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20:54 AEST Sat Feb 27 2010 NineMSN
Australia's east coast has been put on tsunami watch following a major 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Chile where at least six people have been killed. The Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre (JATWC) issued a tsunami watch at 7:45pm (AEDT) on Saturday declaring a "potential tsunami threat" to New South Wales, Queensland, Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island.

"Tsunami waves have been observed on the coast of Chile that may threaten Australia," the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) said in a statement on Saturday.

The BoM said tsunami waves could start affecting Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands after 8:30am (AEDT) on Sunday.

NSW could be hit after 8:45am (AEDT) on Sunday while Queensland could be hit after 8:15am (AEST)

Duty forecaster Jake Phillips at the BoM says the NSW coast north of Broken Bay and up to Queensland's south coast as far Double Island Pt near Brisbane could experience strong waves.

"But at this stage we want to stress that there is no concern about land inundation," Mr Phillips told AAP.

"But there is a marine threat and that would include anyone out boating or rock fishermen."

The quake struck off Chile's coast at 3:34am local time (1734 AEDT) on Saturday, shaking buildings in the capital, where some have buildings collapsed.

The epicentre of the tremor was 100 kilometres north northwest of the Chilean town of Chillan and 115 kilometres northeast of Concepcion, Chile's second-largest city, where more than 200,000 people live along the Bio Bio river.

It was also 97km from the ski town of Chillan, a gateway to Andean ski resorts that was destroyed in a 1939 earthquake.

Phone lines were down in the country, making confirmation of damage difficult, especially further south toward the epicentre.

The quake was felt in Argentina as well.

The US Pacific Tsunami warning centre has also issued a tsunami warning for Chile and Peru, and a tsunami watch is in place for Ecuador, Colombia, Antarctica, Panama and Costa Rica.

Japan's meteorological agency also warned of a tsunami risk across large areas of the Pacific as US geologists said the risk extended as far as the Antarctic.

"There is a possibility that tsunami will widely occur in the Pacific Ocean," an official for the Japanese agency said.

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