Tsunami waves from the natural disaster were possible within the next several hours along coasts of Chile, Peru, French Polynesia, Hawaii, and others in the Pacific, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.
A powerful magnitude 8.3 quake has struck the coast of central Chile, triggering a tsunami alert and shaking buildings.
Fishing boats headed out to sea and cars streamed inland carrying people to higher ground.
“Once again, we have to deal with a tough blow from nature”, Bachelet said in a televised address, adding that people who have been evacuated should not yet return to their homes. Officials issued tsunami warnings for the entire country, the news organization reported.
Strong aftershocks have continued to shake the region – including one with a magnitude of 7.0 – as residents were ordered to evacuate the coastline.
In 2014, an 8.2-magnitude quake struck near the northern city of Iquique, and four years earlier an 8.8-magnitude natural disaster in central-southern Chile caused a massive tsunami, and more than 500 people were killed.
The quake struck as thousands of Chileans were travelling to the coast ahead of a week of celebrations of the national holidays, or Fiestas Patrias. Flooding has been reported in some coastal cities.
The agency revised its estimate of the quake magnitude from 7.9 to 8.3 on the Richter scale after it occurred.
Australian rapper Urthboy is in Chile and tweeted that he felt the quake strike.
Videos posted on social media networks show the quake was felt as far as the Argentinean capital of Buenos Aires, about 1,368 km to the east of Chile. A further 20 were injured, but phone networks remain down in parts of the country so the extent of damage and injury is likely to be under-reported.
A watch was issued for the California coast: “A tsunami capable of producing strong currents or waves risky to persons in or very near the water is expected”.
It runs along the boundary between the Nazca and South American tectonic plates.
The strongest natural disaster recorded on Earth happened in Chile – a magnitude-9.5 tremor in 1960 that killed more than 5,000 people.