Bridges and elevated stretches of highways collapsed for hundreds of miles away from the epicenter of the 8.8 magnitude temblor.
The capital Santiago, 200 miles from where the offshore quake struck, sustained significant damage, especially to its main outer loop highway network.
But the country’s second city of Concepcion received the brunt of the damage as much of southern South America shook for over a minute well before dawn on Feb. 27.
Frustration over the lack of prompt emergency response to the disaster triggered widespread looting that was eventually brought under control by thousands of government troops.
A series of tsunamis generated by the quake caused even more catastrophic damage to coastal areas minutes after the shaking stopped.
While changes in sea level occurred across the Pacific as the waves sped through at hundreds of miles per hour, no significant damage was reported except on Chile’s Robinson Crusoe Island. The main seaside community there was devastated when large tsunami waves surged ashore.
The 8.8 magnitude seismic thrust occurred in an area under increased geologic stress, caused by a 9.5 magnitude quake in 1960.
NASA scientists calculated that the force of the temblor may have shifted Earth's axis by about 3 inches, and caused other rotational changes that shortened the length of an Earth day by about 1.26 microseconds.