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Massive Earthquake Shakes Chile
News story originally written on February 27, 2010

Early Saturday morning, February 27, 2010, a very strong earthquake shook Chile and western South America. The earthquake, a magnitude 8.8, struck off the coast of Chile (see map at left) about 35 km (22 mi) underground.

This earthquake was strong enough to break buildings and bridges into rubble. About one and a half million people have lost their homes in coastal Chile because of this earthquake.

The earthquake happened as Earth's tectonic plates moved. In this area, two plates are moving towards each other. Each year, they move about 8 cm closer. Where does the extra rock go? One plate is sliding below the other, a process called subduction.

Many earthquakes happen in Chile as the tectonic plates move. Thirteen large earthquakes have shaken the area since 1973. Because it is prone to earthquakes, buildings are built to be very sturdy. So, even though this earthquake was stronger than the one that struck Haiti a month ago, the total destruction is likely to be much less.

The earthquake created tsunami waves in the Pacific Ocean. Along the coast of Chile the wave was over two meters (almost eight feet) high and strong enough to toss boats into houses. The tsunami wave crossed the Pacific Ocean. It was over one meter high (4 feet) when it got to Japan and about two meters (6 and a half feet) high on Tonga and New Zealand.

Last modified March 1, 2010 by Lisa Gardiner.

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