copper producer, and the quake halted operations at two major mines. "Never in my life have I experienced a quake like this, it's like the end of the world," one man told local television from the city of Temuco, where the quake damaged homes and forced staff to evacuate the regional hospital. The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake struck 70 miles (115 km) northeast of Concepcion at a depth of 22 miles (35 km) at 3:34 a.m. (0634 GMT). The capital Santiago, about 200 miles (320 km) north of the epicenter, was also badly hit. The international airport was closed for at least 24 hours as the quake destroyed passenger walkways and shook glass out of doors and windows. Chile's main copper producing region and some of the world's largest copper mines are in the far north of the country near its border with Peru, but there are also major copper deposits near Santiago. Production was halted at the Los Bronces and El Soldado copper mines, owned by Anglo American Plc
following the quake, but Chile's biggest copper mine, Escondida, was operating normally. Chile produces about 34 percent of world supply of copper, which is used in electronics, cars and refrigerators. TSUNAMI Bachelet said a huge wave hit the Juan Fernandez islands. Radio stations reported serious damage on the archipelago, where Scottish sailor Alexander Selkirk was marooned in the 18th Century inspiring the novel Robinson Crusoe. Bachelet, who was heading to the worst-affected area, said residents were also being evacuated from coastal areas of Chile's remote Easter Island, a popular tourist destination in the Pacific famous for its towering Moai stone statues. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a Pacific-wide tsunami warning for countries in Latin America, and as far away as the U.S. state of Hawaii as well as Japan, Russia, Philippines, Indonesia and the South Pacific.