The Great Chilean Earthquake is also known as 1960 Valdivia earthquake. This quake was preceded by 4 foreshocks bigger than magnitude 7.0, including a magnitude 7.9 on May 21 that caused severe damage in the Concepcion area. Many aftershocks occurred, with 5 of magnitude 7.0 or greater through Nov 1. It came after a smaller earthquake in Arauco Province at 06:02 on 21 May 1960. Telecommunications to southern Chile were cut off and President Jorge Alessandri had to cancel the traditional ceremony of the Battle of Iquique memorial holiday to oversee the emergency assistance efforts. The government was just beginning to organize help to the affected region when the second earthquake occurred at 14:55 UTC on 22 May in Valdivia.
The second earthquake affected all of Chile between Talca and Chiloé Island, more than 400,000 square kilometers (154,440.9 sq mi). Coastal villages, such as Toltén, disappeared. Later studies argued that the earthquake actually had 37 epicenters through a 1,350 km (839 mi) north-south line that lasted from 22 May to 6 June. At Corral, the main port of Valdivia, the water level rose 4 m (13 ft) before it began to recede. At 16:20 UTC, an 8 m (26 ft) wave struck the Chilean coast, mainly between Concepción and Chiloe. Ten minutes later, another wave measuring 10 m (33 ft) was reported.
The Great Chilean Earthquake or Valdivian Earthquake is the most powerful earthquake ever recorded. The quake occurred in the early afternoon (19:11 UTC) of May 22, 1960, and had a 9.5 rating on the Moment magnitude scale having the epicenter near Cañete (see map) some 700 km (435 miles) south of Santiago, although Valdivia, Chile was the most affected city. The rupture zone is estimated to be about 1000 km long, from Lebu to Puerto Aisen.
On May 24, Volcan Puyehue erupted, sending ash and steam as high as 6,000 m. The eruption continued for several weeks.
Severe damage from shaking occurred in the Valdivia-Puerto Montt area. Most of the casualties and much of the damage was because of large tsunamis which caused damage along the coast of Chile from Lebu to Puerto Aisen and in many areas of the Pacific Ocean. Puerto Saavedra was completely destroyed by waves which reached heights of 11.5 m (38 ft) and carried remains of houses inland as much as 3 km (2 mi). Wave heights of 8 m (26 ft) caused much damage at Corral.
Its resulting tsunami affected southern Chile, Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines, eastern New Zealand, south east Australia and the Aleutian Islands in Alaska.Tsunamis caused 61 deaths and severe damage in Hawaii, mostly at Hilo, where the runup height reached 10.6 m (35 ft). Waves as high as 5.5 m (18 ft) struck northern Honshu about 1 day after the quake, where it destroyed more than 1600 homes and left 185 people dead or missing. Another 32 people were dead or missing in the Philippines after the tsunami hit those islands. Damage also occurred on Easter Island, in the Samoa Islands and in California. One to 1.5 m (3-5 ft) of subsidence occurred along the Chilean coast from the south end of the Arauco Peninsula to Quellon on Chiloe Island. As much of 3 m (10 ft) of uplift occurred on Isla Guafo. Many landslides occurred in the Chilean Lake District from Lago Villarica to Lago Todos los Santos.