Several coastal towns were flooded from small tsunami waves set off by late Wednesday's quake, which shook the Earth so strongly that rumbles were felt across South America.
The magnitude-8.3 quake lasted for three minutes, causing buildings to sway in the capital, Santiago, and prompting authorities to issue a tsunami warning for the Andean nation's entire Pacific coast. People sought safety in the streets of inland cities, while others along the shore took to their cars to race to higher ground.
8.3 magnitude quake shakes Chile capital, causes buildings to sway
"I thought it was the end of the world and we were going to die," said teary-eyed Manuel Moya, 38, sleeping with his wife on the ground outside their destroyed home in Illapel, 175 miles north of Santiago and 34 miles east of the quake's epicenter. The town and surrounding areas have about 35,000 residents.
Moya said he and his wife were in bed and watching television when the quake hit. Fearing they would be killed if they remained inside, they ran outside in their underwear. By the end of the shaking, their home, made of concrete, had been reduced to rubble.
"They said it was a magnitude 8 but it felt like a 10," said Moya, adding that neighbors had brought them clothes.
Speaking to the nation late Wednesday, President Michelle Bachelet urged people who had been evacuated to stay on high ground until authorities could evaluate the situation. Officials said schools would be closed in most of the country Thursday.
Authorities said 10 people had been killed, mostly in the areas closest to the epicenter, from causes ranging from a collapsed adobe house to heart attacks. That number could climb as emergency crews reach hard-hit areas.
Mahmud Aleuy, the Interior Ministry's deputy secretary, said 1 million people were forced out of their homes and electrical power was cut off to 240,000 households. Many returned home by midday Thursday.
Dozens of aftershocks, including one at magnitude-7 and seven at magnitude-6 or above, shook the region after the initial earthquake - the strongest tremor since a magnitude-8.8 quake and tsunami killed hundreds in 2010 and leveled part of the city of Concepcion in south-central Chile.
Tsunami advisories were in effect for Hawaii and parts of California. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center originally issued a tsunami watch for Hawaii but downgraded the alert to an advisory. Tsunami warnings in Chile were lifted early Thursday.
Tsunami Advisory issued for SOCAL coast Move off the beach, out of harbors/marinas. Dangerous waves/currents possible pic.twitter.com/3vm8lf1vei— Drew Tuma (@DrewTumaABC7) September 17, 2015
Tsunami Threat message to Chile, Ecuador, Peru and Watch to Hawaii for mag 8.3 (revised) earthquake in central Chile. http://t.co/oPX1oTTbcu— NWS PTWC (@NWS_PTWC) September 16, 2015
Tsunami Info Stmt: M7.9 near the coast of central Chile 1554PDT Sep 16: Event is being reviewed to determine threat to CA,OR,WA,BC,and AK— NWS Tsunami Alerts (@NWS_NTWC) September 16, 2015
Tsunami Info Stmt 2: M8.3 near the coast of central Chile 1555PDT Sep 16: Event is being reviewed to determine threat to CA,OR,WA,BC,and AK— NWS Tsunami Alerts (@NWS_NTWC) September 16, 2015
The Associated Press contributed to the story.