Thousands of residents of this small city in northern Chile were sleeping outside Thursday after a powerful earthquake destroyed their homes, a tremor that also forced more than 1 million to evacuate and killed eight people in the quake-prone South American nation.

Several coastal towns were flooded from small tsunami waves set off by the late Wednesday quake, which shook the Earth so strongly that rumbles were felt across South America.

The magnitude-8.3 quake that hit off northern Chile on Wednesday night lasted for three minutes, causing buildings to sway in the capital, Santiago, and prompting authorities to issue a tsunami warning for the Andean nation’s entire Pacific coast. People sought safety in the streets of inland cities, while others along the shore took to their cars to race to higher ground.

“I thought it was the end of the world and we were going to die,” said teary-eyed Manuel Moya, 38, sleeping with his wife on the ground outside their destroyed home in Illapel, 175 miles north of Santiago and 34 miles east of the quake’s epicenter. The town and surrounding areas have about 35,000 residents.

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