Close call in Chile for Ballarat journalist

A BALLARAT journalist travelling in South America was shocked to learn of a massive earthquake off the coast of Chile that left at least five people dead yesterday.

The Courier reporter David Jeans left the west coast of South America where the earthquake struck just a few days ago.

“This is bloody shocking,” he said last night from Buenos Aires in Argentina, on the east coast.

The 8.2-magnitude earthquake hit off the coast near Iquique in northern Chile about 10.45am AEDT, sparking tsunami warnings for Chile and its northern neighbour Peru. There were reports of mass evacuations, fires, hospital closures, landslides and flooding in coastal areas.

Last week, Mr Jeans was in Lima, Peru, about 1000 kilometres north of the Chilean border, where he holidayed by Miraflores beach.

“It’s scary to think I could have been affected,” he said.

“I hope the friends I made travelling through Lima are not affected by the tsunami.” 

The Santiago Times in Chile reported yesterday that armed forces were maintaining order in Iquique after 300 inmates escaped from a prison and there had been at least 20 aftershocks from the quake.

“The real fear is because of the tsunami,” one local resident told the Times.

“I have a relative who was sailing, who works as a fisherman, and he says he has been told to go farther out to sea, until later notice.” 

The US Pacific Tsunami Warning Center withdrew its warning for Peru and Chile several hours after the quake yesterday afternoon, but a warning for Hawaii remained in place.

andrew.ramadge@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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