Armed forces have been dispatched to Iquique, Chile after 300 inmates reportedly escaped from a women’s prison in the wake of an 8.2 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami wave along the country’s northern coast.
PDI, one of Chile’s two police branches, said at least 16 prisoners attempting to escape have been recaptured.
“We have taken various public safety measures due to the mass escape of over 300 female inmates at their prison in Iquique. Personnel from the armed forces are working in collaboration with police under the leadership of the government to offer security and peace of mind to the residents of Iquique,” said Chile’s minister of interior, Rodrigo Peñailillo.
Local authorities said that the prison is located in an area which is prone to flooding and for this reason the situation got out of control. The majority of the inmates held in prisons in the Iquique area are guilty of drug trafficking, according to Chilean press.
The quake occurred Tuesday, 95 km (59 miles) northwest of the mining area of Iquique, Chile near the Peruvian border. The epicenter was located at a shallow depth of about 20 km (12 miles) below the seabed.
Several aftershocks - ranging from magnitude 5 to 6.2 - were detected in the area following the earthquake.
The Chilean navy said the first sign of the tsunami hitting the coast was within 45 minutes of the quake. The US Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) said a tsunami measuring almost two meters had been generated.
At least two people have died and three were seriously injured, officials said.
Chile and Peru remain under tsunami warning. Tsunami watches have been cancelled for Colombia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama.
Two major fires have been reported in Iquique following the quake, according to Publimetro. There have also been reports of looting in the city.