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8.8 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Central Chile; 52 People Confirmed Dead in Chile Quake; Northeast Smacked by Another Winter Storm; Hundreds of Thousands Powerless

Aired February 27, 2010 - 06:00   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everybody. From the CNN Center, this is CNN Saturday morning. We want to welcome our viewers around the U.S. and across the world. Good morning, everybody, it's February 27th, I'm Betty Nguyen.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Rob Marciano in today for T.J. Holmes. It's 6:00 a.m. here in Atlanta and 8 a.m. in Chile where we begin with our breaking news this morning.

NGUYEN: Yes, a powerful earthquake, 8.8 in magnitude struck Central Chile just about four 1/2 hours ago.

MARCIANO: It's the most powerful earthquake to hit Chile in nearly 50 years. The epicenter is near this City of Concepcion, about 212 miles southwest of the Capital of Santiago. Concepcion is Chile's second largest city over the population of about 200,000. And there are earlier reports of at least 47 deaths in Chile. With a number of fatalities is expected to rise.

Tsunami warnings have been issued along the coast of South America. And also for Hawaii, in as far away as Russia. No word yet on injuries with tsunamis. We're also checking on damage to structures. Already we know of a major north/south ridge damaged by the quake.

The President of CNN Chile tells us the quake lasted about 45 seconds. Randy Baldwin of the U.S. Geological survey joins us on the phone. Randy, are you there?

RANDY BALDWIN, USGS AT NATIONAL EARTHQUAKE CENTER (via the telephone): Yes, good morning.

MARCIANO: Randy, put this in perspective for us. First off with the Haiti quake and then second off with the Sumatra quake back in 2004. This sounds nearly similar to that one.

BALDWIN: Well, yes, the Sumatra quake was up the level 9.0 magnitude quake and of course, you know, it caused massive devastation from the tsunamis that were generated as a result. This quake is larger magnitude wise than the Haiti quake. However, the Haiti quake occurred dead center, you know, to the major population area of Port- au-Prince. So, it will -- it's yet to be seen what the consequences will be, you know, in the surrounding population for this quake. MARCIANO: We've gotten a fair amount of reports and pictures starting to come in now of what happened on the mainland. But I think what I have the most questions about and what is the most daunting is what's going on along the coastline? Both up and down South America. Now we have a tsunami warning that are posted for Hawaii.

What do you suspect happened underneath all of that water when this earth moved? And what could be the consequences of these tsunamis? I think one of the buoys measured a seven foot wave and that's just on a buoy. And we both know that, that could be multiplied by many times when it gets to a shoreline.

BALDWIN: That's right. This quake occurred right along the Western Coast of Chile. And we have some initial reports that it did generate a local wave around the Chile/Peru border region that had a height of three to four feet. And I think, there have been other statements and warnings issued since that time when considering the pacific basin as a whole. And I'm not familiar with the most recent issue there. But that would be issued by the pacific tsunami warning Center in Hawaii.

MARCIANO: Well, they seemingly, the North American warning center said, you know, there's no watches or warnings out for basically...

BALDWIN: North America.

MARCIANO: North America including Alaska.


MARCIANO: But now we're including Hawaii, not quite North America, but certainly within the same basin. Should folks along the California coastline be worried about a watch or warning posted?

BALDWIN: Well, I think they probably should stay in tune with the current warnings that are being issued. To see how those are being revised as time goes by. I know it takes a number of hours sometimes for these waves to propagate, you know, across the entire pacific. So, you know, those updates can be issued on a regular basis.

MARCIANO: Yes. One the question is Randy, I think a lot of people at home are going, my goodness, Haiti was just less than two months ago, now this. Is there something going on in the larger picture? Or is this just natural variability on the tectonic plate?

BALDWIN: Well, this is, you know, it's a very large quake. And I think overall the globe averages 16 or so very large quakes every year. So, you know, this one is certainly a very large event.

MARCIANO: And that probably we just bad luck that it happened once again in a very populated area, so.

BALDWIN: Well, it's not a factor of that. This is a very seismically active area, all along the coast of South America is a zone where there are two averse plates that are sliding past one another. One is dipping under the South American plate, and along that boundary margin is a zone of earthquakes and volcanoes.

So, this particular area has produced a number of large quakes in the past. And including the largest quake that has ever been recorded, which was a 9.5 that occurred a ways from here back in 1960.

MARCIANO: Beautiful, but obviously dangerous place to live, and we're seeing the latter of the two. Randy Baldwin from the U.S. Geological Survey, thanks for your insight sir, we'll speak to you later in the morning.

BALDWIN: You're welcome.

NGUYEN: Well, we're joined now by CNN Latin American Affairs, Editor Rafael Romo. Let's get to more information about Chile, its earthquake history. And Rafael, as we just heard, the largest earthquake in recorded history did also occur in Chile back in 1960. That was what, a 9.5 magnitude quake?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Yes, that's exactly right. Back then, the number of people who died was 1,600. This time around, local media are reporting that so far, this is -- these are very preliminary numbers, we're talking about 47 people who have died as a result of this earthquake.

Now, it hit at 3:34 in the morning local time. That's about the worst possible time an earthquake can hit because people are sleeping, people are inside buildings. And it's, as you can imagine, a lot of the buildings that might have collapsed. We're talking about people who are trapped and other problems.

Now, we are also hearing that the airport was closed right after the earthquake. They're trying to reopen the airport now. A lot of the flights flying into the capital Santiago were diverted, were sent to other cities in the area. Many other flights were just sent back to their point of origin.

Right now another major concern is the aftershocks. We have heard of reports of more than 25 aftershocks. Rolando Santos, the President of CNN Chile told us that he stopped counting at 25. And so when it comes to aftershocks, we remember what happened in Haiti that the aftershocks made a lot of the buildings and walls in the area of Port-au-Prince collapse, days and weeks after the major earthquake.

So, that's a big concern. Right now, the information that we're getting is very preliminary. We have assembled a team of editors and producers here at CNN who are watching all of that information, who are trying to assess the information. And so, we'll be reporting that information to you as soon as we get it.

But again, the latest information we have is that local media in Chile is reporting that 47 people have died, but very preliminary information and another major concern is the tsunami that was generated as a result of this earthquake -- Betty and Rob. NGUYEN: Yes, there are watches and warnings that are out right now. As we look at this Google map, I want you to tell me a little bit if you could about Concepcion, because that's where the epicenter is, it's about 212 miles southwest of the capital. What do you know about this particular area where the quake struck?

ROMO: Well, Betty, Concepcion is one of the most densely populated areas in Chile. We're talking about roughly 670,000 people who live there. This is also located in the area where we talked about this before. The big earthquake of the 9.5 magnitude earthquake happened back in 1960 that killed 1,600 people.

So, densely populated area, of the epicenter of the earthquake was located right between Concepcion and the capital of Santiago. The Capital of Santiago -- population there is about five million people.

And it still remains to be seen how many buildings, how many areas were affected. We heard reports of the power that the city going completely dark right after the earthquake. Communications are down. Even in places like the City of Mendoza which is in Argentina across the Andes.

Communications are down for the moment. We have a very complicated situation. It's morning right now, it's right after 8:00 in Chile right now and authorities are taking a close look at what actually happened -- Betty.

NGUYEN: All right. Thank you for that. We want to take you on the ground now and get more from Rolando Santos, he is the President of CNN in Chile. Rolando was actually thrown from his bed when this earthquake hit and he joins me now by phone. Orlando, just give us an update on exactly what you felt when this quake struck and where you are exactly.

ROLANDO SANTOS, CNN PRESIDENT OF CHILE (via the telephone): Well, I'm in the middle of Santiago in the CNN Chile Newsroom at the moment. As I told you earlier, it was about 3:34 and one moment I'm in bed and the next moment I'm literally on the floor and things are falling around me, the lamp, that side lamp, things are coming off the wall.

As I was getting ready to go, and it lasted for a while, you know, quickly got dressed. I noticed, I went through the rooms in my apartment. There wasn't anything left on a wall or any of the shelves. So, it was scary and intimidating at first. Of course, everything was dark because of the -- it was 3:30 or 4:00 in the morning.

So, the first priority for me after making sure that I was all right was getting down and getting into the newsroom. And now, first light's broken here, we've had light for about 45 minutes, we've got a better idea of what's going on. As I said earlier, the psyche of this particular country is interesting because they're used to earthquakes that had several of them.

Nothing of this magnitude in quite a few years as you've heard just a few moments ago, but there is a sense of calm right now. People are getting organized, trying to figure out, people are in the streets of many parts of Santiago. We now have an updated number, and this is from the emergency services, the National Emergency Services, 52 people across the country are confirmed as dead at this point.

Concepcion right now is a huge concern because most of the communications into the region are not working at the moment. So, everyone is trying to do their best to understand exactly what's going on down there. The airport remains closed pending a review of the run ways and the infrastructure. It lost power in some areas and because of the magnitude shaking, a lot of things were on the floor.

I think that's pretty much going to be prevalent throughout all of Santiago. Everyone that's come into the newsroom from different parts of the city is reporting pretty much the same thing. A big concern at this particular time now is first light arrives are the buildings. We have collapsed buildings, we don't have any reports of anybody trapped at this point. And so slowly as the cell phone system starts to work, the telephone system begins to work, we're getting more and more reports.

NGUYEN: Yes, Rolando, let me ask you this. As you were driving in, getting updates now with first light at being about 8:12 there local time this morning, were you able to determine just how extensive the damage is in Santiago, given the fact that it's still what, some 212 miles away from the epicenter?

SANTOS: No, you know, what I couldn't -- there's no way for me to know that coming in the dark. And I was making a beeline for the office quite honestly.

NGUYEN: What did you see?

SANTOS: But, in the area where I was, it was mostly dark and then the power came back on slowly but surely as I was getting through there. A lot of people were in the streets. I saw buildings with the facades knocked down. I do know that one church tower in one of the churches here in the, I think, Providencia region fell down with no injuries. So, I didn't see any of that firsthand because I came directly into the office. So, I haven't been out since then.

NGUYEN: And I hear the newsroom working behind you. Obviously, there's power there, did you see power...


SANTOS: No, actually there isn't power here.

NGUYEN: It's not. So, it's a generator?

SANTOS: It's a backup generator, yes.

NGUYEN: I got you.

SANTOS: In fact, it was a challenge because, you know, it operates on gasoline. So, we had to get out and make sure that we had extra gasoline on hand for this. And at least in the general area of Central Part of Santiago, the power is coming on in parts that didn't have it, but it'll be a while according to the electrical service people before most of the city is back up to speed completely.

NGUYEN: All right. So, power in some of the major basic services are out throughout the city of Santiago. Rolando Santos, the president of CNN Chile joining us by phone. Orlando, thank you so much for that insight. Of course, we will be checking in with you throughout the day.

In the meantime, though, Rob has moved into the Weather Center here at the CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia. And Rob, I want you to give us just quick lesson on just how strong a quake like this is. When we hear 8.8, that sounds like a pretty large one. But just put it in perspective for us.

MARCIANO: Well, you have to remember that the way the magnitude scale works, it's rhythmic equation that were basically everything expands exponentially. So, if you go from seven to eight, you're not just increasing it by whatever percentage that is, 20 or so percent. You're increasing it by 32 times the amount of energy released.

So, if you go from a 7.0, which that would be the Haiti quake to an 8.0, you're looking at 500 times the amount of energy released, 500 times the strength. The USGS also puts a number on it as far as size goes, which would be a smaller number. But as far as how much energy, how much strength, how much shaking, how much potential damage can be done, an 8.8 versus a 7.0 is 500 times the amount of energy released.

So, it gives you an idea of just how potent this particular quake is. Now, other things come into play, of course. One being the -- this that you are away from the epicenter and also the depth of it. The more shallow the quake, the more shaking there'll be. Well, you're looking at now across parts of South America and Chile are all the aftershocks.

The largest quake is right here, and that, of course, was 8.8. All these smaller quake and there's been over a dozen of them anywhere from four to as high as 6.9. So, some vigorous shaking and just the aftershocks, and they will continue. Not only just today but for the next several weeks and some cases for months to come.

So, we've seen quite a bit of shaking and obviously a fair amount of damage. This is about 200 miles away from the capital itself. So, that's the good news, but it's so strong, it's not -- it wasn't quite on top of this epicenter like Port-au-Prince was. But this one was so much stronger that the amount of shaking and energy released certainly would be equivalent to Haiti if not more even though it's farther away.

All right. So, we've got the shaking incidents, which will be ongoing with aftershocks, and the other thing we're dealing with now is a potential for tsunami. And that, I think, is a greater more widespread deal that we're going to have to undergo.

Cities, just close to Chile and Santiago and of the coast line there. They're getting hit first with the tsunamis. Valparaiso that will be farther to the north, had probably a wave that came through. We don't have reports out of there yet, but now some of the estimations as far as where the tsunami will be is very widespread and we've got unofficial reports in some of the islands just offshore, Easter Island, for example and the Juan Fernandez Islands. Some of these islands may have seen a tsunami as high as 40 meters.

Now, I got to believe that when I see it, that's an incredible number. But certainly that's close enough to see a significant tsunami. We'll have to wait and see what we're looking at here.

All right. The other thing I want to point out is what's going on physically. Just to give you an idea of what that geologist is talking about. This plate basically is slamming into the South American plate. And that's why you have this to be a very active zone. You got the Andes Mountains there. You also have obviously every active earthquake zone. And now this tsunami warning has been expanded northward to include Hawaii.

And there's just been an advisory, Betty, included on the West Coast, as well. Tsunami advisory, not a warning, but an advisory for the West Coast of the United States, that would include California, Oregon, and Washington. The timing of this tsunami to get to Hawaii would be 11:00 a.m. local time. What the size of that wave would be, we still don't know, and we'll have to keep digging as we go through time here.

NGUYEN: And just to be clear, I heard you correctly, Hawaii, but also advisories in California and Washington state?

MARCIANO: An advisory, basically just means keep a heads up, they may upgrade that to a watch or warning, but we very well, will probably see some sort of sea level rise along the West Coast, not sure if we'll see an entire wave that could be destructive. But the advisory has been issued and upgrading that to a watch or warning is a possibility.

NGUYEN: That just shows you how massive this quake really was. And you're hearing those kinds of watches, warnings, and advisories so far away. All right, Rob, I know you're with us all morning long and of course we will continue to cover the breaking news in Chile, an 8.8 magnitude quake rocks the area, forcing us, we've been talking about those tsunami warnings.

MARCIANO: And also, we've got the big weather story here happening here state side. Karen Maginnis, in the CNN Weather Center, Orange County, New York got well, some spots about two feet of snow. Stay tuned.


NGUYEN: Well, good morning, everybody, and welcome back. Folks in the northeast, they are digging out today after the area just got smacked with its third blizzard this month. Some places got more than two feet of snow, travel obviously was dangerous. Parts of the Pennsylvania turnpike and I-84 were closed for hours. And about 1,000 flights were canceled. Winds gusting more than 60 miles an hour were reported along the coast.

The roof of an empty seaside motel was just ripped off in Gloucester. Look at that. Gloucester, Massachusetts. Winds quickly spread a fire in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, five buildings burned, but no injuries were reported.

MARCIANO: And hundreds of thousands throughout the region still without electricity, Betty, utility crews are working hard to restore power, but it hasn't been easy. Reynolds Wolf joins us live now from orange county, New York, that got buried by what last I heard at least two feet of snow.

Good morning, Reynolds.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Rob. You're right, coming to you from Orange County, New York, this is the town of Montgomery, places founded back in 1810. Now, according to the latest census, this place is home to roughly 3,600 people, about 971 families, families this morning without power.

So, it is really been pushed back, it seems like to the 1800s in terms of lifestyle. They really don't have much, a lot of people have fled to hotels, to homes, communities away from this particular spot to try to find places that have generators or at least some power of course at this hotel.

Now, the biggest reason we had, of course, not the snow that has been falling just right now, you see a few little dots of snowfall moving across the screen. But rather the two feet of snow that you see piled up in many locations. Now, the roads are in pretty good shape, but the issue happens to be over here towards the power line.

We got CNN photo, Journalist Ken, who is with us. Ken, let's show America what we have appeared on the side of these poles. You've noticed, he got a lot of thick snow, just kind of pressed up to the side of it. That's all due to the strong north wind that came in and just kind of bonded all that snow. Not only to the power poles like this, but to the power lines themselves.

You see them all weighted down. And then, Ken and I don't know if you can get a shot of this, I'm going to march over here real fast. He's going to call me if he can. Go over towards these trees, these trees weighted down like crazy with of course, that heavy, heavy snow.

So, you get a tree that's maybe, this one certainly isn't 40 feet tall, but if you have a 40 feet tall tree coated with ice and snow, you can actually put up to four tons of weight on it. Of course, that weight going to cause those branches to break, the branches break, they hit those power lines, the power lines fall, the power goes out.

Now, power here went out around 8:00, 8:30 or so on Thursday night. And that they've been told people in the community that the power may be restored, may be restored by midday or even late on Sunday. So, people here are kind of frustrated and understandably so, and hoping that things will get back to normal by the end of the weekend certainly into next week. Let's send it back to you in the studio.

MARCIANO: All right. Thanks, Reynolds. Of course, we'll be following the after effects of the snowstorm. But the bigger story is the earthquake rocking Chile and tsunami warning and advisories out for much of the specific basis. So, Karen Maginnis is going to pull on double duty here, covering both things.

NGUYEN: Yes, this is a massive quake, very large 8.8 magnitudes. And to put that into perspective, Rob, when we look at the Haiti quake, that was a 7.0 magnitude quake, this is 8.8. So, how many times more powerful is that?

MARCIANO: As far as the energy released or the strength that the USGS measures this by, the equation they use, it's not quite exponential but it costs. So, a 1.8 increase in magnitude would result in 500 times the amount of energy released or strength. So, other things are included in that, when you talk about damage, and that would be how close are you to the epicenter?

NGUYEN: Right.

MARCIANO: How deep is it? Is it a shallow...

NGUYEN: This was to be shallow, wasn't it?

MARCIANO: Fairly shallow, but not as shallow as Haiti.


MARCIANO: From the people that I talked to USGS in the past, they tell me that, you know, one thing that they're never too sure on right away is the depth of it. So, they have this thing measured about 55 kilometers, but their margin of error is probably plus or minus 20 or 30, but it's still pretty shallow.

And the other aspect of this is which would tell you how much damage that you're going to get is, what's the make-up of the soil? One of the reasons that western part of Port-au-Prince saw so much damage is because it's kind of a sandy soil that is not quite as bedrock solid as places to the east. So, this is all going to shake out here as we go through time.

NGUYEN: Yes. And there's a difference between power and size. And when it comes to the size of this quake, it was larger than the one that struck Haiti.

MARCIANO: Certainly larger, but when you look at numbers, I think, it's maybe ten times "larger," but as far as the effects or the strength goes, you know, you're talking about 500. But, you know, either way also has to do with, you know, how good are the building codes.

NGUYEN: Right.

MARCIANO: So, there's so many things to consider. And obviously what hurts the most here, is it happened in a very populated area again. And this one...

NGUYEN: In the middle of the night.

MARCIANO: This one unlike the Haiti one is a different deal physically, where we actually had a tsunami generated, much like Sumatra. We have movement at the bottom of the ocean floor, so, we had a tsunami generated. And that's the scariest part I think right now because that Tsunami is going to ripple through the pacific basin and it's going to affect even more people.

NGUYEN: Yes, we have a tsunami wave recorded as high as nine feet. So, that's just giving us just some early indications of what folks they are dealing with. Let's get some more now from CNN's International Ivan Cabrera. Ivan, give us a latest on the best information that you have so far when it comes to those aftershocks, that we understand could last up to weeks.

IVAN CABRERA, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: As we saw with Haiti, they continue certainly for hours and days and continue to weeks. But I want to talk about this tsunami situation here because I must tell you, this is something that you just don't see every day. The entire pacific basin is basically under a widespread tsunami warning. There are very few areas that are under advisories.

And I'll name them to you because the rest of the Pacific Basin is under a warning. So, we have essentially the advisory for coastal Alaska and for California. The rest of the Pacific Basin is under a tsunami warning, which means a tsunami is imminent. And so, we talk about the destruction that, that can cause certainly with an 8.8.

You have to think back, not even Samoa last year, you have to think back Banda Aceh where we had that 9.1, and the tectonics here, the plate tectonics are similar one. You get these converging plates here. But what I want to do is, I want to fly in here because I want to show you the coastal communities here that have been impacted. They had no chance, densely populated, very close to the epicenter. This is one of them here, Talcahuano, 250 thousand people lives here.

Remember, when the southern hemisphere, so, when it is summer time here, a lot of folks are vacationing as well, and you have to add the population on top of that. I have to believe that with the data that I've been seeing here, that this entire region likely has been under water from that tsunami with an 8.8 being so close near the coast there.

So, we are talking about a potential widespread destruction here. Not only from an earthquake, we have that story, and now we have the tsunami here. And we're going to continue to see this propagating with the waves over the next several hours here.

Just imagine if you are in essentially in an airport and you're taking a plane and you're going to another country, the plane flows about 500 miles an hour. That's about the speed that the wave is going to travel here. So, you're not going to get from Chile to Hawaii in just a few minutes, right? Even if you're traveling on an airplane. So, we do have hours upon hours to warn folks across the rest of the pacific basin and that's why the warning has gone out for this 8.8, that is likely going to be causing immediate destruction across the Chile, but the propagating waves certainly will continue to spread as far as Russia, heading out towards the Philippines, Japan under that, as well.

Like I mentioned, the entire Pacific Basin, Betty, under that tsunami warning. We'll continue to follow it here. But the data that I've been seeing compared -- if you remember last year, we had that Samoa earthquake that caused devastation. The wave heights that I've been seeing from the buoys are actually double, double of what we saw last year in Samoa.

So, you can imagine here that we are going to be seeing as the light begins to come in some severe destruction. Not only from the earthquake at 8.8, which is a great earthquake, but also from the tsunami.

And keep in mind, if you think about Haiti, we have that 7.0 with the strike flip with the plates going side to side. That doesn't generate that upward lift that you get -- that you need for a tsunami, right? 7.0, when you get from 7.0 to 8.0, that's 32 times the magnitude, you multiply that by 32 and you get 1,024, which would be a 9.0, so we're close, close basically talking about here 1,000 times more energy displaced from that rupture, from that earthquake than we saw in Haiti. And you saw the devastation in Haiti there.

Of course, the buildings are built differently in this region, we have the different topography here. But even if you design a building, if you engineer your building to be earthquake proof, you are still going to get damage from an 8.8. Think of San Francisco, in San Francisco had an 8.8 earthquake, there's going to be some significant damage to the buildings because not all of them are set up to withstand that kind of force.

And so, here, I have to believe that not only, we are going to see devastation from the earthquake, but also with the tsunami. And like you said, Betty, the aftershocks continue. We've clocked some there at around 6.9, which in itself has caused additional damage. One building doesn't go down, you get a 6.9, it's coming down.

NGUYEN: You have this problem compiled on top of other problems. And it's not over yet because you talk about the aftershocks will continue. And then others will face these tsunami warnings and see the waves head their way.

CABRERA: Keep you posted.

MARCIANO: Thank you, Ivan.


MARCIANO: We are following the aftermath of this huge earthquake in Chile for sure, and just like after Haiti, a lot of people are going to need help and we go to the web for that. NGUYEN: Josh Levs, is taking a look at that this morning. What are you finding so far, Josh?

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, guys, already a web is playing a major role in the way people are responding to this. We have for you, live breaking video on the web, from this area. We also have some of the first pictures from affected areas. And, an "American Idol" finalist who happens to be in Chile has unintentionally become a breaking news reporter. All of that coming right up.


NGUYEN: Good morning to all of you watching across the U.S. and around the world. We are following that breaking news out of Chile this morning. An 8.8 magnitude earthquake struck overnight, just after 3:30 a.m., local time.

Now, it is the most powerful quake to hit Chile in nearly 50 years. The epicenter, near the city of Concepcion, and that is about 212 miles southwest of the capital of Santiago. Now, Concepcion is Chile's second largest city with the metropolitan area population of about 670,000 people.

There are -- yes, 670,000 people, there are reports of at least 52 deaths in Chile, but that number, unfortunately, is expected to rise. Tsunami warnings have been issued for much of the Pacific. And no word yet on any injuries, but we're also checking on damage to structures. Already we know of a major north/south bridge damaged by this quake. And one of our folks in Santiago tells us that the shaking lasted about 45 seconds.

People are already reaching out to find their loved ones through Twitter, Facebook, other social media sites. And we've been checking on that this morning.

MARCIANO: Josh Levs is on it to give us a breakdown of what's going on, on the web.

Hey, Josh.

LEVS: Yes, hey, guys it is going crazy on the web. In fact we are going to zoom right in. I want to show you a few things going on. A lot of people turning to this website that is carrying live video from TV de Chile (ph). And you can actually see it right here. This is some of the video they are carrying right here online.

Of course, we at CNN are bringing you breaking news video, as well. This is all at, which is carrying this Chile news throughout the day. There's also a couple of surprising things I want to show you here. It is the top topic on Twitter. No shock right there. A lot of people sharing information, also saying they're looking for their loved ones using every web tool they can to try to find their loved ones.

One thing a lot of people didn't see coming a guy getting a lot of traffic today, is named Elliot Yamin. You might remember him. He was an "American Idol" finalist a few years ago. He happens to be in Chile. He has been Tweeting like crazy, every couple of minutes. Calls it "the scariest night and morning of my life." He talks about the fact that is trying to get to an airport. He says the closest airport to where we in Vina del Mar is six hours away. We felt about 30 aftershocks already.

Speaking of those aftershocks, I want to take you all over for a second to this. This is from the USGS and this is where we often get our first information here in the CNN newsroom about specifics on earthquakes.

Now, Scotty, can you zoom way into that? I want everyone to understand, particularly those here in the United States who are just waking up, every little blue square is its own separate earthquake. And this giant map -- get further and keep going. The giant mass of squares, they just keep piling on top of each other, every time we refresh the screen. All this in that area happened while you were asleep. This is just a handful of what we've been seeing right there.

Now, let's talk about how powerful this is and where it measures, with respect, to history. This is a map that the USGS puts out there. And I want to scroll down for a second. I want you to see these numbers. Initial information, today's quake in Chile, 8.8 magnitude, right? Biggest in recorded history ever is right here, 9.5 in Chile back in 1960.

As you look at these numbers, in the low 9s and then the mid 8s. If it's 8.8 holds, we're talking easily one of the biggest in recorded history which goes back more than a century. But we have this map for you, here at, which is important to keep in mind. This shows you the most powerful quakes ever, but they're not the same as the deadliest quakes ever.

And that's something we'll be talking to you about throughout the day here. How powerful the quake here, is does not automatically translate into it being one of the deadliest. It depends a lot on where it hit, how close to a population center, and as Rob was saying, the strength of the structures in that area.

Now, before we go, let me pop in here. We are getting some of the first Twit picks from the entire area. This one is kind of dark, it might be a little tough for you to see. But in this area, right here where I'm putting my hand, we are seeing what appears to be a bunch of rubble. CNN has spoken with the woman who posted this. And she is telling us where it was and there was some destruction.

And what we are looking for now is some of the latest on all fronts from that area. This is where you're going to be finding CNN's coverage throughout the day. It is front and center on our main page. We have all of the details coming for you, including the latest video all day long.

And let's do one more thing before we go. I want to put this in context for you. Let's zoom way back in one more time. You're going to be seeing this a lot today. Whenever you hear about an earthquake in another country, it can be a little bit difficult to bring it home, keep in mind how close it is to where you are.

You've got South America right here. And Chile as you might know is this little stretch along the western coast right there. Now, when you're hearing concerns about tsunami, the reason there's also been concerns, advisories about the West Coast of the United States, boom, boom, boom. We're going to just zoom right up to here.

Keep in mind, this is the big picture for this continent, for this area. Then here you've got Chile, just zoom north, a little bit west, to the West Coast of the United States.

All right, we've got Twitter, Facebook. We've got everything out there. If you are in a position where you have seen something, or a relative has sent you a photo in a safe way, send it to, or send it to me at Twitter or Facebook. May page is JoshLevscnn, you can't miss me.

We will be sharing with you a couple of times each hour throughout the day, Betty and Rob. All the latest images, all the latest video from scene to help tell that story as best we can.

NGUYEN: Yes, that top 10 list is pretty astonishing. If you count on there, you know, Chile as in four different places on that top 10 list. Number one, number five, tied for number seven, and then at number 10.

LEVS: I'll just say the flip side to that is that we've been seeing some Tweets from people in Chile who say, hey, at least we have had a lot of these before. So in some ways, we know what it is like. And in a way -- and you and Rob can also speak to that very well. In a way that does mean that you have people who know about preparations, who know about response, and there's positive things there.

LEVS: In some cases.

NGUYEN: And hopefully the buildings have been built to withstand some of this, too.

OK, Josh, thank you for that. We'll be monitoring what comes into CNN -- Rob?

MARCIANO: Thanks, Josh.

All right, guys, we're following this thing. And it was 200 miles away from Santiago, the capital, yet the capital of Chile was affected. Anita Herrera joins us live from the phone there. She is an operator at the Hotel Kennedy.

Anita, I hear the power went out, what else went down where you are?

ANITA HERRERA, OPERATOR, HOTEL KENNEDY, SANTIAGO, CHILE: Hey, Rob. Yes, you said we still have problems with the lights.

Well, the worst part is the problems with the communication and the cell phones connections are failing in central and southern area. So there is a lot of trouble. There are some broken highways, a lot of people had died from heart attacks, had falls from buildings. So people are very panicked. They're waiting for another aftershock, because we have had a lot of them.

MARCIANO: What do you see ...


MARCIANO: Describe the scene for us. Are you inside the hotel right now? Are you outside of the hotel? What do the buildings look like? What kind of damage and destruction did this quake cause to your area?

HERRERA: No, the hotel is very good. Inside the hotel, I'm still working. People try to work. I don't know, there's a lot of people. The airport is closed until -- for approximately 12 hours, so until 6:00 p.m., approximately. So people are waiting for any news from the airlines. Highways, as I told you, are broken. So nobody can drive through them. What can I say?

MARCIANO: What kind of response are you seeing from the local authorities, the fire department, the first response teams getting around and trying to help people that may have been hurt or worse?

HERRERA: Yeah, they're working very hard. We have been listening to the news of the radio because we have -- we do not have any Internet connection yet. And nothing, we're still waiting for some news. But we know that firemen, policemen, ambulances. We have had some trouble with hospitals. But people are being rescued from somewhere, some buildings. But they're working hard. So we can do it better.

MARCIANO: No doubt about that. I can hear the tenseness in your voice. I know you have a long road ahead in recovering from this quake. And I thank you for much for sharing your views with us. And good luck to you.

Anita Herrera live for us from the hotel in Chile. Sounds to me, from what she's describing, because of the building codes, because it's a little way from the epicenter, we're not seeing the mass collapses that we saw in Haiti. But she did mention infrastructure down as far as highways, difficult to get around. Those are similar stories we saw in Haiti. And that's the headaches and the handful of obstacles that the first response crews are going to have to overcome.

NGUYEN: Not even to mention the fact that electricity's out, water's house, telephones are out. Folks who do need those emergency services simply do not have them at this moment.

A lot of this information still coming into CNN. Of course, we'll bring it to you as fast as we get it. We're also hearing from people who lived through that massive quake in Chile, getting some of these new pictures of the aftermath. We're going to be bringing that to you.

MARCIANO: You bet. Video and information coming to us every minute. Stay here for the latest.


NGUYEN: Good morning, everybody. We are following breaking news out of Chile today. An 8.8 magnitude earthquake has struck overnight at 3:30 a.m. local time. That's a big problem considering so many people were at home and asleep, and probably did not hear any warnings when it did occur.

MARCIANO: No, just waking up with that rumble, if not worse. It's the most powerful earthquake, Betty, that has hit Chile in nearly 50 years. The epicenter is near the center of the city of Concepcion, about 212 miles southwest of the capital of Santiago. Concepcion is Chile's second-largest city with a metropolitan area, and a population of about 670,000 people. There are reports of at least 52 deaths in Chile, but that number, as you can imagine, is expected to rise.

Tsunami warnings now have been issued for pretty much the entire Pacific Basin. So we'll update you on that situation. No words on injuries in regards to tsunamis. We're also checking on damage to structures. We already know of a major north/south bridge damage by the quake. And we've heard by reports on the ground that some of the highways are in disarray and unusable. So that's going to be a problem. One of our people also tells us on the ground that the shaking lasted about 45 seconds.

NGUYEN: I want to go right now on the phone to CNN's Soledad O'Brien. She is, in fact, in Miami about to board a plane for Chile.

And, Soledad, I understand you spoke with some flight attendants who just got off of a flight from Chile. What did they see? What did they experience?

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): It was interesting, we sort of passed. We were heading out and were the last flight to get out of Santiago; the last flight to land from Santiago. And we spoke to one of the female flight attendants. She was in a group of about six or seven others.

And she said, you know, I have four kids, who I left with a sitter so I could get on this flight for American Airlines. And she was aware that the kids had gotten out, in the initial earthquake. She was on the phone with her 10-year-old daughter, who had gotten separated from her siblings, and the sitter, was very, very upset. And the phone went dead.

There was another aftershock, so she hasn't-at the time we talked to her, she wasn't able to get that connection back and she said her child was very nervous. She herself was very panicked because of the loss of connection, and also knowing her kid was out on the street. Good news, out of the buildings, bad news, 10-years old and completely separated from her sitter and her siblings.

The entire crew that we spoke to, who had been coming into that hotel where we were leaving, said they had family members in either Santiago or in Concepcion. And they said that they were not able to get through, for the most part. Those who had gotten through said that the family members told them they were scared, everything has fallen off the walls, furniture had fallen over, that there was some damage that they have seen.

Now, all of them also said, remember, that both Santiago and Concepcion are two cities where the people are not only trained in how to deal with an earthquake, but also we were -- it was emphasized to us many times, that both of those cities are built to withstand earthquakes. So they really wanted to emphasize that to us. But of course, they're also very nervous about their family members, those who hadn't had a chance to get through.

NGUYEN: Built to withstand earthquakes, but we're also hearing tsunami, as well. And that's that whole other set of problems that you are probably going to see once you touch down there either in Concepcion, or perhaps surrounding areas.

O'BRIEN: Yes, there is no question about it. And that's -- to a large degree, I think, also psychologically very nerve wracking for people because there's a big sense of what, when, how big? We've just gotten through a major earthquake. And now what's coming? It is absolutely terrifying and certainly for the flight attendants. They were very, nervous about the some of the unknown that's facing them, even those who had a chance to sort of check in and say, OK, you are fine right now.

So yes, we're going to head in and hopefully get a chance to see some of this up close and be able to tell you about what we're seeing face-to-face and in person.

NGUYEN: Before I let you go, Soledad, I want to ask you, how are the flights? Is the airport open? Are flights getting into Santiago?

O'BRIEN: It's a mixed bag. If I answer that, I'm sure it would change in two minutes. Depends who you talk to and it depends on when. There are flights scheduled to go, will they go? We don't know. Some are -- we were told that the American Airlines flights were not going. It'll be interesting to see if fact, eventually, they resume and they are going. At this moment it is pretty much a mixed bag, its unclear.

NGUYEN: All right. CNN's Soledad O'Brien in Miami, hoping to board a flight very shortly to Santiago, Chile. Of course, she will be reporting from there. And if we hear anymore, of course, Soledad, please do give us a call.

In the meantime, we continue to follow this massive 8.8 earthquake that just simply rocked Chile overnight.

MARCIANO: That's for sure. People now trying to find out if they have loved ones down there, you know, are they OK? So we're going to try to dig for those stories, as well. Stay tuned with CNN for the latest on this breaking news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) NGUYEN: I want to welcome our viewers around the U.S. and across the world. A powerful earthquake, 8.8 in magnitude, has struck central Chile overnight. It is the most powerful quake to hit Chile in nearly 50 years. The epicenter near the city of Concepcion, which is about 212 miles southwest of the capital of Santiago.

MARCIANO: Concepcion is Chile's second largest city and population of 670,000. There are early reports of at least 52 deaths in Chile, but that number of fatalities is expected to rise.

Tsunami warnings have been issued along this South American coastline. And now for Hawaii, and as far away as Russia. No word yet on tsunami injuries. We're also checking on damage to structures. Already we know of one major bridge, a north-to-south bridge damaged by the quake. So infrastructure is damaged and the president of CNN, in Chile, tells us that the quake lasted about 45 seconds.

So I want to get to meteorologist Karen Maginnis who has heard a little bit more about the tsunami warnings that have been posted now for pretty much the entire Pacific Basin. What can you tell us, there, Karen?

I've been reading some of the buoy reports. We have some reports of the buoys as high as 7.7 feet. And in some cases those are offshore, and as you know, that can translate to something much, much greater once that wave reaches the shoreline.

KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right. And I just took a look, two kind of conflicting pieces of information. And that is there are tsunami watches, there's tsunami warnings, and there are tsunami advisories. But for Hawaii, there are tsunami warning, that is the most severe. And they are saying that for the Hawaiian Islands, there's a tsunami warning until 6:00 a.m.

Now, this encompasses all shores. No matter which facing shore, north facing, south facing, east, it doesn't matter. So having said that, they are estimating that should a tsunami arrive for the Hawaiian Islands, we don't know how large or how small that may be, that the first wave may arrive around 11:19, in the morning.

Now, the local forecast, they're saying the local tsunami warning goes until 6:00 a.m. So there's a little bit of a conflict there. And I wanted to point that out.

Now, the tsunami warning does cover the entire Pacific Basin; all the way from coastal sections of Chile, down towards Antarctica, up through the Palmyra, and toward the Hawaiian Islands, all the way towards Russia. This is a very broad expansive area. And they're saying that these waves could last five minutes, they could last 15 minutes, but it's something that we just have to kind of evaluate at this point.

But as you said, Rob, some of these the buoy data does indicate that, yes, there's already that rise. But this encompasses such a broad area it's just very difficult to say what this will look like as we go until 11:00. Hawaii time, and there's a five-hour difference. So, right around 5:00 our time, that's when we'll know what the situation is going to be like there.

Back to you.

MARCIANO: You have a good point. Just how long it takes for these waves to progress. You know, roughly 500 miles an hour. So it's not instantaneous, it's not as fast as the speed of sound. So there is time for the local authorities in Hawaii to get people out of harm's way. The big question mark as you mention, Karen, we don't know how big it would be by the time it gets to those islands.

NGUYEN: That was my question for those of us who don't study this, you know, often. Does that wave pick up speed as it continues to go, or does it slow down? How does that work?

MARCIANO: No, the speed would be about the same. And Karen pointed this out, as well, there's going to be more than one wave. So just kind of like, you know, in a bathtub, if something splashes in a bathtub, you're going to get more than one wave out of that.

NGUYEN: Like a ripple effect.

MARCIANO: And the first one might not be the biggest wave.

NGUYEN: Gotcha.

MARCIANO: It could be anywhere from five minutes to an hour between waves. So have to analyze the period from trough to crest, to kind of get that figured out. But it's going to affect a lot of people. And the advisories posted for the North American coastline and what an advisory means heads up. They haven't issued a watch or a warning.

NGUYEN: So, we're talking California, Washington State, all the coastline.

MARCIANO: Yes, all the coastline. My guess is there's going to be some sort of sea level rise. But at this point they don't think there's going to be a wave that would be damaging or even an inconvenience. But that may change as they get a hold of this data and analyze a little bit more.

NGUYEN: We want to bring in new pictures coming into CNN from Chile. And this, of course, being the Chilean President Michelle Bachelet. And I believe we do have some sound as well. We are going to listen to some of her reaction as this 8.8 earthquake.




NGUYEN: Obviously, this is in Spanish. We don't have the English translation just yet, but of course we will get that for you. So you can hear the words from the Chilean president. And we're also seeing new pictures coming in of the damage. A little bit earlier, we haven't seen as much damage, but as it's starting to be daylight, there. They're about two hours ahead. So, they're coming up on 9:00 in the morning there in Chile, and of course, we'll be getting more reports of not only the damage, but the death toll. Right now that death toll stands at 52.

MARCIANO: We're all over this, Betty. Also, turning to the Internet, it was such a great resource back in 2004 and a great resource with the Haiti earthquake, as well. And Josh Levs has been following that this morning.

Hi, Josh.

LEVS: Hey, there. In a way, what came up during the Haiti earthquake has created a template for what people are doing right now. Coming up, I'm going to show you the latest photos and videos coming in from Chile online. Also, families all over the world now concerned about their loved ones inside Chile. We're about to speak with a family and tell you the tools they're using to track down their loved ones. Coming up right up.