The city of Talca was badly hit, being close to the quake epicentre
A massive earthquake with a magnitude of 8.8 has hit central Chile, affecting about two million people, officials say.
Although many phone lines to Chile are down, survivors have been contacting the BBC News website via email. Below are some of their experiences of the quake and its aftermath.
We were sleeping, and suddenly a strong noise woke us up, like cars being crushed and bombs. It was like a nightmare. I thought it was the end for us. I got dressed and took my son's hand as we tried to get to the door and go downstairs, but it was impossible. Everything was like in a horror movie.
And the sound! Oh... I thought the earth was mad with us. Nature showed us her fury. We are ok, thank God for that, but our brothers and sisters... they are suffering. People are sleeping on the street with no water, no electricity, no food, children crying and mothers who have lost their babies. Oh dear God the earth has been moving all day long. I am scared.
Paulina Fernandez, Santiago, Chile
If you've never witnessed an earthquake, as we hadn't, they are terrifying. Negotiating a staircase like a gangplank on a lurching ship, to a cacophony of falling objects and shattering glass. Going out into a garden is like walking on a waterbed. Rumbling, cracking, everything swaying. Petrified neighbours; after all, they've been through it in 1985. Then silence. Nothing moving. Yet nothing really brings it home like seeing the pictures on television. Then there's the clearing up; picking over debris, trying not to be upset over smashed treasures. After all, they are only things. The house is in one piece and one is alive and unharmed.
David Bamford, Valparaiso, Chile
I had come back from a party with my friends and I was in the shower at 3:30am and then it started shaking. I heard my friends and sister screaming and I looked out the bathroom window and saw the chimney fall a metre away from me. We stayed under the door frame and saw the light bulbs explode and the TV fall over. When it finished we ran out on the street and my dad and brother with his friends went in to get out blankets and mattresses. We slept that night on the street.
Maria Ojeda, Santiago, Chile
The earthquake was the strongest in Chile for 50 years
I'm in Talca. We got hit pretty bad last night. Local news said we had an 8.5 Richter earthquake which lasted about two minutes, but buildings and new houses resisted quite well. It was just old ones which didn't resist and most of them in downtown collapsed. It was horrible to see the city like this because it is based mostly on old buildings.
Authorities have already started working on aiding people, but a lot of small towns won't get help till next week because of road problems. Right now in Talca we don't have electricity or fresh water, I hope we can get it soon, because we are in summer and the heat is starting to be a serious problem both for food and personal needs.
O'car Campos, Talca, Chile
My experience was in a bus travelling from near Concepcion. The earthquake struck me on a highway to Talca. It was late and many of us were sleeping up until the earthquake. The feeling is horrible. The shake is the most strong shake I ever felt - so scary and far too long. In my mind I was thinking - this is the end. A little bit corny, but real in that moment. I don't have photos but if you can see into my mind, you will note that a cataclysm is a horrible experience.
Carol Pastenes, Santiago, Chile
I was about to fall asleep, but the TV was still on. Suddenly, the electricity went out and the building started to slowly swing, like many other times. I stood up and started to walk out of my room. I opened the door of my 5th floor apartment and the building started to shake more and more violently as the noise got louder and louder.
I realised something big was happening, with the images of Haiti's quake still fresh in my memory, I ran like crazy down the stairs half naked and bare footed. On the third floor a young girl in her pyjamas ran in front of me. We both got out of the building, the ground was moving as if we were floating on a boat. Several young kids that were scrambled together on a column of the building yelled at me to warn me about the window glass that might be coming down. A few minutes passed and the shaking halted, however I still felt dizzy for a while after the noise stopped. People were coming down crying and yelling. I had to run upstairs to get some clothing. Those few minutes back inside were the longest minutes of my life while I scrambled for my pants, keys and cell phone in my pitch-dark apartment. I ran downstairs again only to see my neighbours piled outside in front of the building, young and old nervously chatting. It was only then that I came to realise I had injured my left ankle while storming down the stairs.
Andres Hidalgo, Las Condes, Santiago, Chile
Much of Talca is without electricity and fresh water
I was at home, sleeping, when at 0334 local time the earth starts to roar, in a horrible way. Then begins the quake and it was horrible, just like a movie. The light went off, the lamp post shakes like a stick, the trees move left to right like a duster.
I was scared stiff. My book-shelf in my room went down, my CD collection too and my figures of Jesus and Mary went down. If you have never felt an earthquake, consider yourself lucky. This is the worst thing that nature can hit you with.
Juan Francisco Barboza, Maipu, Chile
I live in Valdivia, in the south of Chile and we felt the earthquake too. At around 0335 local time it started shaking violently. 50 years ago this city endured the strongest earthquake ever and it is all people were thinking of. In 1960, the earthquake started first in Concepcion and then the next day it occured in Valdivia, with a tsunami... so people just believe it will be the case now too. We are just trying to remain calm, and ready in case anything occurs.
Katherina, Valdivia, Chile
In all my time here, I have never experienced something as dreadful as last night. I woke up panic stricken and will go to bed tonight uneasy. The earthquake hit very hard. My husband and I were sleeping when the whole apartment shook. Next we could hear things coming off the shelves and smashing. We quickly followed the lead of others and got out and onto the street to wait for the fire department. When we came back in, we found that pipes had broken to let out floods of water in the building. There had been a gas leak and our apartment now has cracks in the plasterwork. The quake happened at 0330 local time and we stayed in my husband Giorgio's car until 0715 local time before we returned to our apartment. However the most important thing is that we're all OK. We're all trying to keep calm now. A little shaken as the "mini, after quakes" are still happening. The aftershocks are like suffering from sea sickness, where you feel queasy from all the movement.
Saira Mohamedali, Santiago, Chile
We were with some friends in an apartment when the quake hit. I'm 25 years old and I've never felt something like that. You couldn't stand still. Cars were moving, windows were smashing. We jumped from the balcony on the first floor to the parking lot. The lights were out, and there were screams everywhere. But, in all the middle of all this, people knew exactly what to do, and controlled themselves pretty well. Pray for all the people in the south of Chile.
Pia, Santiago, Chile
I just can't believe all this things are happening around me. I remember sitting at home and watching news about Haiti, and thinking: "How could this happen, how terrible". And now, I'm living it. I'm fine, my family too, and my house has no damage. But I have more than two million Chilean brothers homeless, lots of dead people, because the official numbers are not even close to the real ones. There are so many buildings on the ground. I just can't imagine how many people are inside. Chile has become a hell in only 3 minutes.
Juan Manuel Casals, Santiago, Chile
My husband and I are on holidays from Australia and are staying with his family in Valparaiso. We woke at about 0400 local time to the whole apartment block shaking. It was the scariest time in my life, it just didn't stop. We left the building once it had finished and waited outside for about two hours with all the residents, mostly older residents who told us this was much worse than the quake in 1985. People were so frightened and lots of people ran to their cars and drove up to higher ground. We stayed and waited to see what would come.
The aftershocks started, which scared me so much as I have never been through an earthquake and thought it was going to start again. My fears where put to rest by the more experienced. Today, all the family from Santiago and other parts of Valpa came to where we are staying, saying it was important we are all together, no matter if they had to drive two hours through aftershocks, they came... What I take away from this, having only married into this family, is, no matter what, South Americans do two things. Firstly they come together and secondly they make coffee, break bread and laugh through their experiences.
Mary, Valparaiso, Chile