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Chile earthquake strikes in wine region

An 8.3 magnitude earthquake that has struck Chile, killing at least eight people and forcing 1m from homes, had its epicentre near to the Coquimbo wine region.

The Chilean earthquake struck 29 miles off the Coquimbo coast, west of the city of Illapel and was so strong it could be felt as far away as Buenos Aires on the Atlantic coast of Argentina. There was also an aftershock in the Philippines, as well as 14 other aftershocks off the coast of Chile.

The Coquimbo region has been declared a catastrophe zone by the Chilean president, Michelle Bachelet, as well as the town of Tongoy, which was hit with a tsunami shortly after the initial quake. Both areas have been extensively flooded and Bachelet has called in the military to help in the aftermath.

There has since been waves up to 4.5m high recorded along the coastline, threatening coastal vineyards.

The extent of damage to vineyards was not clear by Thursday local time. See the latest update here.

Coquimbo has three sub areas: Elqui Valley, Limarí Valley and Choapa Valley. The majority of the grapes in this region are Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. The area also grows fruit for the distilling of Pisco, the national brandy.

This area, known as the waist, is the narrowest in Chile meaning that the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean and the snowcapped Andes are very close together. It has also been in a constant state of drought since 2009, with just 100mm of rain every year, so farmers rely heavily on irrigation.

Updated October 2015 – Spelling of  Elqui Valley, Limarí Valley

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