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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 January, 2005, 01:22 GMT
Tsunami rumour sparks Chile panic
Chileans leaving the area around Concepcion
Thousands of panicking people in southern Chile have fled their homes after a false tsunami alarm.

One woman died of a heart attack and others were wounded as they tried to flee coastal areas near the cities of Concepcion and Talcahuano.

The exodus began as reports that fishermen had spotted apparent signs of an impending tsunami spread through the densely populated area.

Several hours after the alert, some people still stayed in the hills.

The rumours came in the wake of December's tsunami, which killed more than 160,000 in southern and south-east Asia.

'Bad joke'

Some 12,000 people reportedly fled the area, about 500km (350 miles) south of the capital, Santiago.

The panic began after local fisherman said the sea had retreated in just a few minutes - a phenomenon that could herald a tsunami.

Local television later aired images of people running to higher ground, while some others tried to make an escape by vehicle.

A 68-year-old woman died in a car, and several other people suffered bruising during the rush to safety.

Local authorities tried in vain to reassure the population, describing the alarm as "a bad joke".

One emergency worker said media coverage of the tsunami disaster in the Indian Ocean had created psychosis in Chile, which is one of the most seismically active countries in the world.

The tsunami disaster explained
30 Dec 04 |  In Depth

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