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At least five dead as magnitude 8.2-earthquake hits Chilean coast, tsunami warning issued for Central, South America

At least five people are dead after an 8.2-magnitude offshore earthquake struck near Chile. A tsunami warning has been issued for the region extending to Central America.

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Major Earthquake hits Chile

At least five deaths were reported by Interior Minister Rodrigo Penalillo following the 8.2 magnitude earthquake. The victims were four men and a woman who died in the cities of Iquaigue and Alto Hospicio either of a heart attack or being crushed by debris, he said.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet has declared areas of northern Chile hit by the quake a disaster zone. Bachelet announced she would make her way to the regions of Arica and Tarapaca on Wednesday to survey the damage. Military officials, she said, would be sent to the area to prevent looting and disorder.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has issued a tsunami warning for South America and part of Central America's Pacific coast line late on Tuesday. Residents in Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica were on high alert after a massive earthquake struck off of Chile's northern coast.

Meanwhile, Chile's ONEMI emergency office urged its coastal residents to evacuate as a "preventative" measure.

"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 Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.

Waves as high as two meters (6.5 feet) were reportedly already striking along Chile's northern coast.

A magnitude 8.2-earthquake was recorded 83 kilometers (51 miles) off the coast of Iquique, a port city which lies roughly 300 kilometers south of the country's border with Peru. The US Geological Survey said it had occurred at a depth of roughly 20 kilometers at 8:46 p.m. (2346 UTC).

jlw,kms/lw (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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