Port closed following massive earthquake in Chile

Container operations in the Coquimbo port have been suspended until further notice, as the country’s government has declared a state of emergency following Wednesday’s earthquake, the biggest to hit the country since 2010 and the most powerful in the world this year.

All terminals remain closed in Chile’s central region as well, GAC informed.

The 8.3-magnitude tremor struck off the coast of Coquimbo, 46km west of Illapel, at 19:54 local time (22:54 GMT) on Wednesday evening.

According to initial reports, the region’s port sustained extensive damage from the tsunami waves of up to 4.5 meters (15 feet) that hit the shore.

“Specialized personnel will evaluate the damage caused to the port terminal to then take action necessary to resume normal operations,” operator of Terminal Puerto Coquimbo told Platts.

As informed on the port’s website, the port remains closed until damage assessment is completed. The port said that all employees were evacuated from the port and that there were no injuries.

The pier of the port is reported to be in good condition, however cruise passenger terminals and administrative offices were badly damaged.

Tsunami waves hit the coast at Coquimbo and further out from the epicentre, with waves half a metre higher than usual as far north as La Punta. Small tsunamis were also reported along the west coast of the USA and Canada, as far away as Alaska, GAC said in an update.

“A powerful aftershock estimated to be close to 8 on the Richter scale shook the central part of Chile yesterday afternoon (17 September). All ships were again ordered to leave port ahead of a possible tsunami,” the update further reads.

GAC said that currently, only pilots’ embarkation and Ship-to-Ship (STS) lightering are permitted at Quintero, 30 kilometers north of Valparaíso.

At least 12 people were killed, with five missing and around 600 staying in shelters, according to AFP. One million people have been evacuated from Pacific coastal areas as a precaution. 

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