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Large Earthquake Hits Chile; Tsunami Warnings Along the Pacific Basin

Aired February 27, 2010 - 10:00   ET



BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everybody. From the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, this is CNN Saturday Morning. It is February 27th. Good morning, everybody. It's been a busy one. I'm Betty Nguyen.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN ANCHOR: It has. I'm Rob Marciano in for T.J. Holmes. It's 10:00 a.m. here in Atlanta. We begin with breaking news of course out of Chile this morning, an 8.8 magnitude quake striking overnight, 82 people dead. It is the most powerful earthquake to hit in more nearly 50 years.

NGUYEN: Also a tsunami warning is in effect for the entire Pacific basin, and that gives you an indication of just how powerful this quake is. A tsunami already has hit the Robinson Crusoe Island, which is about 400 miles off the coast of Chile.

MARCIANO: Picture from the epicenter, which is near Concepcion, about 212 miles southwest of Santiago, that damage spread across that region, and it is remarkable.

NGUYEN: Yes. Concepcion is Chile's second largest city. It's got a population of about 670,000 people. Reports of people being trapped in damaged buildings have been coming in to CNN.

Also reports of all but three stories of a 15-story building near Concepcion has collapsed, and witnesses say they can hear screaming from people trapped inside.

Now, this is another major problem. A north-south Chilean bridge has been damaged. It is un-passable. Santiago's main airport terminal, that is also damaged. So the airport is closed and it will be closed for the next 24 hours.

The president of Chile, CNN Chile, says the quake lasted about 45 seconds, although we're hearing from other people that it lasted even longer in particular areas.

MARCIANO: Now one of the biggest worries if not the biggest worry is threat for tsunami across the Pacific basin. Marty Hershon (ph), a physical geologist from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, he says a tidal wave spawned by the earthquake, or a tsunami spawned by the earthquake could reach speeds of 500 miles per hour.


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

MARCIANO: So a wave in the ocean open -- give me an idea of the buoys ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The dart buoys are seeing on the order -- remember, this is in a four-kilometer-depth ocean, the whole water column moving something like 20 or 30 centimeter, which translates when it gets to shore on the order of meters.

MARCIANO: So a minuscule wave height ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the open ocean.

MARCIANO: ... in the open ocean grows by what time? I mean, by how many times? Exponential or ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It'll vary with the coast that it hits and the symmetry, the angle of the ocean bottom. But as a rule you're talking on order of centimeters going to meters.


NGUYEN: All right. Well, the U.S. State Department has put out this phone number for Americans who are concerned about family members that might have been in the area during the earthquake. Call the State Department bureau of consular affairs. Here's the number.

And here's what the U.S. State Department is saying about the disaster in Chile. I'm going to quote for you here, saying "Our heartfelt condolences and prayers for the people and residents of Chile who are confronted with this disaster. We are committed to helping the people of Chile as well as looking after the welfare of the many Americans who live and visit Chile each year.

We have reached out to and stand ready to assist the government of Chile as rapidly and effectively as we can. There are reports of damage to structures as well as casualties. All embassy personnel, about 118, are accounted for."

So that is the statement there coming the folks down in Chile.

MARCIANO: Let's get over to Chad Myers. You heard the geophysicist say centimeters over the open ocean could turn to meters as far as a tsunami is concerned once it reaches land. What do you see from your end?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It also depends what type of bay you're talking about. Is it a catch basin, like a catcher's mitt where this one-foot wave comes in and just ramps up as it gets closer and closer to land?

And here's what has been predicted by the U.S. geological survey. This would be Chile. This would be the United States. If you kind of zoom in, I can show you there will be tsunamis all along the coast of Mexico, right up here. Here's the Baja peninsula. Here's California.

There may actually -- especially south-facing shores may get some type of tsunami all the way up into Alaska, certainly Hawaii. There are the Hawaiian islands right there. I'll get so times just in just a second. We're going to get the warning sirens going off in Hawaii here in about one hour.

But all the way across the Pacific -- here's Japan. Literally they will see some type of wave in Japan all the way through, and this is New Zealand and then down even into Antarctica there will be a wave.

This was a large generated wave by very large although semi-deep compared to the Banda Aceh quake we know about that made the huge tsunami five years ago.

But here it is, three hours away, the same speed basically as a jetliner, 500, 600 miles per hour. So by the time it gets to Hawaii, it will be 15 hours. And it does lose a little bit of momentum. As you throw a stone in or you see a boat wave go by, the wake does slow down and get smaller.

But still, this generated wave will be rolling across the ocean. It could even, although much, much smaller, could hit the land over here in Japan and then wriggle back as a secondary wave although probably within something of a magnitude of 20 percent or 30 percent of the original wave.

So let's just take you to a couple of things, because we can, here. Haiti. What happened in Haiti? This was a 7.0 earthquake in Haiti. So we'll talk about 7.0 compared to what we had today, 8.8.

If you go from 7.0 to 8.0, follow me here because this doesn't make any sense, that's 32 times stronger. From 8.0 to 9.0 is another 32 times. Multiply that out. That's a thousand times bigger. So we're not all the way to 9.0 but we're 8.8, so we're talking about somewhere in the neighborhood of 700 times stronger than the Haitian quake.

Go ahead, Betty. I hear you in my ear.

NGUYEN: We were trying to do the math earlier. We've been hearing 800, 1,000, now 700 times ...

MYERS: It's the same number.

NGUYEN: Either way, my goodness.

MYERS: Exactly. It's not so much the shape, because we'll lose a lit bit because of the depth where the Haitian quake wasn't as deep as the one we have here.

So we don't use Richter scale anymore but we have modified intensity shaking. And in Haiti we had 2.2 million people feel violent shaking, 332,000 feel extreme shaking.

Let's go back here into Chile. Because this was not under a city, this was under the ocean, let's see how that compares. Where there would be 3 million people in Haiti that felt violent shaking, here in this Chile quake, zero felt that same shaking that the people in Port-au-Prince felt.

But there's still some very severe shaking here. That's 3 million people there. Here are the magnitude, and I love this map. Dr. Frankel from Georgia tech brought this in for us and it's an amazing graphic. We will use it and show you where we are here at 8.8. Is this the star right here, 8.8? There you go.

The Hiroshima bomb attack, right there, this would be ten times, 100 times, 1,000 times larger than the average tornado, 100 times stronger than the atomic bomb, but not quite as strong, obviously, as the Krakatau eruption, the largest nuclear test, or the Mount St. Helen's eruption yet at this point.

There's a lot of energy released out there and this is going to be a very, very strong and violent and deadly tsunami for sure.

NGUYEN: Well, maybe you can help answer some of this, because we're getting a bunch of different information from the people we've spoke within on the ground. Some people say the quake only lasted about 45 seconds. Others say up to three minutes. Why the big discrepancy there?

MYERS: I don't have that graphic here right in front of me, but because there are so many different waves, there are different waves that come with an earthquake. And I'm going to ask Dr. Frankel to join me here in a second and we'll talk act these couple different waves and he'll be able to tell you. He's the seismology guy.

There's the train wreck type of wave that you feel where all of the earth's atoms bump into each other and they all just keep moving very fast. That's the first wave, the first shake that you would feel.

Then there's a secondary save that you feel that comes through the earth, comes kind of across the crest of the earth. And then there is the large shaking, the love waves that do all kinds of things. They go back and forth. They go up and down. They make the world literally turn into water. The dirt turns into like an ocean wave.

And because you can feel one, then another, then another and they keep on going, that's what some people could feel three minutes and other people may only 30 seconds depending on where you are.

NGUYEN: Got you. So there's no one specific timeframe because we were hearing different ones. Was it just because, you know, you're in it and you think it's lasting longer than it is?

MARCIANO: Yes. Sure it feels like -- probably feels like it lasts three hour, not three minutes. MARCIANO: Right.

MARCIANO: Good stuff, Chad, and thanks to Dr. Frankel for some of that insight, as well.

We're going to take a quick break, and our continuing coverage of this earthquake in Chile continues in a moment.


NGUYEN: Welcome back. We continue to following this breaking news out of Chile this morning.

A very large earthquake, 8.8 in magnitude, struck overnight, around 3:30 in the morning, really the worst possible time when it comes to people being inside buildings. And we've learned many of those buildings have received damage, some have even collapsed.

But at this hour, there are 82 people dead. This is the most powerful earthquake to hit it in nearly 50 years. A tsunami warning is in effect for the entire Pacific basin, and that spans all the way to Japan, Australia, even Hawaii has received a warning and evacuations are set to start fairly soon.

A tsunami has already hit Robinson Crusoe Island, which is about 400 miles off the coast of Chile.

MARCIANO: All right, this town of Concepcion is very close to the epicenter, about 200 miles southwest of Santiago. The damage is widespread. It's the second largest city by a population of 670,000 in Chile.

NGUYEN: Yes. There are reports of people actually trapped inside some of those damaged buildings. Also a report that all but three stories of a 15-story building near Concepcion has collapsed. And witnesses say they unfortunately can hear screaming from people still trapped inside.

Now, also this to deal with, a major north-south Chilean bridge is un-passable. That's going to cause some serious problems when it comes to getting folks to and from. Santiago's airport, that's also reporting that it has sustained some serious damage at one of the terminals there, so it will be closed for at least the next 24 hours.

MARCIANO: A different quake in a different part of the world compared to Haiti, but some of the similarities with the infrastructure being knocked down, the airport at least shut down for the time being and certainly some of the roads and highways are going to be impassable, and that's going to present all sorts of struggles.

Let's go to our Latin-American desk. Our editor in chief there Rafael Romo has been following this situation all morning long. What do you have?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Rob and Betty, you were talking about the death toll just a moment ago. The number that the government is giving out, this 82, that's official, that's confirmed, But local media in Chile are saying the number is now well over 100. Again, there's a way to confirm that because all this information is still very, very preliminary.

We're also hearing about multiple highways being closed. We were just watching images of a main state highway that basically pancaked, trapping many cars on the highway at the time of the earthquake. So that's a big problem right now.

Many streets in an around the capital of Santiago are completely closed. They're covered with debris, and it's a very difficult situation.

Also, firefighters are at this moment overwhelmed by just the sheer magnitude of this problem. A lot of people remain trapped inside buildings. You still have a lot of fire burning out of control.

And this is an especially bad time for Chile for this kind of disaster because next week on Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was supposed to visit the country, an official visit for Secretary Clinton on Tuesday.

Then a couple days later, the king of Spain, Don Carlos, was supposed to also visit Chile for an international summit for the Academy of the Spanish Language, the Royal Academy of Language.

And also, not the following week, but the next one, on March 11th, president-elect is supposed to take office. As you can imagine, normally they invite dozens of foreign dignitaries, presidents, officials from all over world. It just remains to be seen what they're going to do.

It's a tough situation not only when you talk about the humanitarian problems right now but also from a logistical perspective, Betty and Rob.

NGUYEN: No doubt. They just one problem piled upon another one. And it's not just Chile. It's plenty of other countries that are faced with a possible tsunami.

ROMO: Exactly. And the problem is that we haven't heard from a lot of the coastal areas not only in Chile, but we're talking about Peru, countries in Central America like Panama, Costa Rica, where the original tsunami was supposed to affect all of those areas.

We don't know what the situation is there and that's something we'll be following closely in the next hour.

MARCIANO: Yes, Rafael, we're getting word that there was a tsunami that hit a local area there in Chile, but measured by a buoy somewhere in the harbor at 7.7 feet, so that wouldn't not terribly high, that but could have grown larger as it reached land.

So we are curious what has happened along that coastline, and hopefully you'll keep updating for us. We appreciate it, Rafael. ROMO: Absolutely.

MARCIANO: Speaking of tsunami, Betty, preparing certainly in Hawaii for this thing. It is on its way, moving at about 500 miles an hour. So folks on the Hawaiian Islands already hitting the grocery stores and stocking up in preparation for it.

It could be either being out of their homes or hunkering down for a little while. The scheduled arrival time of the tsunami in Hawaii is 11:00 a.m. local, 6:00 a.m. local, which is just a couple hours away. They'll sound the sirens and try to get people out of harm's way in an orderly fashion.

According to geologist that we spoke to earlier in the program, estimations at this point may be a 10 to 15 foot tsunami in height, but several waves could come ashore over as much as an hour or two or three period of time once this wave gets to Hawaii.

NGUYEN: What's interesting about that is the second wave, the third or the ones that come after may be stronger than the first one, right?

MARCIANO: That's true. The first one could be just a bit of a warm-up, and you could easily be fooled. First one comes through and then the water goes back out and then people go back to the beach, and they can get hit by even a bigger wave.

So it's a dangerous situation. It sounds like in Hawaii they're not only going to evacuate but keep them out of harm's way for at least six hours.

NGUYEN: An extended period of time.

The White House is also responding to the situation in Chile, and I want to read you from a statement that they have released, saying, quote, "We are closely monitoring the situation including the potential for a tsunami. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Chile and we stand ready to help in their area of need." Again, that coming from White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

A lot of people have loved ones in Chile and they're turning to Facebook, twitter, and social media sites to see if their relatives are OK, because in many spot there is no electricity, there is no way to not only reach someone via the internet or maybe even by phone so they're trying to do what they can.

MARCIANO: Some even inside Chile are trying to seek comfort via twitter or other things. Josh Levs spoke with some of these tweeters for their reaction of what's going on in South America.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, guys. In fact, there's one twitterer or tweeter I was talking with earlier today. He was inside a hotel, felt the shaking, stepped out, screamed for everyone to stay safe, grabbed someone's hand, ran out on the street where everything was still shaking and saw things turn to rubble.

That man happens to be a music star from "American idol," and you are going to hear the interview coming right up after this.


NGUYEN: All right, we're continuing to follow this breaking news story out of Chile, 8.8 magnitude earthquake. It struck overnight. So far 82 people are reported dead. It is the most powerful quake to hit in nearly 50 years.

Now, a tsunami warning is in effect for the entire Pacific basin, and a tsunami has, in fact, already hit Robinson Crusoe Island, and that's about 400 miles off the coast of Chile.

MARCIANO: Check out some of these pictures coming into us near Concepcion, which is about 200 miles southwest of Santiago, also about 70 or 80 miles from the epicenter, devastating structures here in some spots, of course a little bit better built than places like Haiti but nonetheless this quake is stronger.

Concepcion itself is the second largest metro city in Chile with 670,000 people for population. And right now we've got the death toll at 82. That number expected to rise.

NGUYEN: Yes. There are reports also of people being trapped inside damaged buildings, the upper level of a parking deck has collapsed trapping about 50 cars. So you can just imagine just the panic in that particular area.

And also we are learning that the areas nearest to the epicenter, like Concepcion, many of the facilities are just simply knocked out there. So it's difficult to get information. But power is knocked out, water, electricity, phone lines, all of that is gone.

And a lot of what we're trying to figure out right now, to be quite honest with you and transparent, is the tsunami that perhaps may have hit that coastline.

MARCIANO: There was a tsunami that hit the coast, no doubt about it. It happened minutes within the initial quake, and now that the tsunami is rippling across the Pacific and hitting very small islands on the way to Hawaii, as we mentioned, Hawaii under a tsunami warning, and that expected to get there about 11:00 a.m.

The entire Pacific basin with the exception of California, Oregon and Washington is under that warning, and British Columbia, of course, as well.

NGUYEN: But they're under advisories.

MARCIANO: Under advisories but I don't suspect they'll see much more than water rise, and from I'm hearing they probably won't upgrade that, so that's good news.

But it does mean folks who live on the west coast of the U.S. and North America in general should keep it tuned to your local authorities in case that advisory is moved up. NGUYEN: OK. We want to get you the latest now coming out of Chile. What we're going to do now is take you to some of local reporting via television stations there. And so let's just take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It had collapsed to the side, the tile, the ceiling. These people are waiting for these construction companies to come and give answers. We're waiting also for the mayor of this area -- they also want a solution, like I say.

So these buildings have been completely evacuated. The people that left these buildings at 3:30, at 4:30 in the morning have had to leave. They have not been able to get and collect any of their gatherings. They were just trying to leave the building and just leave with their lives and not be injured.

We have spoken to some of the neighbors, and they're very upset. We're going -- we have -- this is the president-elect? Yes.

SEBASTIAN PINERA, CHILEAN PRESIDENT-ELECT (via translator): This earthquake, it's a big impact for Chilean society. The first place, I share the pain of the more than 122 people that have lost their lives because of this earthquake mostly in the regions of Villa Rio. This number will likely go up and we have many injured.

I would like to say to everyone that we will put this position of the actual government, all the collaboration of the future teams. I have asked the news director that -- they have our entire cooperation after March 12th.

Also there's been big losses in transportation, in roads, in airports, flights, also in infrastructure of housing. I am committing to a complete and total help of our administration with the current administration.

We're asking for the cooperation of the local governments to continue collaborating past March 11th. We have to continue working together to help the victims and to rebuild what has been destroyed, and also to help us be better prepared to prepare for these situations in the future.

Sadly, Chile is a country of catastrophes. We've seen this in the past, and this is the biggest one that we've seen in the last 30 years. And this is -- it's going to take a national effort to recover from the consequences of this earthquake.

We're asking everybody in Chile to stay calm, to -- and to know that the -- our government will be doing everything necessary to recover from this earthquake and accelerate the process of reconstruction. I will be -- I will be traveling to some of the areas that have been more affected.

It's been -- they have called for a catastrophic zone in the fifth area. And this makes it easier for all the processes to be able to help victims.

There's also -- we've asked our ministry, our ministers to meet during -- to meet today to coordinate with the current government so we can get together a plan for reconstruction and recovery for the effects this earthquake has caused our country.

QUESTION: (via translator): Will you be making any changes to your government plan that you promised in your campaign?

PINERA: We will keep our government plan. It was ambitious, serious, responsible, but it's going to work. It's sad that -- this earthquake is not going to affect the commitments that we made during our campaign.

That is the words of the new president-elect of Chile.

NGUYEN: OK. We've been listening to local television there in Chile, listening to the president-elect talking about how the country will move past this, but obviously they have a lot of work to do right now.

Stay tuned to CNN because much more information is coming into our newsroom as well as new pictures. We are following this minute by minute. You're watching CNN SATURDAY MORNING.


NGUYEN: Let's get you some more information on that breaking news out of Chile today. It's an 8.8 magnitude quake that struck overnight. We understand from listening to the president-elect just moments ago that right now at least 122 people are reported dead.

But this was the most powerful quake to hit in nearly 50 years, and of course much more information will be coming throughout the day. So that death toll may change, and most likely it will.

A tsunami warning is in effect for the entire Pacific basin, spanning all the way to Hawaii, Japan, Australia. A tsunami, in fact, has already hit Robinson Crusoe Island, which is about 400 miles off the coast of Chile.

MARCIANO: We expect sirens to sound in Hawaii within the hour to alert residents who is live along the coast to evacuate. Those orders are in place right now. Pictures from the epicenter or near the epicenter in Concepcion about 200 miles southwest of Santiago, showing some of that damage, which is widespread across that area.

Concepcion, for those who don't know, is a pretty big city. It's the second largest in Chile with 670,000 people, and we have had reports of people trapped in some of those damaged buildings.

NGUYEN: Yes. The upper level of a parking deck, we've been told, has collapsed, trapping some 50 cars. We're getting a lot of information trickling into CNN, a lot of new video, so as soon as we get this, we will be bringing it to you. CNN's Josh Levs has been following the latest stream of information on the earthquake and a lot of that coming to us via online.

LEVS: It absolutely is. We can bring you a lot of information. We've been doing that every hour nonstop, all morning long ever since this happened.

But there is nothing like the stories of people who were physically there when this happened. I'm going to bring you one right now from a guy who was inside a hotel when it started shaking. He's going to tell you his story.

And you know who he is because he was a finalist on "American Idol." This is my conversation from earlier this morning with Elliott Yamin, who just happens to be in Chile.


ELLIOTT YAMIN, AMERICAN IDOL FINALIST, (via telephone): 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 -- 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.

LEVS: Swaying as in the building started 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 to just a very -- just a very violent shake.

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

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

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

LEVS: I understand you're in Vina del Mar, right?

YAMIN: Right, we're in Vina del Mar, 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 various video from Chile. We don't obviously have Elliott's exact location.

Elliott, I've been looking at your tweets all morning and some others, so correct me if I'm wrong, I believe one of yours said that you felt at one point you started running for your life. YAMIN: I was. I mean, you know, I just -- 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 the time. And as I was yelling out, I saw him kind of peek around the corner, and then he started heading toward the stairs.

And amidst the building kind of rumbling, it was like a movie, like a Hollywood film. You know, we're running down the hall as we're being kind of thrown about the hallways. So we reached the staircase and ran down six flights of stairs to safety, and luckily got out unharmed, unscathed.


LEVS: There was actually a lot more to that story about what happens once he gets out on the streets. Plus he explains he's a diabetic. He didn't bring enough medicine. He says he's going to be fine but he explains what he's done. You can see it on the main page of

Also, be with us next hour. We'll hear a lot more just because he has a stirring story about what it was like to be inside.

Let's go to Twitter now. These are his tweets, but I want you to see some other tweets we're following today. These are some people listing names of American students, their relatives who happen to be American students studying in Chile.

I've got another one for you here. This is a tweet I got from Carl inside Hawaii. It says Wal-Mart had people stocking up on water as early as 2:00 a.m. local time because of fears of tsunami there.

Take a look at this one, "We are hopeful and are praying for news soon. We are praying for him and all Chileans," from a mom of three busy boys with one son. Keep them coming. My twitter right there.

Also, we're following all sorts of tweets and everything you've got at Send us your videos and stories. As long as it's safe, we're happy to see what you've got there. So Rob and Betty, I'll see you guys in a few minutes.

NGUYEN: Especially if you are near the epicenter, Concepcion or any of the other areas. And we're getting very little information, we're starting to get some pictures, but information as to how massive the damage might be. It would be very helpful if you could tweet or send us messages on Facebook as well. All right, thank you, Josh.

MARCIANO: Thank you, Josh.

We're going to take a quick break and be right back.


MARCIANO: Welcome back to the CNN NEWSROOM. Let's get you caught up. An 8.8 magnitude striking overnight in Chile -- excuse me -- at least 122 now dead, the most powerful quake to hit that area in nearly 50 years.

And now we also have a tsunami warning that's in effect, tsunami definitely striking the local area of Chile and now widespread across the Pacific basin as far as the warning goes.

NGUYEN: Yes. It's going to take a good part of the day for us to see just how drastic this tsunami could be when it reaches places like Hawaii, Japan, Australia, because those warnings are up for, really, like you said, the Pacific basin.

We're getting new video coming in right now where you can see some extensive damage, buildings just crumbling, and the death toll, as Rob said, is at 122, that coming from the president-elect of Chile.

This is one particular area, also the city of Concepcion has been this damaged as well. It's a pretty densely populated area, Concepcion, because it has about 670,000 people. The question right now is how many have been injured or killed because of this earthquake.

MARCIANO: These pictures out of Talca where there was definitely a local tsunami there. You see some of the water that's left over.

NGUYEN: Right there, yes.

MARCIANO: And you can see some of the flooding from that tsunami. This is on the coast south of the epicenter, and this is where buoys reported at least a 7.7-foot tsunami, but I was going to guess it would be larger than that.

And this is probably a combination of earthquake damage and also tsunami damage. And these are the first pictures that we're now getting in that show first response crews trying to dig people out of the rubble, trying to clear roadways to get emergency vehicles in there.

NGUYEN: Rob, let me ask you this, and I don't even know if we have the answer just yet, but when you have a situation that you've got an earthquake and then a tsunami that occurs after, how much time in between do the folks living there have?

MARCIANO: It depends on how far you are from the quake. In this case that village probably less than 100 miles from the epicenter. So you've got a wave that travels at 500 miles an hour, so you're got ten minutes.

NGUYEN: Wow, so it's a one-two punch.

MARCIANO: And then basically you feel it, and then within minutes here comes the wave. So if anybody lived close to that shoreline, they may have been washed away by the tsunami itself.

So these are the first pictures we're getting along the coastline nearest the epicenter, and again probably several waves that inundated this area and several waves have shot out and propagating across the Pacific ocean.

Hawaii, you're on the list, 11:00 a.m. your time is when we expect the tsunami to get to your area. And estimations right now are 10 to 15 feet.

NGUYEN: I want to take you now to CNN's Chad Myers. He's gotten up early on this Saturday morning to help us understand exactly how large of a quake this is, put it all in perspective, and really help us prepare for what's to come for these tsunami warnings. What do you know so far, Chad?

MYERS: And Dr. Kurt Frankel from Georgia Tech, my phone a friend, this morning, thank you for getting up at a ridiculous hour this morning.


MYERS: He's a seismologist here. He's going to explain exactly why people felt waves and felt shaking for so long, because typically, some were saying ten minutes. I know it seems like an eternity when your whole mind slows down, but there are different waves that arrive at different times. So people actually can feel shaking for a much longer time, right?

FRANKEL: That's right.

MYERS: Let's start.

FRANKEL: The first waves we have are called t-waves, and this is like if you got into a front-end collision in your car, a quick slam and sort of compression. As you can see the waves compressing and extending, compressing and extending as they move through earth.

MYERS: Kind of like pushing a slinky.

FRANKEL: Exactly.

MYERS: So you can feel that ...

FRANKEL: One jolt.

MYERS: Like one jolt. OK.

FRANKEL: That's right.

MYERS: Then s.

FRANKEL: The s-waves are the next waves to arrive. These have an up-and-down motion, so a higher amplitude, more shaking.

MYERS: More damage will happen with this.

FRANKEL: Exactly.

But when the surface waves -- both the t-wave and the s-wave travel through the earth, then we have two sets of waves that travel along the surface of the earth. And these cause the most shaking, have the highest amplitude, and usually this is where the most damage comes from.

MYERS: You have to imagine that telephone pole would be a building.

FRANKEL: That's right.

MYERS: And the shaking and the deformation that would be happening to that building.

FRANKEL: Exactly. This is exaggerated. You would imagine that shaking would occur in a skyscraper.

MYERS: And this is the vertical version.

FRANKEL: There's a vertical surface wave and horizontal surface wave. The vertical has an up or down motion and the horizontal has a back and forth motion.

MYERS: Some type of hybrid, as well, where it can go both ways.

FRANKEL: It can go both ways. Both of them will arrive. They will be two separate waves. First the vertical wave, then the horizontal.

MYERS: Which does more damage?

FRANKEL: It really depends on the structure, I think, so they're both damaging.

MYERS: We are getting a lot of reports of violent shaking, yet the reports of fatalities is significantly lower than Haiti.

FRANKEL: Well, yes.

MYERS: Tell me about that.

FRANKEL: I think that probably has to do with having building codes, better building codes, and more importantly, enforcing those building codes.

And the other thing is that, you know, people in Chile, they experience earthquakes on a more regular basis so they're more prepared for that. I think those combinations of thing are probably the reason why there's less fatalities.

MYERS: Tell me about wood structures compared to the Haitian structures that were unreinforced concrete.

FRANKEL: Unreinforced brick buildings, they cannot withstand up- or-down motion or side-to-side motion at all. They would simply collapse. Wood structures can absorb some of that. Wood-frame houses are a much better building material to use in an earthquake-prone area. MYERS: We'll get back to this. This is going to show where the wave, why the wave was generated and where it's going.


MYERS: Something he told me a little bit ago, earthquakes don't kill people, buildings keep people. And those Haitian buildings were not prepared, because it was 200 years ago from the last quake, those buildings were not prepared for a quake like these buildings in Chile.

MARCIANO: What occurs in all this, Chad, is very rarely does the earth actually open up and people fall into those craters, but some of the pictures that we've seen coming out of Chile show just that, give you an idea of how powerful this quake was. Have you seen those, Kurt?

FRANKEL: I saw a couple down in the International Newsroom. Yes, there definitely are some cracks in the ground. But these aren't extending kilometers into the earth, maybe a few meters.

MYERS: But this is because this earthquake was not offshore very far.

FRANKEL: That's right.

MYERS: It was very close, so the thrust was close to shore.

FRANKEL: That's right.

MYERS: This is an amazing graphic. It will show why if you're on a boat -- I got an e-mail said I'm on a cruise ship on my way to Hawaii. Am I in trouble? No.

FRANKEL: No. That's the best place to be.

MYERS: Exactly.

MARCIANO: Great insight, guys. Thanks.

NGUYEN: And there's much more to come because we are getting additional information by the minute and pictures. We will be bringing that to you right here on CNN Saturday Morning.


MARCIANO: We've heard from people in a house, in a hotel, even outside ...

NGUYEN: In their beds.

MARCIANO: In their beds when this earthquake struck in the middle of the night. Now we'll hear from someone who was in her car.

NGUYEN: In her car driving. And that is Lorena Rios. She joins us from Santiago. Like we said, in the vehicle driving when the quake struck. Lorena, kind of tell us what in the world did you see, what did you feel, what did you experience?

LORENA RIOS, LIVES IN SANTIAGO, CHILE, (via telephone): Well, it was the most terrifying experience because it started and it kept increasing, and the intensity kept going up and up and up.

And everything was moving. We -- I actually saw that the ground was going to swallow the entire car. And, you know, it shook the car like nothing. And people started coming out onto the streets and then we also saw some type of lightning in the sky, and I think it's because it was shutting down the electricity.

Fortunately, we did not see any buildings as suffering any kind of damage. However, many people got hurt inside because things fell on them or they got cut with glass that got broken when they were running out of the buildings.

This is a very high-density area, and there are many apartment buildings everywhere. People were in the streets with their kids, their families, and, you know, it just felt that it was never going to end.

And around 7:00 in the morning we had aftershocks that were very scary, as well. I don't know how many we've had, but the one at 7:00 was very, very strong, and it felt, very close to, you know, the earthquake last night.

MARCIANO: Lorena, describe for us what you were thinking when you felt the earthquake happen and you were in your car. Were you thinking "I need to get out of my car, I need to drive to a safer place?" What was going through your head?

RIOS: For a fraction of a second, I was paralyzed. I was under the electric wires, so I knew we were in the worst position, the worst place we could possibly be.

So, you know, I told the guy that was driving, you know, back up because we are right under the electrical wires. And at that point, we tried to back up, but the car wouldn't respond to the driver because, I mean, it was like each wheel was going in a different direction or kind of undulating and just going up and down. It was like a wave on the ground.

NGUYEN: Goodness.

Well, luckily, you survived with no injuries from this. But we are looking at video of a lot of damage. We appreciate you sharing your experience with us. Stay safe, because we understand aftershocks will continue for days and possibly weeks.

This video is quite amazing, though, cars just, you know, turned upside down. And we have so much more coming in to CNN, including video and interviews with others who have experienced this earthquake, a magnitude, 8.8, a very large one that has struck Chile overnight.