Canada's Liberal Party has decisively won a general election, ending nearly a decade of Conservative rule.

The centrist Liberals, led by Justin Trudeau, started the campaign in third place but in a stunning turnaround now command a majority.

Mr Trudeau, the 43-year-old son of late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, said Canadians had voted for real change.

Incumbent Conservative PM Stephen Harper accepted defeat and his party said he will step down as leader.

It was the longest campaign in Canada's history, and had been thought to be much closer.

Speaking after the polls closed, Mr Harper said he had already congratulated Mr Trudeau, saying the Conservatives would accept the results "without hesitation".

Addressing his jubilant supporters shortly afterwards, Mr Trudeau said that Canadians "sent a clear message tonight - it's time for a change".

 

"We beat fear with hope, we beat cynicism with hard work. Most of all we defeated the idea that Canadians should be satisfied with less.

"This is what positive politics can do," he said, also praising Mr Harper for his service to the country.

Few had predicted a Liberal victory on this scale. They look set to win 184 seats, a huge increase from only 36 that they held after suffering their worst-ever election result in 2011.

They become the first party ever to move from third place in parliament to a majority in one election.

Meanwhile, the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP) is on course to win 44 seats, less than half the number they held in the outgoing parliament.

"I congratulated Mr Trudeau on his exceptional achievement," said NDP leader Tom Mulcair.

 
Media captionJustin Trudeau: 'It's time for a change'
Conservative Party supporters watch election results in Calgary
Image captionIn contrast to the Liberals, there was not much to celebrate for Conservative Party supporters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Democratic Party supporters react to election results in Montreal
Image captionThe New Democratic Party - which finished second in the 2011 elections - is now a distant third

Early counts in the eastern provinces gave the Liberals their first taste of victory, as they led in all 32 races there.

As the results began pouring in, former Conservative Justice Minister Peter MacKay said: "A sea of change here. We are used to high tides in Atlantic Canada. This is not what we hoped for."

The Conservatives are now in danger of losing all 13 seats they held in Atlantic Canada in 2011.


Analysis: Anthony Zurcher, BBC News, Montreal

It was a night of superlatives for the Liberals in Canada. For only the second time in history, a party has gone from third place in parliament to first.

At Liberal Party headquarters in Montreal, the mood has gone from excitement to pure jubilation, as the crowd cheers win after improbable win.

"I'm so excited," said Karyn Decore, who flew in from Edmonton - another conservative Alberta city that could send a Liberal to parliament - for Monday night's party.

"I could feel in my heart that change was coming. This is history in the making."

The Liberals control more seats in Quebec than they've had in a generation, dealing a crushing blow to the formerly ascendant left-leaning New Democratic Party.

They won at least one race in the Conservative fortress of Calgary, hometown of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, for the first time since 1968.

Justin Trudeau campaigned as a candidate of change, and his party is poised to hand the incumbent Conservatives one of the worst defeats in their history.


Mr Trudeau campaigned on a promise of change, urging voters ahead of the polling day to "come together as a country".

Mr Trudeau's charismatic father, Pierre, is considered the father of modern Canada.

Mr Harper, 56, portrayed himself as the steady hand who could steer Canada's troubled economy back on track.

His campaign ran TV advertisements saying that Mr Trudeau was "just not ready" to take office.

A powerful earthquake has hit central Chile, causing buildings to sway in the capital Santiago, officials say.

The 8.3-magnitude tremor was centred off the coast, about 144 miles (232km) north-west of the capital.

Five people are now known to have died, and one million residents have been evacuated from coastal areas. There were reports of panic in some cities.

The earthquake produced waves of up to 4.5m (15ft) along the coast in the region of Coquimbo.

The tremor struck at 19:54 local time (22:54 GMT), about 55km west of the city of Illapel, the US Geological Survey said.

Officials said it was at the depth of about 10km (six miles).

Women stand on a street in Santiago after the earthquake. Photo: 16 September 2015Image copyrightAFP
Image captionSome Santiago residents ran out of their buildings fearing new tremors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

People stand and watch the ocean on Cerro Baron hill in Valparaiso. Photo: 16 September 2015
Image captionIn Valparaiso, crowds gathered on high ground amid fears a tsunami may hit the port city

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Debris strewn on a street in Valparaiso. Photo: 16 September 2015
Image captionSome buildings were reportedly damaged, and debris was seen strewn on the streets

Several strong aftershocks were reported just minutes later.

Addressing the nation live on TV, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet confirmed that two women were killed after rubble fell down on them and a man died of a heart attack.

Ms Bachelet said she would travel to the affected areas later on Thursday.

The authorities later raised the confirmed death toll to five, saying that one person was missing.

Some homes were reportedly damaged in the city of Illapel.

The earthquake struck as thousands of Chileans were travelling to the coast ahead of a week of celebrations of the national holidays, or Fiestas Patrias.

Tsunami alerts were also issued for Peru, Hawaii, parts of California and as far away as New Zealand.

New Zealand authorities warned of unusually strong currents and unpredictable water flows, reported local media. At least one school has evacuated.

 

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The quake was also strongly felt in some Argentine provinces like Mendoza and in the capital Buenos Aires several buildings were evacuated, the BBC's Ignacio de los Reyes reports.

Chile is one of the most seismically active locations on the globe.

It runs along the boundary between the Nazca and South American tectonic plates. These are vast slabs of the Earth's surface that grind past each other at a rate of up to 80mm per year.

In February 2010, a 8.8-magnitude struck off central Chile, killing more than 500 people.

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro has published an open letter to the nation in which he makes no mention of the historic reopening of the US embassy.

Mr Castro instead criticises American foreign and economic policies since World War Two and accuses the US of owing Cuba millions of dollars.

The letter was published to mark Mr Castro's 89th birthday.

The US embassy will be reopened in Havana on Friday, with US Secretary of State John Kerry attending.

Mr Castro said the US owed Cuba money because of the trade embargo the US imposed on the communist-run island in 1960.

Cuba says the embargo - which it calls a blockade - is hugely damaging to its economy.

Preparations for the US embassy reopening ceremony in Havana
Last-minute preparations are under way for the opening ceremony of the new US embassy in Havana
Flag
The Cuban embassy in Washington was reopened on 20 July after 54 years

It says relations will only be fully restored once it is lifted.

Three marines who lowered the American flag for the last time on 4 January 1961 will raise it again during Friday's ceremony in Havana.

They are now retired and in their late 70s.

"I'm gonna love seeing that flag go back up," said former marine Jim Tracy, 78, on a US State Department video.

Cuba reopened its embassy in Washington last month.

'Never stop fighting'

In his birthday letter published in state newspaper Granma, Mr Castro says Cuba is committed to "good will and peace in our hemisphere" but adds: "We will never stop fighting for the peace and welfare of all human beings, regardless of the colour of their skin and which country they come from".

Fidel Castro led his country from the Cuban Revolution, in 1959, until 2006, when he stood down because of undisclosed health problems.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez (left) and John Kerry
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez (left) and John Kerry have vowed to continue working to improve relations

He passed on power to his younger brother, Raul, who embarked on a number of economic reforms.

After Raul Castro and US President Barack Obama announced in December that their two countries had agreed to restore diplomatic relations, it took Fidel Castro more than a month to express lukewarm approval for the historic reconciliation.

"I don't trust the policy of the US, nor have I exchanged a word with them, but this does not mean I reject a peaceful solution to conflicts," he wrote in a letter in January.