Chile ordered to pay $2.7 million to 2010 tsunami victims

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Santiago (AFP)

A Chilean court ordered the government Thursday to pay $2.7 million to the families of 20 people killed by a devastating tsunami in 2010.

The court ruled the government was at fault in the victims' deaths because it canceled a tsunami alert initially issued after an 8.8-magnitude earthquake rocked central and southern Chile on February 27, 2010.

The Interior Ministry's National Emergency Office canceled the alert even though the navy had warned a massive wave was making its way toward the coast, the court found.

The emergency office "should have given a red alert to avoid the loss of human lives and property, which it definitely did not do, a very serious infraction of its legal duties," said the decision.

It also criticized the navy for not telling the police to evacuate the coast.

The government can still appeal the ruling, which granted awards ranging from $11,200 to $45,000 to 74 family members.

The government is facing several separate lawsuits filed by tsunami victims' families in different cities. This is the first ruling in the cases.

The tsunami killed 156 of the more than 500 people who died in the dual tragedy.