One of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded struck Chile early today, 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. At least 214 people were killed, and toll was rising rapidly. President Michele Bachelet declared a "state of catastrophe" in central Chile.
"We have had a huge earthquake, with some aftershocks," Bachelet said, appealing from an emergency response center for Chileans to remain calm. "Despite this, the system is functioning. People should remain calm. We're doing everything we can with all the forces we have." Collapsed roads and bridges complicated travel. Electricity, water and phone lines were cut to many areas—meaning there was no word of death or damage from many outlying areas. (Read more earthquake stories.)