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Powerful Quake Hits Chile

Aired February 27, 2010 - 07:00   ET



BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good morning. We are just getting some new sounds from Chile. I want to take a listen to CNN Chile as they're reporting on the situation there in light of this 8.8 magnitude earthquake.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At least 10 or 15 aftershocks must have been felt in the metropolitan region. That I'm sure must have been felt in other regions of the country. The government is reporting 64 deaths. We don't know the details.

Maybe a lot of -- maybe some may have been due to heart attacks or they might have been crushed by debris, and other falling objects. But that is the latest death toll that we have. Some are injured.

There's been problems with communications in the region of Biobio and the Maule region, in the centro.


IGOR GARAFULIC, INTENDENTE DE SANTIAGO (through translator): This is a preliminary situation. I want to share this following information. In Renca, the -- we have a bridge that collapsed over six vehicles. In Colina, there was chemical fire. There's -- the fire crews there and it's under control. In Agua Sandina (ph), it's working, but there are some ruptures in the metropolitan region.

We had some houses that have collapsed. And we're asking the people of San Jose de Maipo to work on temporary housing.

There was -- at the airport, there was a collapse of the second floor and we're getting that under control. In every of these communities that I have mentioned, police officers, the emergency services are working in these communities.


NGUYEN: All right. We've been listening to our broadcast out of CNN Chile.

And I want to get you caught up now on what we know. At least 78 people are now dead. So, this number continues to rise by the minute, it seems here at CNN as we're getting new information. All of this from an 8.8 magnitude earthquake that struck central Chile overnight, happened around 3:30 in the morning, local time. So, a lot of people were at home asleep when this occurred.

It is the most powerful earthquake to hit the South American country in nearly 50 years. Now, there was a powerful one back in 1960. That was a 9.5 magnitude quake, a huge quake. In fact, the largest in recorded history. That quake killed about 1,600 people.

Right now, this is an 8.8 quake, so far it's 70 -- what did we say? Seventy-two to 78 people have been killed so far. The epicenter is near the city of Concepcion, which is about 212 miles southwest of the capital of Santiago.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. It's the second largest city as far as population goes, with 670,000 people residing there, densely populated. The number of fatalities, as you would imagine, unfortunately expected to rise.

Tsunami warnings now have been issued along the coast of South America, and also for Hawaii and as far away as Russia and Australia. No word yet on injuries due to tsunamis.

We're also checking on damage to structures. We already know about a major north to south bridge that was damaged by the quake. And we've heard reports of highways also very damaged. So, the infrastructure is shaken and they're going to have tough time getting around.

The president of CNN Chile tells us that the quake lasted about 45 seconds. And you just were listening and watching some of our Chilean bureau. CNN is tapping into its worldwide resources. Nobody can cover this international event like we can.

And now, my friends in North America and the U.S., this is going to affect you, as well -- from Hawaii to potentially the west coast in the form of a tsunami.

Let's get on the phone now with Barry Hirshon. He's a geophysicist from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

Barry, can you give us some perspective here? I think the biggest question we have is: how large of a wave do you think this thing generated along the coast of Chile? And how large of a wave can this thing be when it hits Hawaii several hours from now?

BARRY HIRSHON, GEOPHYSICIST, PACIFIC TSUNAMI WARNING CENTER (via telephone): Well, we have actual measurements of the wave along the coast of Chile and it ranges anywhere from like a 16-foot wave peak to peak down to as small as a five-foot wave, but as large as 14 or 15 feet peak to peak.

MARCIANO: Now -- I'm sorry, are those measurements taken on the shoreline or are they offshore? Because that would mean different things.

HIRSHON: Yes. No, they're taking the water level gauges that are -- that are in the harbors and along the shore.

MARCIANO: OK. So, 16-foot wave right along the shoreline -- pretty close, obviously, to the epicenter, given that it's already struck. Does that give you some peace of mind when you think about what this is going to do to other places further north and west?

HIRSHON: No. Well, the north and west, we don't know yet. But -- excuse me -- but there's -- we're feeding all -- as we gather water level data, we're feeding it into our models, which will then turn around, hopefully, and eventually, give us some predictions on what to expect in other places.

In Hawaii, we expect as large as -- we'll get larger waves in the bays than we will in the open coast. In the bays we -- for example, in Hilo Bay, we expect to see perhaps three or four meters, which is going back 10 or 15 feet there in the harbors. But we don't really have a good handle on that. We'll get a better handle as we start to look at more and more of these water level gauges and iterate between them and our models.

MARCIANO: So, obviously, geography or bisymmetry has a lot to do with it. We've also noticed for our U.S. viewers, there's been an advisory that's been posted now for western part of North America, California, Oregon, and Washington. What does an advisory mean?

HIRSHON: Science makes sure (ph) the lowest level in the hierarchy. You got a warning as the highest, a watch, and advisory. An advisory is sort of a first level heads up that there's been a big event and it could affect the coast later. And that the scientists are watching it very closely and they're coordinating with civil defense. And at some point, if necessary, they'll upgrade that to a watch.

MARCIANO: Giving you're ...

HIRSHON: Or they could even just cancel if it turns out that they don't feel it's going to be any danger.

MARCIANO: I know -- I know scientists don't like to give gut feelings. But judging, what, from your preliminary data, what do you think would happen in this case along the Oregon coastline and California coastline? What potential does this have of being updated -- upgraded to a watch or a warning?

HIRSHON: I don't think it will be upgraded to a warning. But based on the data and the fact that it's such a -- the largest tsunami tends to be at right angles to the causative trench and that's -- and that's 90 degrees out, you're parallel to the west coast almost. So, at this time, we're -- the people who actually are looking at that are the west coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center. And as far as I know, they're -- I don't think they're considering going to a watch yet.

MARCIANO: We've heard some unconfirmed and unofficial reports -- and it may very well be hearsay -- so this is not a fact, but I want to get your opinion on it, of potential waves on Easter Island or some of those archipelical (ph) islands there off the coast of Chile of having a wave of 30 or 40 meters high.


MARCIANO: Now, is that even possible?

HIRSHON: Not -- I don't think that's possible from this event.


HIRSHON: Plus, the wave has -- is passing each island as we speak. They're -- about now, there should be reports, if any, of what's actually happening there. I think we may have a water level gauge there. We'll be checking that pretty soon too to see what that is. But 30 meters is a ...

MARCIANO: That sounds like ...

HIRSHON: That's a bit high.

MARCIANO: OK. Good. That makes me feel a little bit better.

To reiterate what you're saying is, in regards to Hilo Bay, likely to see 10 to 15-foot rise.

Betty asked me a question and I gave her an answer, now I'm thinking, I think that's right. These things travel about 500 miles an hour, do they slow down as they get further out? Or I assume they slow down as they hit more friction in the shallow water. But ...

HIRSHON: Exactly. They go across the open ocean as those speeds and as they get near shallow water, they slow down and grow basically.

MARCIANO: So, so a wave in the ocean open. Give me an idea of what your buoy, these dark buoys ...

HIRSHON: Buoys are seeing -- the dark buoys are seeing on the order, you know, in a 4-kilometer depth ocean as the whole water column moving something like 20 or 30 centimeters, which translates to, when it gets to shore, in order of meters.

MARCIANO: So, 20 or 30 centimeter wave heights. So, miniscule wave height ...

HIRSHON: In the open ocean.

MARCIANO: ... in the open ocean grows by what time? I mean, by how many times? Is it exponential or kind of any place ...

HIRSHON: Well, it'll vary with the coast it hits and the bisymmetry, and the angle of the ocean bottom.


HIRSHON: But as a rule, you're talking on order of centimeters going to meters. MARCIANO: What do you think we'll say in respect to some of these harbors that are -- and these harbor towns that are close to the epicenter, you know, in the order of 50 to 100, 200 miles away from the epicenter? What do you -- what kind of water damage, wave damage destruction that you think we'll see once these tsunamis clear out?

HIRSHON: To tell you the truth, I don't know. But by now, we should have those measurements. I mean, I think that some of these water level measurements that we have along the coast of Chile should be indicative of the sort of heights we're seeing there.

And for example, in Talcahuano, we saw the 7.7, zero to peak, which is more like, you know, the 14 to 15-foot wave. And Coquimbo, up to, say, eight or 10 feet. Corral maybe six feet. Valparaiso maybe eight to 10 feet, something like that.

MARCIANO: And if you could, just give us a brief what not to do, what to do if you live in Hawaii. There's not just one wave that you're expecting. What kind of timeframe can people wait before they can go back to the shorelines when it's safe?

HIRSHON: The time frame is many hours. For Hawaii, are you ...

MARCIANO: I mean, once the wave gets there. We expect the wave to get there at 11:00 a.m. their time.


MARCIANO: How much time will pass before the last tsunami wave comes through, do you think?

HIRSHON: Oh, it should be at least six hours. There'll be many, many waves. And what'll happen is civil defense will give -- when we think the amplitudes have decreased, civil defense will give an all clear that it's safe to come back. But I would stay away until civil defense gives the all clear. It could be many hours.


HIRSHON: And the second, third, fourth, fifth wave can be larger than the initial wave.

MARCIANO: Good advice. Barry Hirshon, geophysicist for the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center -- thank you very much, Barry.

Just to reiterate what he said, Hawaii expecting to see a wave in the order of, especially in the bays, 10 to 15 feet high.

NGUYEN: My goodness.

MARCIANO: And that was traveling at 500 miles, that would get there at 11:00 a.m. local time.


MARCIANO: But what was striking to me what he said was, you know, it's going to last several hours and there'll be several waves and the largest wave may not be the first wave.

NGUYEN: And you said that a little bit earlier. I mean, it's going to take a little time for it to get there. And we're seeing, you know, these aftershocks and whatnot. And so, like you said earlier, yes, you may think that you're in the clear after a few waves, but the ones that keep coming may be bigger than the ones before it.

MARCIANO: And I think the other silver lining to this, when you look in regards to the Sumatra earthquake ...

NGUYEN: Right.

MARCIANO: ... you look at all the land mass, you know, the Philippines, Thailand, all the land and islands that are around that part of Indonesia, there's a lot of land to hit, a lot of people that would be affected. There are so -- there are so little land between South America and basically Australia and Hawaii ...

NGUYEN: So, the greater the wave. There's nothing there to ...

MARCIANO: Well, there's just not -- there's not as many people ...


MARCIANO: ... that would be affected. So, the smaller islands will be, and certainly Hawaii will be. It sounds to me like the west coast of America for the U.S. probably won't be affected, but they are currently under an advisory. And, of course, we'll update that part of the story and the international end of it, as well.

NGUYEN: And so, to be clear, once it hits that open water, does it slow? Does it dissipate? Or does it just continue on with speed?

MARCIANO: It continues, goes unabated at roughly about 500 miles an hour, the speed of a jetliner. It does slow down once it gets closer to shore, because it starts hitting the bottom as it gets more shallow, that friction takes hold and it starts getting -- it starts slowing down. And then what happens, that water starts to build up because it's slowing down, it's starting to pile up and pile up. So, that little 10-centimeter -- or 10 or 20-centimeter wave then becomes, you know ...

NGUYEN: Much larger one, yes.

MARCIANO: ... a two or three or four-meter wave if the physics is certainly astounding and frightening at the same time. We'll try to walk you through this throughout the day today.

NGUYEN: All right. Well, good.

In the meantime, though, we are joined by CNN Latin American affairs editor, Rafael Romo. He's got some information about the earthquake that hit Chile early this morning and also just a history of earthquakes that have hit before, because this is definitely not the first one. And even though it's very large, 8.8 magnitude, it is not the largest one either.

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SR. LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Betty, that's absolutely right. The problem here is that the death toll changes almost as fast as we can update it. The latest number we have, according to local media in Santiago, the capital of Chile, is 78.

And again, like I said before, it's been changing rapidly throughout the morning. Now, the latest information we have regarding the airport in the capital is that it will remain closed for the next 24 hours. So people flying to South America, their flights will be impacted.

We understand that the terminal has been badly damaged. It's not the case with the runway and the system, but the terminal is basically inoperable. So, there will be no flights coming in or going out for the next 24 hours in the capital of Santiago.

Also, big problems with roads and communications. We understand -- we have received reports that the main bridge that connects southern and northern Chile is completely out, is not going to be operable in the near future. So that creates a big problem when it comes to communications, transportation of people, and the general area of the earthquake.

Also, a power is out. We heard reports of people saying that the city of Concepcion, located near the epicenter of the earthquake, was completely dark just moments after the earthquake. There are big portions of the capital of Santiago that are also completely dark.

And big challenges when it comes to reaching a lot of the people in the coastal areas. We've been talking about waves that may reach as high as 16 feet. So, that's a problem. And we don't really understand, haven't been able to assess some of the damage of some of the towns.

Now, it's almost the end of the summer in Chile, but this time of year, they have a huge music festival in the city of Vina del Mar, not too far from Santiago. A lot of international visitors, tourists, who gather there for this event that actually ends today. So those coastal areas, those resorts by the beaches there have a lot of international visitors right now.

So, all in all, a very complicated situation. The president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, has declared a disaster -- has issued a disaster declaration already. So -- and she's been meeting all morning with some of her ministers already, Betty and Rob.

NGUYEN: And we're also hearing too -- according to the head of the airport operations there in Santiago, telling reporters that the airport will be closed for at least the next 24 hours. All damage in the terminal, but says the runways and other systems are operational. They're trying to come up with different ways to get passengers in and out since the terminal is, as they're saying, severely damaged. That again from the head of airport operations in Santiago, saying that the airport is closed for the next 24 hours. We are following all these new developments that continue to pour in to CNN newsroom.

Breaking news out of Chile this morning, an 8.8 magnitude quake. We're covering it. You don't want to miss anything that occurs because there's a lot of information that is streaming in and we will update you with that just as soon as we get it.

MARCIANO: And we're also getting information off the Web, Twitter has been a great tool about this, getting tweets from just about everybody, including "American Idol" singers. We're going to talk to him on the phone next. So, stay with us.


NGUYEN: Welcome back, everybody. We've been following this breaking news out of Chile this morning, a powerful earthquake.

Joshua Levs has been following the tweets as well online. We're seeing a lot of people ...


NGUYEN: ... tweeting out of Chile, giving us really some of the up-to-the-minute information from that country. What are you hearing?

LEVS: Yes, people using Twitter to give information and also try to get in touch with their loved ones inside Chile. And a man who you wouldn't see coming in this respect, "American Idol" finalist from a few years ago, Elliott Yamin, happens to be inside Chile and he has been tweeting like crazy about this.

And I believe he's with us on the phone.

Elliott, are you there?

ELLIOTT YAMIN, FMR. "AMERICAN IDOL" FINALIST (via telephone): I'm here, Josh. How are you?

LEVS: Great. Listen, thanks for getting back in touch.

I've been showing your tweets this morning and I'm just going to tell our folks as we look at some video. You talk about this being the scariest night and morning of your life. Tell me what happened from the moment that this first struck. What did you feel? Where were you? What happened?

YAMIN: Well, I was -- it was about 3:20 in the morning. I was on the sixth floor of our hotel in my room. At my desk, coincidentally, go figure, I was actually tweeting at the time that the earthquake struck. And it was just -- you know, obviously without warning. It was a very abrupt kind of swaying back and forth. And then ...

LEVS: Swaying as in the building starts swaying, the whole building? YAMIN: Right. The building was swaying back and forth as was my room. Things were starting to fall off of the wall. The lights were starting to flicker on and off. And then that swaying very abruptly turned into just a very -- just a very violent shake.

And that's when I stood up -- stood up and kind of headed towards my doorway. And opened my door, of course, and I was just seeing if anybody else was doing the same and if anybody else was out in the hallways and I was kind of yelling out, "Earthquake, earthquake, get out, you know, get in the doorway."

LEVS: You were yelling that? You were yelling to people, "Earthquake, get out"?

YAMIN: I was yelling very frantically, at the top of my lungs.

LEVS: And as I understand, you're in Vina del Mar, right? It's that the area you've been in.

YAMIN: Right. We're in Vina del Mar, which is about 90 miles southwest of the epicenter and also 90 miles outside of Santiago.

LEVS: As we talk to you, I'm going to tell our viewers, we're looking at some of the various video we're getting from Chile. We don't obviously have Elliott's exact location. Video is coming in, you're seeing as we talk.

Eliot, I've been looking at your tweets all morning. I've also been looking at a lot of other tweets. So, correct me if I'm wrong, I believe one of yours said that you felt at one point like you started running for your life.

YAMIN: I was. You know, there's -- I just -- I don't -- I just feel very lucky to have sought out safety. You know, I just took the steps. There was one lone person who happened to be my neighbor next door to me who was left on the floor at that time. And as I was yelling out, I saw him kind of peeking around the corner and he started headed towards the stairs. And I think the building kind of rumbling. It was just -- it was like a movie. It was like a --it was like a Hollywood film.

You know, we're running down the hall as we're being kind of strewn about the hallways, we reached the staircase and ran down six flights of stairs to safety and luckily, got out unharmed, unscathed.

LEVS: Well, help me understand. So, you're running down the stairs, you get outside, is everything still shaking at that point? Is the street shaking? Is the building shaking?

YAMIN: Yes. Yes. Because it was about -- I think the whole thing lasted about three minutes. And since that time, there's been about 30-plus aftershocks, one being like 6.7, it was pretty big. But yes, the building was totally shaking by the time we reached the outside.

The way the hotel is situated, it's like kind of caddy corner, right on the corner of a big intersection. So most people that made their way out front on to the street at which point there was no power, you know? By the time I got downstairs, the lights were all off. It was -- it was 3:20 in the morning. So, as you can imagine, it was pretty pitch black dark and pretty chaotic scene.

LEVS: So, what did you do? You got out, you ran out with this other person. Other people were clearing the hotel. You're on the street, everything's still shaking. Where did you go? What did you do?

YAMIN: Well, you know, we just kind of just -- we all were just kind of seeking refuge on the street. You know, trying to get away -- as far away from the actual structure in the buildings itself, you know? So ...

LEVS: What was it like on the streets?

YAMIN: It was very chaotic. This is a very late -- first of all, we're only about a mile and a half inland from the beach. So, we're very close to the water. So, this is a very late kind of town.

And as one of your reporters stated earlier, when I was on hold, this is technically the last week of summer. And we're here to play this big kind of end -- summer ending festival. It's actually the biggest festival in all of South America.

But anyways, so that being said ...

LEVS: So, you're outside. It's summer time, people in general, some people are partying ...


YAMIN: People stay out -- right, people stay out very late. So there were a lot of cars in the street, a lot of people on the street walking around at the time. And it was very chaotic. It was -- you know, people are running frantically, yelling out, crying.

You know, there were a few pregnant women at the hotel. I'd say all in all, there are probably 200 guests here at the hotel, all of whom were some of -- either the lobby or outside in front of the hotel.

LEVS: Talk to me. So, you go outside and there's commotion outside. It's been a few hours now, where did you go? What has happened in the time since the quake?

YAMIN: You know, things have relatively calmed down since then. We stayed outside for hours, just because it was -- it was just -- it was just unsafe to be inside because of all of the aftershocks and the magnitudes of the aftershocks. You know, the power's still out, all the street lights were out, so the traffic was very chaotic.

LEVS: Yes.

YAMIN: You know, with the exception of some broken glass on the streets and some broken windows, you know, some downed power lines you can see on the streets and stray dogs and things like that -- you know, nobody in this general area was hurt or ...

LEVS: OK, no one that you could see so far in Vina del Mar, in the area where you are.

Elliot, I do want to ask you before I let you go. I've been following your tweets. You say in one of them that you're Type I diabetic. You didn't bring enough supplies. You only have enough insulin pump supplies to last until tomorrow, Sunday. Are you going to be OK?

It's in small text here. But it's way down here, Scottie, if you can zoom way in.

What are you going to do? Are you going to be OK?

YAMIN: I'm going to be just fine. I didn't realize it in time when I tweeted that, that I actually brought a NovoLog Pen with me.

LEVS: All right.

YAMIN: I wear an insulin pump and I kind of calculated my -- I always bring extra, but knowing I was leaving tomorrow ...

LEVS: But you're going to be OK?

YAMIN: I'm going to be fine. I'm going to be just fine.

LEVS: OK. All right.

YAMIN: Thank you for your ...

LEVS: Yes, we're getting a lot of news. So, we do need to go.

Elliott Yamin, obviously known to a lot of our viewers -- thank you very much for joining us. And keep those tweets coming, all right? We're going to keep you on Twitter.

Anyone else out there who's got information, pictures, videos, tweet it to me, JoshLevsCNN. You can't miss me. I'm camped out here all day long with all the latest.

And, Betty and Rob, you never know who's going to end up, you know, in the path and have turned into a breaking news reporter there. It was good to have him join us.

NGUYEN: Yes, no doubt.

But we do want to take you on the ground there so you can see some of the new pictures that are coming in out of Chile that really represented some of the damage, as well. Look at this -- seeing some of the rubble on the side of a roadway here. Trees knocked down, power lines knocked down. This is coming to us from TV in Chile.

Let's take a listen to their local coverage. (JOINED IN PROGRESS)

TRANSLATOR: We're doing well. Our team members are doing well. Our families are doing well.

At this moment we just felt an aftershock of -- there's been so many, it's impossible to count, the floor has been moving all morning after the earthquake. I was in the ninth floor and it probably just not allow you to stand up.

We're very nervous, we -- it was just hard to figure out what was happening. We were just thinking about staying alive, thinking about your loved ones, it was horrible what happened this morning here in Concepcion.

And we're just telling you, right now, was the first time we're establishing contact with you guys. This morning, we're not being able -- no calls were being able to go out. We're looking at the first images that are coming out of Concepcion.

People are out on the streets. They didn't know what to do. People are asking about their family members. Can you tell us, can you tell us what has happened in the capital, Biobio?

Some images from overnight. It was all chaos. People were out on the street. There was a park that goes across the city and it's just packed with people. They just grab whatever they could once they left their homes. And they were just looking for shelter.

It was a very difficult moment at that time. This was seen all across the city. There's a fire one area of the city that has something that has hasn't been put out at this point in time. There's also been a fire in one -- in the local jailhouse.

Honestly, there's not one street where there's not cables on the floor or some kind of collapse. There's a building that's a 15-story building that had not been built, just like two years old. And some of the people that we talked to this morning just said the building just completely collapsed. A 15-story building that completely collapsed.

This is what we're seeing as the most difficult situation here. There's many historic homes in Concepcion that many collapsed -- many of these collapsed and they collapsed on top of cars.

Can we infer there are many people trapped underneath debris or many people have died?

In this new building that I'm telling you about, I have no idea. Since just by looking at the images we can see that they must have definitely been some victims.

This earthquake that was also felt in Concepcion -- I don't know if you have talked to some of the people that are older and that have the experience of past earthquakes, what are they saying? The people I have talked to this morning, everybody -- people can't find their place. They just -- they cannot get a grasp of -- get ahold of what is going on. I have never been in an earthquake before.

I mean, we went immediately to the hospital where they started evacuating. And all the sick people that had just been operated, people that were in stretchers, they were just being taken to other facilities. There were people on the street. People that they just grabbed whatever they could and just went out to find shelter.

And we're talking about a large earthquake at the one in 1985, I'm from Concepcion, I lived in Concepcion. And they -- it wasn't felt as it was felt in Santiago. We don't have a point of reference for this kind of earthquake.

I mean how is the city holding up? Because the city of Concepcion has a lot of buildings, but they have a lot of houses that seem very solid.

How can you describe to us -- how is the city? How is the city holding up in terms of infrastructure of houses? The houses -- the houses that survived, that survived the earthquake of 1960, a lot of those have collapsed. The older, older houses that were constructed between -- built before 1960 have a lot of them have collapsed.

Some that were built after that have resisted -- pretty resistant. What caught my attention is that the new construction as has been the one with the most damages, for example, like office buildings -- office buildings, some of them that have "for sale" signs have big structural damages. Some of the floors have completely collapsed. We have seen some older buildings like some emblematic buildings here in Concepcion that they don't look -- they don't seem to have big structural damages.

The streets actually -- the pavement is -- it's broken. They just -- the cars cannot -- there cannot flow through the streets. Some of the streets actually collapsed in themselves.

How are communications in the region of Biobio? It's taken us six hours to be able to get in touch with you. What's going on with cell phones? What's going on with phones?

I have been able to talk to people in Concepcion, to Santiago, and other regions of the country, it's been impossible. We have -- we have tried to talk to people in Los Angeles and we haven't been able to -- we've been trying to talk to call Santiago since 4:00 in the morning, and it's been impossible.

If you drive through some of these streets and towns and you go in front of the Internacion (ph) cathedral, they're telling us the Internacia has collapsed, that it's completely on the ground.

We have not driven through that area. We drove around -- we drove around overnight, but we really -- we weren't able to capture everything that's happened. The Santa Domingo Church that was on San Martin Street is completely -- part of the side of the building collapsed.

Other areas didn't have damages, but the street of center of Concepcion where the most of the historic buildings are locating -- most of them have collapsed completely.

There's no electricity. There's no water -- there's no running water. I think it's going to be very difficult for electric service to come back because the streets are -- there's just electric cables all over -- all over the place. I'm not exaggerating. Like in every block, there's an electric pole that has fallen or something that's down.

There were three emergency fires. One was in the chemistry faculty and the university. Another one was a chemical industry. That's the one we're looking at right now. And the third one was in one of the local streets.

We couldn't -- we couldn't stay there a while because there was -- there was no police officers, there was no emergency crews arriving, there were like family members arriving. It was just turning into a very dangerous environment.


MARCIANO: You've been watching some coverage of the local television stations in Santiago, Chile.

If you're just joining us, waking up this Saturday morning -- 8.8 quake rocks this country a few hours ago. And the repercussions are being felt across parts of West and South America. And you can see the dramatic video there as we bring it into you from the CNN headquarters here in Atlanta.

Tapping into the worldwide resources at CNN -- let's go to Hawaii now. Justin Fujioka from KITV in Honolulu.

Justin, you're a meteorologist there and you've witnessed evacuations when tsunamis have come towards Hawaii. What can you tell us as the local state of mind right now? What's going on?


It is just after 2:40 a.m. here in the Hawaiian Islands. And we have gotten word from civil defense that they will be siren sounding the sirens at 6:00 a.m. tomorrow morning, about three hours and 20 minutes from now. Those evacuation sirens kind of give the word that the police, the civil defense will be out and about evacuating people within an evacuation zone.

And I don't know if we're one of the only states that have this in the front of a phone book, but we do have maps here that actually show inundation zones in a possible tsunami event. Anyone within that shaded area will be evacuated again at 6:00 a.m. our time and that's also when the civil defense sirens will go off.

And civil defense is urging everyone here in the Hawaiian Islands to use phones sparingly, only in emergency purposes because they will need all of those resources to get these evacuations underway at 6:00 a.m., with the possible threat of this tsunami just striking at about 4 1/2 hours later, at 11:19, that's when that first potentially destructive wave, it's expected to hit the Hawaiian Islands.

MARCIANO: Justin, what do you expect to see as far as the number of people that will evacuate the coastline? How far away from the coastline will they have to be? I assume there's some sort of drills if not annual of some time -- of some frequency that are practiced in anticipation of this kind of events.

FUJIOKA: That's correct, Rob. In fact, we have a monthly test for a siren on the first working day of each month just to make sure these sirens are working. Civil defense does do these routines quite often to practice this type of evacuation orders.

I'm not sure if you can actually see these maps that I just showed up, but it actually includes many big hotels in the Waikiki area. So, that will be a big problem in just a few hours from now, when they try to evacuate the hundreds or even thousands of people along the coastline there in Waikiki.

And (INAUDIBLE) Oahu, we did have two previous events that luckily did not result from a destructive earthquake, and that was back in 1994 and again in 1986. The past two tsunami warnings did not generate a destructive tsunami here on the islands, but it did -- they both did cause some significant chaos here in the islands as far as traffic.

If there's any consolation to this event, we are waking up to here is Saturday morning here in the islands, rather than those prior events which were weekday events and many more people were on the road at that time. Of course, this is the overnight time. We're already getting reports from local markets here that people are starting to hoard up on food and signs are going up as well that we are looking at the possibility of people just putting up signs, they're saying that you can only take two or three items of this type of thing, canned goods especially.

MARCIANO: You mentioned the sirens aren't going off for another three or four hours, I suspect that's one of the reasons -- one of the ways they're going to try to limit the chaos and potentially panic because the wave isn't supposed to arrive for another four to five hours after that.

Are they evacuating from -- everybody from all aspects of the coastline? This wave is going to be approaching from the south and east. Would northern coastlines be a little bit safer? Or is this a situation where the islands -- as small as they are, it's all encompassing?

FUJIOKA: It's all encompassing, Rob. This type of energy is not like an ocean-generated swell where we see most of the energy on the direction where that energy is coming from. This type of energy has, in the past, several times, wrapped around the islands and we actually see waves much larger on the backside of these islands -- which, again, depends on topography of the ocean floor beneath where the waves run into the shorelines here that we could see a possible run- up, especially in harbors, maybe bays, places where this energy is amplified.

MARCIANO: And, Justin, one other question. Speaking with geophysicist at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, and he anticipates at least right now with his data a 10 to 15-foot wave in some of the harbors and bays including Hilo Bay. What would that mean for the number of people that are living there?

FUJIOKA: Well, Rob, our last destructive tsunami was in 1975, a local-generated tsunami. Before that, we had several in the 1950s and the 1960s. In 1960, we did have an earthquake off the coast of Chile, I think I believe it was the strongest one in the recorded history, a 9.5. And that earthquake did generate a destructive tsunami in the Hilo Bay area, at 30 feet. So, that would -- the situation would not be as bad as a destructive tsunami that did kill 61 people in Hilo Bay.

But Hilo is one of those topographical areas that tends to enhance this type of energy. And in many, many events, regardless of what direction this energy comes from, Hilo tends to be the center of attention as far as devastation and problems in these types of events.

MARCIANO: All right. Great local insight for us. Justin Fujioka, meteorologist down there in Honolulu. We appreciate your insight there, Justin. We may very well be checking back with you.

As a reminder, all of the Hawaiian Islands under a tsunami warning with this wave expected to approach 11:00 a.m. local time. Evacuations are in effect. And sirens will go off at 6:00 a.m. local time. And as Justin pointed out, all shores will be affected by this. And local bisymmetry and geography depending on harbors and bays and things like may accentuate the wave or not.

And we'll just have to see what will happen. Right now, the geophysicist we talked to said 10 to 15-foot wave.

NGUYEN: Right.

MARCIANO: And that's scary in and of itself.

NGUYEN: No doubt. And what's remarkable about this, too, is that it's not just Hawaii that seeing the warnings. What, Russia, Japan, even -- as far away as Australia, too.

MARCIANO: Yes. It's the entire Pacific base and then, as we pointed out, there's not a whole lot of land masses between Chile and Australia or New Zealand.

NGUYEN: So, nothing to block the way to slow it down.

MARCIANO: Slow it down and take a little bit of punch off of it.

NGUYEN: Got you. All right. And this is as a result of an 8.8 earthquake that just simply rocked Chile overnight. Right now, people are trying to find their loved ones.

MARCIANO: And we've got crews there and more on the way to cover this story for you. So, stay right there. We'll be right back.


NGUYEN: Good morning to our viewers across the U.S. and around the globe this morning. We are getting some new developments in just that massive earthquake that has hit Chile overnight.

On the phone is Felipe Baytelman. He is an eyewitness. Actually, I'm told he's on Skype right now. So, we should be able to see him -- coming to us via Santiago, Chile.

You were there when this quake struck overnight. Tell me what you experienced.

FELIPE BAYTELMAN, EARTHQUAKE WITNESS: Well, it was Friday night so people were coming back from -- like out of the beds since 2:00, and suddenly, I feel something. I was awakened by this earthquake and I'm kind of used to them and it starts getting bigger and bigger. And you can start hearing alarms sounding and sirens and people beginning to scream.

I live -- I'm on a low floor on my building, but people from higher floors went to the terrace and screamed something like "God stop." Suddenly, all the glasses were jumping from -- all my glasses were broken. But -- then, well, everyone was starting to get to the outside of the building.

My area wasn't so damaged, but you can see all of the sirens going through, all the ambulances and all the fireman trucks crossing. And the light, the power was off until 6:00 or 7:00 a.m. So, I have no TV, so everything I do is on the computer. So, I couldn't get any connection to my family. And I heard that they're OK.

NGUYEN: Well, the good thing is that now you are sending word out to your family that, indeed, you are alive and well and have survived this.

You say you live in an area that didn't sustain too much damage. What have you heard about other parts of the Santiago? And have you heard about Concepcion, because we heard that area that took really the brunt of the damage?

BAYTELMAN: Yes, the connection going out from Santiago, some roads and the train lines were cut -- just read them in Twitter. And so, my younger brother, he's in Concepcion, where it's really close to the -- to the earthquake point. So we're quite worried because there's no telephone communication yet. I expect him to be OK because he was traveling, so he was not within any building. And ...

NGUYEN: But you haven't heard from him yet? You haven't heard from your brother?

BAYTELMAN: No. So, now my mom is calling me like -- I have to go to her place to help getting everything in order, everything is in the floor, all the -- all the stuff from the wall and the furniture. And my 86-year-old grandpa was there and I was really worried about him, but he woke up as if like, wow, this was long. He's already lived for the biggest one in 1960. So ...

NGUYEN: Yes, that one in 1960 was the largest in recorded history. It's a 9.5 magnitude quake. It killed some 1,600 people there in Chile.

And we do want to thank you for your time today. Hopefully, you do hear from your brother. One last thing before I let you go. Are you still feeling aftershocks?

BAYTELMAN: They're really aftershocks like about every hour. The latest one was just maybe 10 minutes ago when we were contacting. And it was a really light one, but you can see like it's still going on and going on.

NGUYEN: Yes, we're hearing that the largest aftershock reported so far is a 6.9 magnitude. And just to give you some perspective, the quake that struck Haiti was a 7.0 magnitude. So an aftershock there has been almost nearly as powerful as the one that struck Haiti.

So, Felipe, thank you so much for joining us via Skype today. And best of luck to your family again. I do hope you hear from your brother since he is in Concepcion -- which we understand, Rob, is very near the epicenter, and also not only will it be sustaining some damage from the earthquake but also possibly from a tsunami as well.

MARCIANO: Yes. We're just going to have to wait and see what kind of reports we get out of the local areas, the local harbors near the epicenter. Some of the buoys measuring as much as 7.7 feet, but that doesn't really tell you the local effects of the symmetry the way the base and the bowls in some of these harbors right up to the shoreline. That will often funnel and accentuate and make that wave that much larger. And with these areas being so close to the epicenter, there wasn't any warning.

There is some warning for folks who are further away from the epicenter. And as you know, we've been reporting 40 past two hours now, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has issued a tsunami warning pretty much for the entire Pacific Basin with the exception of California, Oregon and Washington and British Columbia.

So, let's breakdown some of the time lines as far as where we think this wave is going to approach and when. The epicenter here, as we know, southwest of the Santiago, Chile, by about 212 miles or so, 8.8 magnitude quake happening a few hours back. So, any sort of local tsunami would have already happened already. Remember, the Tsunamis travel at about 500 miles an hour, about the same speed as a jumbo jet.

So, let's go -- let's take a little bit of a tour. We go up the coastline into Ecuador, La Libertad, Ecuador -- expected at 7:00 a.m. So, if there was an effect in Ecuador and they were included late into the game as far as seeing a tsunami warning, it would have happened at 7:00 a.m.

I should also point this out that when a tsunami occurs, say if this is the epicenter, the most devastating waves are going to be this way. Not so much this way. So, that's a bit of a saving grace as we look at places like -- in Colombia, which would have seen its tsunami at 7:53 or right about right now, actually, Eastern Time. So, this is -- if this part of Tumaco, Colombia, is going to see a tsunami, it would be happening right now. And obviously, a bit of a bowl there might accentuate it.

All right. Let's go up, a little further up the coastline, into parts of Mexico and Central America. Cabo Matapalo, Costa Rica, at 8:44 Eastern Time. And if it gets as far north as Nicaragua, 10:20 Eastern Time is when the wave is expected to hit there. Acapulco, New Mexico, 1:15 Eastern Time in the afternoon.

Again, we don't know how much of a wave would impact those coastlines. We did speak with a geophysicist though that said it's in Hawaii, and it's expected to arrive there at 4:52 p.m. So, about 11:00 local time, he's thinking in some of the bay areas, might see 10 to 15-foot wave, especially in Hilo Bay. So, they have evacuation orders out for all the coastal regions, both north, south, east and west of the Hawaiian Islands.

All right. A little bit farther to the west we go. Again, the entire Pacific Basin affected by this. Kushiro, Japan, expected at 11:35 tonight. Again, think about an overnight flight in a jumbo jet. That's about as long as it's going to take to get over towards Japan.

And the same deal as we slide the map a little bit farther down to the south, towards Australia and places like Fuji, which will see it about 4:00 Eastern Time and then New Zealand will see at 2:52 Eastern Time. And, Australia, believe it or not, Betty, also included in this tsunami warning.

We don't quite know how high the wave is going to be. The geophysicist we talked to said they've got intricate computer models that will calculate this sort of numbers. His professional experience says 10 to 15-foot wave likely in Hawaii. And then what that translates to places like Mexico and then over on the other side of the ocean, in Australia, we'll just have to wait and see.

We'll keep you updated on this one-two punch. Obviously, the earthquake rocks the land. And we've seen the devastating effects from that. And those reports continue to come in. And now, the ongoing -- more now story, I suppose, is the tsunami that is rolling across the Pacific.

NGUYEN: That is just fascinating and frightening to me -- to see an earthquake spark tsunami warnings all the way from Chile to Hawaii, Australia, Japan, Russia. I mean, that just gives you a sense of the magnitude of this, Rob. So, thanks for put that in perfective for us.

I want to get you caught up on what we know so far. So, here it is. At least 78 people are dead in the 8.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Chile overnight, happened about 3:30 local time. So, a lot of people, you know, they were partying overnight because it was a Friday night, or they were at home asleep in their beds when this powerful quake struck.

It's the most powerful quake to strike this country in nearly 50 years. There was one back in 1960. It is the most powerful one on record. That earthquake killed 1,600 people in Chile. That was a 9.5 magnitude quake. This one that struck overnight is an 8.8 magnitude quake.

Now, the epicenter is near the city of Concepcion, which is about 212 miles southwest of the capital of Santiago. These are densely populated areas.

So, we are standing by to hear the damage, the injuries, and, as well, a death toll that is expected to rise. Right now, it stands at 78 people.