NBC, msnbc.com and news services
SANTIAGO, Chile - A devastating earthquake struck Chile early Saturday, toppling homes, collapsing bridges and plunging trucks into the fractured earth. A tsunami set off by the magnitude-8.8 quake threatened every nation around the Pacific Ocean — roughly a quarter of the globe.
Interior Minister Edmundo Perez Yoma said the most powerful quake to hit the country in a half-century killed at least 82 people, but the death toll was rising quickly.
President Michelle Bachelet declared a "state of catastrophe". Buildings were damaged in the capital Santiago, more than 200 miles away from its epicenter.
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At least 23 aftershocks were reported, including one registering at 6.9 on the Richter scale.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake struck 56 miles northeast of the city of Concepcion at a depth of 22 miles at 3:34 a.m. (1:34 a.m. ET).
Jessica Sigala, a geophysicist with the USGS told NBC News that the quake released 500 times more energy than the than the one that hit Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on January 12. The quake was felt in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which is located more than 800 miles away.
Jen Ross, a journalist based in Santiago, told NBC's TODAY that she felt "three minutes of shaking".
Tsunami warnings were issued over a wide area, including Hawaii, South America, Australia and New Zealand, Japan, the Philippines, Russia and many Pacific islands.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said a tsunami was generated that could cause damage along the coasts of all the Hawaiian islands.
NBC station KNHL reported that the first tsunami wave was expected to reach Hawaii's coastline at 11:19 a.m. local time (4:19 p.m. ET).
"Urgent action should be taken to protect lives and property," the Warning Center said in a bulletin. "All shores are at risk no matter which direction they face."
California also warned its coastal cities to prepare for possible tsunami waves. A tsunami advisory was issued for the coast of California and an Alaskan coastal area from Kodiak to Attu islands. An advisory means there may be strong currents, but that widespread inundation is not expected to occur.
Reuters reported that a tsunami caused by the quake caused "serious damage" to Chile's sparsely populated Juan Fernández Islands, where Scottish sailor Alexander Selkirk was marooned in the 18th Century inspiring the novel Robinson Crusoe.
An Associated Press Television News cameraman said some buildings collapsed in the capital Santiago, which lies about 200 miles north of the epicenter.
In the moments after the quake, people streamed onto the streets of the capital, hugging each other and crying.
Broadcaster TVN reported that several hospitals had suffered structural damage and had been evacuated.
'It's like the end of the world'
"Never in my life have I experienced a quake like this, it's like the end of the world," one man told local television from the city of Temuco, where the quake damaged buildings.
Simon Shalders, who lives in Santiago, told Sky News: "There was a lot of movement. The houses were really shaking, walls were moving backwards and forwards, and doors were swinging open.
"Santiago has got a history of earthquakes and basically there's not a lot of old construction in Santiago because of these earthquakes.
"The new buildings in Santiago are designed to withstand fairly strong quakes and they probably held up pretty well."
There were blackouts in parts of Santiago and communications were still down in the area closest to the epicenter.
Santiago resident Leo Perioto told CNN that "windows were wobbling a lot" in his six-story building.
Click to view image: 'Santiago Police Officer'
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