Three-hundred inmates at a women’s prison in Chile took advantage of a blackout caused by a deadly 8.2 magnitude earthquake to escape last night, prompting a national emergency.
The women, detained in a facility in the city of Iquique, fled the prison after the earthquake caused electrical failures. According to CBS, officials immediately shut down the border between Chile and Peru, which is near the facility, and sent out law enforcement officials to round up the fugitives. As of press time for CBS, two-dozen inmates had been returned to the jail.
In a press conference shortly after the earthquake, Chilean minister of the interior Rodrigo Peñalillo announced that armed forces were also participating in the search for the inmates. “We have taken all measures to maintain public order in the Iquique case,” he told the press, “where we had a massive inmate escape, of which the Armed Forces, in concert with the Carabineros and under the supervision of the administration, can coordinate in such a way to give Iquique residents the greatest assurances of security.”
He added that the nation would remain on high alert for further damage from the earthquake. Authorities later noted that 100 anti-riot police and 300 soldiers have been deployed to the area to capture the hundreds of escaped inmates. No reports of inmates committing acts of violence in the region have yet to be reported.
The death toll after the massive earthquake struck off the coast of Chile remains at six, two of which died due to heart attacks prompted by the earthquake itself. The government immediately issued a tsunami warning in the aftermath, and the earthquake was significant enough to prompt similar precautions as far away as Indonesia.
Given its status as one of the most active earthquake regions in the world and home to the biggest earthquake on record, Chile maintains extremely rigorous building codes that prevent contractors from building structures that are not considered earthquake-proof. The United Nations has commended the country for its rigor in maintaining sound infrastructure, and many credit this for the low death toll last night.
Argentine news outlet Infobae reports that experts expect not only aftershocks, but have noted that the 8.2 magnitude quake may not be the strongest in its set of tremors. “This is not the great earthquake we are waiting for in that area,” the outlet quotes Caltech geophysicist Mark Simons as telling CNN.