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Tsunami Warnings Along Pacific Basin Due to Chilean Earthquake; 122 People Now Reported Dead From Earthquake

Aired February 27, 2010 - 12:00   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: We continue to follow that breaking news out of Chile today. We've been doing that, what, for the past six hours straight?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN ANCHOR: It's been a crazy morning.


MARCIANO: Thanks for joining us. It's high noon here on the East Coast. The CNN NEWSROOM continues with Fredricka Whitfield and Rick Sanchez. Good morning, guys.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right. You all have a great day.

A lot to cover. We are talking about the effects we are watching from at the earthquake in Chile and how so many other nations all the way to Hawaii is also getting very concerned about tsunami warnings. Alarms have been set there in Hawaii, so people are trying to brace themselves for what could be a tsunami somewhere in the 4:00 Eastern hour, our time.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Good to see you, by the way, Fred. Let's just let you know what we are going to be doing for you. We are going to take you through the information that we can get.

You know, obviously, in a situation like this, the key is to bring you the latest information as it comes in. So, what we are going to do, and I want to kind of set the table here so we can let you know what's going on. We are going to be taking you to all parts that are affected by this earthquake.

And those of you who are just join us, may not know this, but it is not just what the earthquake itself has done in Chile, but it is the effect of the earthquake that may be felt in parts, in fact, very, very far away. So, expect to see the latest pictures.

And, folks, we are going on the fly here, so as we get information, and as we get pictures, expect CNN to be the first to show them to you because we have a bureau there in Santiago. We've also have affiliations with many of the network that are covering this story, right now.

WHITFIELD: A lot of these images coming out of Santiago, as well as Concepcion, which is about 70 miles from the epicenter of this earthquake, 8.8 magnitude earthquake, quite huge, and it is causing this wave, this tsunami that's already touched a small island there off the Chilean coast. And now the concern is how this might affect Hawaii so many miles away.

SANCHEZ: You know, it is interesting, Fredericka, but there's a relationship between what we are seeing here and what were seeing in Haiti. If you look at the Ring of Fire, and Chad's going to hopefully can help us with this, it's almost shaped like a horseshoe.

And what you have, if you look at the coast -- the country of Chile, which it is this long sliver going all the way from, if you can put it in the terms of what the United States looks like, it would be like driving from San Francisco to New York. That's how long it is from one end of Chile to the other. It is a little strip, I'll use the pencil as an example, I mean, if that's Chile, you have a Ring of Fire that goes on this side and you have then Andes to the east. Ring of Fire to the west, Andes to the east.

Now, there's the area that we are talking about. And those are the islands that you talked about just moments ago. We are going to see places like -- that we have not talked about in a long time. Robinson Crusoe Island, That same Ring of Fire, tough Fred, and this is what's interesting, that same Ring of Fire, goes all the way up that coast, hugs the coastline and then comes all the way back up through the coast of Canada down through the side of the United States and then comes all the way down into where Haiti was struck not long ago.

Now, it is important to note, and this is the reason we are here, this is the reason I may soon be on a plane heading down there, it is important to note that this is a significant earthquake. So significant, in fact, that at first we were reporting it maybe 1,000 times stronger than what happened in Haiti. Now it is looking like it may be 500 times more stronger than what happened in Haiti. So, that kind of sets the table and gives you a pretty good sense of exactly what's going on, here.

WHITFIELD: Well, we've got a lot of colleagues who are working this story. Rafael Romo is at the international desk, he's watching a number of feeds that are coming in,

Rafael, what's the latest you are hearing?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SR. LATIN AMERICA AFFAIRS EDITOR: Well, Fredericka and Rick, the international desk has become the Chili desk effectively and we have extensively used social media in this part of the international desk. We are following twitter and FaceBook. And also, we have had a number of reports on Skype and then on this other side, we are receiving live video signals from Chile. And that's what is allowing us to show you the very latest of this coverage.

Now, let me show you a video straight from the capital of Chile from Santiago that is going to give you a good idea of the kind of devastation we are talking about. This is a bridge that was made to withstand an earthquake. And look at what happened to it. It is destroyed, cars were traveling on top of it when the earthquake happened, and the drivers were trapped. You can see the cars right there, some of the cars turned over and there were some injuries.

Now, let me show you one other video that we received here at the international desk straight from Chile. This next video is going to talk tp about -- it is going to show you the area of Talcahuano. That area is right next to the epicenter, the place in where the earthquake happened this morning. And what happened right after the earthquake was that there was a tidal that jumped over a road and then it flooded an area and destroyed many buildings. That's what's going on.

These are the images from Chile that really paint the story and tell you of the devastation and the sense of urgency the people have there. Now, Rick and Fredricka, let me tell you, the official death toll right now is 122. But let me caution you, that's officially from the government. And as we know in this kind of situations, that kind of number, unfortunately, always seems to go up. So...

SANCHEZ: Yeah, let me just put a caveat on that because I think it gives us a better understanding. When we first reported the earthquake in Haiti, the first numbers came in about 150 and then 200. And then we were thinking, well, what perspective does that give us?

The perspective in a moment like this when you are covering something, just at the onset is to understand that these numbers will likely increase. And even within the last couple of hours, it's important to note that we saw this thing go from the low 60s and now as Rafael pointed out moments ago, we are well into the hundreds.

WHITFIELD: Right. And getting to people, getting to hard-hit areas is part of the reason why assessment takes a little bit of time. So we are going to talk more about what's taking place in Chile. Now let's talk about the effects of what took place in Chile. We are talking about people in Hawaii who got a very alarming wake-up call this morning, just really about an hour ago.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I don't know how well you can hear me on the mike, but...


WHITFIELD: So, that was the siren. Tsunami sirens blaring away warning people to leave coastal areas and get to higher ground. And they should take that warning very seriously. Chad Myers, it is very alarming to be awakened by that. We are talking about five hours time, so it was 6:00 a.m. for people awakened out of their beds to hear those sirens -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, and that still gives them five hours worth of lead time to get to higher ground, make some arrangements, get your boats out of the water or get them somewhere else. Whatever it might be. And we know the time that it's going to hit, because we know how fast the thing goes. And so, the Chile, now, problem is completely gone. There will be no more tsunamis in Chile. What happened what happened and then that's three hours from the epicenter, there. Here's six hours from the epicenter, nine hours, twelve hours. So, we are right here. So, we are talking about some of the south facing beaches here in Mexico possibly getting a surge now. Another three hours here, that might get up to Cabo San Lucas, especially in the south-facing tip there. And right here, there's 15 hours from the earthquake, that right there is Hawaii.

So, I even have a couple new numbers now from the areas here and on the west coast. There may be some small tsunamis, some -- even in Pismo Beach, a 4.6 feet, Malibu 3.3 feet, and so -- and these are would-be, not literal waves tat would come over, but little inundations as the water would go up and go up and go up, and if that's on top of a high tide, then that's going to be a fairly significant little surge. You don't want to be out there on the beach.

Do you remember, Rick, what we talked about when they were doing this surfing contest in California? There was one wave, I think it was Oregon, the wave came in and knocked people down. That's the kind of thing you are going to see, the inundation.

SANCHEZ: I thing we refer to it as a rogue wave.

MYERS: And it is so heavy that water weighs so much and it will knock you down, it will take you out to sea, it will take your car out to the ocean, as well. You were talking about the Ring of Fire, so I'll get to that, here.

From the top of the earthquakes and all the aftershocks all the way down to the bottom of the earthquake, it's been 400 miles -- 400 miles of tearing in the atmosphere, in the earth here. And a tear, that is now a convergent tear. This is the Nazca plate. It's going under South America. That plate, if you look at it from the side, looks like this, here's the ocean, and all of a sudden the ocean plate going down below the Andes.

The Andes are here, the Andes, right here, and the earthquake was very close to shore. Only three miles from shore, so if there was an earthquake and if there was a tsunami very close to shore, the would have been instantaneous. There would not have been any difference in time. You would have felt the shock, felt the wave and you could be able to see the wave coming in.

And then if it was going this way, which we do believe it ways, that would be the three, six, nine, 12 hours as it goes on into the central Pacific.

SANCHEZ: Hey, Chad, do us a favor. Go back to your original map that you showed us showing the effect of this thing. I want you to do something.

MYERS: The timing?

SANCHEZ: Yeah, the original one. See if you can find it.

Now draw a straight line from the earthquake epicenter to Hawaii. MYERS: OK.

SANCHEZ: All right. Perfect. Now draw another one to the coast of, say, Panama or, Costa Rica, Guatemala, or something like that, which is also affected.

MYERS: Panama. And this would be like Wahaka.

SANCHEZ: Exactly.

MYERS: And these south facing beaches here, port of Escondido, probably going to see a surge.

SANCHEZ: Here's my question. Is the direct impact going to be stronger from the straight line as you look at your map toward Hawaii. Put the map back up. I'm not sure who is directing.

MYERS: You are.


SANCHEZ: Check and see -- is the impact stronger going straight out to Hawaii or is that diagonal line you are pointing to, which goes all the way up the coast of Mexico and parts central of America, could their impact be just as strong? Is it effected at all?

MYERS: Dude, I have so many maps. I just have to find it.

SANCHEZ: All right, take your time.

MYERS: Hey, guys? Could you find me the map that shows the projected model? All right, we have to go to black here for a second.

SANCHEZ: That's OK, just me -- let me give the viewers the reason why we are asking this question. Because we keep talking about a huge area that could be affected by this, but I think what the viewers would like to know is what the perspective is on where the impact would be stronger. Is it a 45-degree angle or a 95-degree angle, for example?

MYERS: I'm so glad you asked, Rick. And there you go. Here is the computer model, a simulation done by guy that is are smarter than any of you or us put together. Here's where the earthquake happened. Here's where the land mass moved under the ground. The land popped up, it rebounded from being crushed down below that other plate. When the rebound occurred, it pushed water away. And this -- you know, we model weather, you can model what the wave is going to do.

So, literally, it blasted away from South America. That right there would be the Hawaiian island, so we are missing the main blast, but still, certainly, right in the middle of a 15 to 20-foot, I would say, tsunami inundation on some of those beaches here. It also makes a difference on what the coast looks like.

Just because this is blue, I'm going to do this. If you have the water going this way, Rick, you have the coast that looks like this, then all of a sudden like a lens of your eye that focuses the light, this would focus the wave and it would be much deeper back here in the back part of the...

SANCHEZ: Which is what happened in Bandocci (ph).

MYERS: Exactly right.

WHITFIELD: OK, well Chad, we're going to check back with you throughout the hour and that graphic really helped explain why Asian coasts as well as Australia, New Zealand, all those coasts are being affected by this as well, but of course our big concern right now is Hawaii, because we're talking about the 4:00 Eastern hour which the tsunami is going to hit.

MYERS: A tsunami advisory just issued for Oregon, as well. And we'll get to that in the next couple of minutes.

WHITFIELD: All right, Chad, we'll check back with you.

SANCHEZ: Good work, Chad.

WHITFIELD: We'll have much more coverage on the earthquake in Chile. And now the effects of the earthquake, mainly we're talking about a tsunami warning in Hawaii, right after this.


WHITFIELD: Welcome back to our coverage. So, Rick, there are 1,000 Americans that we know of, or the U.S. State Department knows of in Chile, and that's why the State Department is committed to helping the people of Chile and all those visitors there as well. All but two U.S. embassy employees have actually been accounted for. Our Kate Bolduan is keeping tabs of all that's taking place there for us.

Actually, you're at the White House, but you're keeping tabs on what the State Department is doing, as well.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Keeping tabs on it all there, Fredricka. Hey there. Yeah, we are getting some word from both the White House as well as the State Department.

Let's first get you to the paper statements that were sent out to CNN. We can get that quickly to you. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs first releasing, saying in a statement that, "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 this hour of need."

And then this from the State Department's spokeswoman, Megan Mattson, she released in a statement saying, "We are committed to helping the people of Chile as well as looking after the welfare of the many Americans who live in 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."

So you can hear a strong, strong voice of resolve coming from the Obama administration that they are at the ready, ready to help. And you talked about it a little bit, Fredricka, but we're hearing from State Department officials, although they originally said all their U.S. embassy personnel down there were accounted for, they are now saying that they are still trying to locate two U.S. embassy personnel at this hour, as well as a good number, we're told, of the locally employed staff down there in that centrally affected area.

So, they are still looking for a few people, but most are accounted for as well as they acknowledged right away that communications is very difficult at this hour. So, it is tough for them to get in touch with people on the ground as they are trying to account for everyone as well.

By State Department estimates, there are about 1,000 American citizens that are in the most affected area. At the moment, they say that there are no reports of any injuries or deaths of Americans, which is very good news, but as we can tell, it is very early on. Still at this hour, communications is the big problem as it often is in these natural disasters. And that's what they are trying to get up and going as well as trying to account for people at this hour.

WHITFIELD: OK. Kate Baldoun, thanks so much from the White House.

And Rick, we're going to be talking to the Chilean Ambassador to the U.S. momentarily. He is getting in position there at Washington, D.C. we're going to check in with him momentarily.

SANCHEZ: We should probably mention, the other thing that we can do is, because there are a lot of international feeds that are coming in, we are going to try and make an effort to hook into those. I know, look, the most important thing that we can do for you is find out exactly what's going on the ground right there, right now.

This thing happened at 3:00 in the morning in Santiago area. These are some of the pictures that we've been getting from there. So, obviously, there's a lot of devastation. There are reports that there are still people that they have not been able to free.

But let me tell you something else that I think is extremely important and melusterative (ph) to know at this point, because right now the last frame of mind that we have for what an earthquake is, is the story we brought you out of Port-au-Prince not long ago. These are two completely different countries. It's really important to know, Chile, unlike Haiti -- in fact, what we are really looking at here, folks, is two extremes.

WHITFIELD: And the response is very different, too. And sorry to interrupt, but we want to go to the Chilean ambassador to the U.S., right now, he's ready for us, he's in Washington. Jose Goni, I hope I pronounced that properly.

Mr. Ambassador, give me an idea how you're able to connect with people there in Chile. What's the latest that you are hearing?

JOSE GONI, CHILEAN AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: Yes, I have been in contact with Santiago from the very beginning. And when I knew about this tragedy, and I have contacted them about a half hour ago. And I can tell you that, well, the tragedy is enormous. This earthquake is one of the most important all over the world history, and of course it will cancel (ph) history -- 8.8 (INAUDIBLE) is enormous capacity of destroying everywhere.

But, well, to -- right now we have 122 casualties. This is the official figure. Probably it is going to increase in the next hours, but it is going to be around this figure. And the distraction all over the country is enormous. Part of the public infrastructure breaches, especially from Santiago to the south, and also well some buildings, especially old-fashioned buildings have been destroyed.

On the other side, the Chilean history is very close link to these kinds of tragedies. And they -- economic and social development and it also has to have higher standards for building new buildings and for infrastructure...


WHITFIELD: So, Mr. Ambassador, let me ask you about that, then, because this is you know, Chile is not foreign to earthquakes. They happen all the time, but to this degree, this 8.1 magnitude quake, give me an idea of exactly what is in place? What is in place in terms of first response? How do you -- how are you able to get to people, what kind of machinery do you have ready to move concrete, move these buildings that you speak of?

GONI: Well, in general, the country is relatively well prepared for this kind of a situations. We have a public sector that is already reacting, and the president, Michelle Bachelet, from the very beginning, was in charge of the situation. Right now she is visiting the areas in -- damaged from this earthquake, but also the minister is spread all over the region in order to get data information from the people and from the authorities and to get the reality for having an evaluation of the needs.

Also, the air force and the police (INAUDIBLE) are to disposal for this reaction. We think that the -- right now the government is controlling the situation. It is trying to evaluate the general conditions that we have and the needs for the answers. So, we are going to get, what, the (INAUDIBLE) for this eventual need of support and foreign cooperation during the rest of the day, I think.

WHITFIELD: Has it become in more complicated because you're talking a transition of government, President Michelle Bachelet on the way out in about two weeks. How might this further complicate things?

GONI: No. No, no complication at all because this transition is -- well, the democratic won, the president of Chile is, as I said, already working. The future president is also linked to the tragedy, so no problem at all because of this institutional exchange.


GONI: (SPEAKING SPANISH) SANCHEZ: I was describing to our viewers just moments ago that your country is very different from the situation in Haiti. Your infrastructure, in fact, you are described as one of the most developed, consistent democracies in all of Latin America.

Do you feel, sir, that you have the government in place, the situation with your emergency responders in place to be able to handle this situation? If not, what do you think that you might need, and just as a caveat to that question, has president-elect Pinera made contact with the White House at this point, yet, or vice versa?

GONI: Well, I am absolutely sure that the country has the capacity to reagent and to control the situation. Already, I think, that it is under control. As I said, the President Bachelet and the (INAUDIBLE) minister are deploy all the way in the damaged region. So I have no doubt about it at this point.

Even I mentioned the cooperation of the air forces is going to be important, and the social reaction of the population is going to be also very cooperating (ph), so I think that we can manage this crisis. Eventually, after the deeper evaluation, the government could decide that we need some specific support in some areas. And in this case, we are going to communicate with our counterpart.

I can tell you that they already, Department of State and the Department of Defense of the United States have contacted me. (INAUDIBLE), even (INAUDIBLE) from the Department of State and Frank Morrow from the Department of Defense, in order to offer all kinds of a cooperation. And it also, very interesting to -- and line that even private organization, even private people have contacted us in order to offer this kind of cooperation and offered to go to Chile to volunteer.

For the time being, what I can say is that I am waiting for instructions from Santiago, but I think, as I said, that we can manage the situation and eventually we can need some very specific cooperation in the future in this section period.


SANCHEZ: Mr. Ambassador. I'm sorry.

WHITFIELD: We're up against a break.

SANCHEZ: That's OK. You didn't answer if question ability whether president-elect Pinera has been in contact with the White House since he's going to be the leader who is going to be really feeling the brunt of the recovery itself. Do we know if there's been any contact either with the present president or president-elect Pinera and the U.S. State Department or President Obama?

GONI: No, I don't know if the future president has taken the that it contact with the White House, but what I know is that your embassy in Santiago is also very close to this tragedy and has contacted them (INAUDIBLE)in order to offer this kind of cooperation. And certainly also they have also contacted with the future president. SANCHEZ: OK. Thank you very much.

WHITFIELD: All right, Mr. Ambassador.

GONI: Thank you very much.

WHITFIELD: Jose Goni from Washington. Thanks so much.

GONI: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, we'll have much more of our continuing coverage, right after this.


SANCHEZ: Welcome back. I'm Rick Sanchez along with Fredricka Whitfield.

This is special coverage that we're offering here at CNN for what is possibly a catastrophic situation in Santiago, Chile, although it's not centered exactly in Santiago. It was a right off the coast, a bit south of Santiago. We're following all the developments for you, we're trying to get you the latest pictures, the latest information and as they come in, as raw as that might be, we're going to turn it around and be sharing it with you.

WHITFIELD: And while the devastation in Chile is not over, the concern now is the tsunamis that have been spawned from this 8.8 magnitude quake that hit just -- the epicenter was about 70 miles outside of Concepcion. And the concern now is that other areas from Asian coast, Australia coast, New Zealand and of course Hawaii just might be in the bull's eye of the tsunami that is on the way.

And that's why the 11:00 Eastern hour, there were tsunami warnings, sirens going off in Hawaii because in the 4:00 Eastern hour, the expectation is a tsunami would be hitting that area.

But right now, let's talk about the origin of this earthquake in Chile. In Santiago, many people were awakened by the quake. They were in their beds, it happened overnight. Among them, Maria Jose Villarroel who's joining us via Skype and hopefully we've got a pretty good signal with you.

Oh great, I can see you now. All right, Maria, give me an idea what you felt in the middle of the night when this earthquake struck.

MARIA JOSE VILLARROEL, RESIDENT OF CHILE (via Skype): No, I was about to go to sleep because there's a festival coming on here in Chile, a very important festival. And I was going to go to bed, and I was falling asleep and then suddenly, the earthquake starts. And at the beginning when it just start, the power went off. And I heard screaming in the streets. And we are used to the earthquake. And suddenly, it didn't stop and it became bigger and bigger and we stand up under the door. And ...

WHITFIELD: Was there any damage to your home? VILLARROEL: No, no damage in my home. I know there's a lot of damage in the houses that are old and there's a lot of bridges that came down, and a lot of crashes, car crashes because of that.

WHITFIELD: We did see a lot of video of bridges and that kind of destruction. We're looking at some images right now streaming in. I'm not sure from what city, but it looks like, you know, the collapsed buildings there. A lot of these images are coming in just as we speak. Have you ventured outside at all, Maria?


WHITFIELD: Have you gone outside?

VILLARROEL: No, I haven't. I'm so scared. I haven't gone outside. But I have to go and drop by my grandma to the downtown, so I'm going to be able to see how much is damaged.

WHITFIELD: Well, how concerned are people about the structures? I spoke with the Chilean ambassador to the U.S. a little while ago, and he talked about the reinforcements, the buildings because Chile is no stranger to earthquakes. But even with that, are people very nervous about how the buildings can withstand an earthquake of this magnitude?

VILLARROEL: Yes, exactly. We are used to earthquakes, so the buildings are built for it. But most of the buildings are the old, old (INAUDIBLE) built and they came down, and people are worried because they cannot get into their houses and get all the stuff that belongs to them.

WHITFIELD: Now, what about your family or what about friends, people you're trying to reach? Are you having a difficult time calling them or?

VILLARROEL: My brother is at the beach and he was partying and he told me that while he was partying in the disco, it all started shaking and everybody came on the floor and nobody could stand up. And they tried to reach the doors and everybody was like very in panic, you know? So, but he's OK and ...


VILLARROEL: ...I have no contact with my -- with my family in south because we cannot reach them by the phone.

WHITFIELD: And so, I guess is your hope going to be through the social networking or perhaps through Skype, somehow that will be the only way that you all can contact one another?

VILLARROEL: I'm trying to connect to them via internet, but I can't. I mean, the lines are not working. Only the lines in the houses, but no cell phones. So, I cannot reach them. I have an aunt that is far away. I mean, near the center of the earthquake, and I'm not -- I haven't heard news from her, so I'm very worried. WHITFIELD: OK, well, all the best. I'm glad you're well. And of course, we hope that your friends and family that you're trying to reach are well as well. So Maria Jose Villarroel, thanks so much for your time, joining us from -- via Skype from Santiago. All the best.

VILLARROEL: Take care. Bye.

SANCHEZ: The obvious question at this time is what exactly is going on on the ground there outside of Santiago. Maybe one of the best ways to find out what's going on is to listen to what the reports are that are coming out from the many different networks and television stations that are covering this story there right now.

Dan, can you just pop up the sound from one of those? Just to see if we're ready to go on that. All right.


SANZHEZ: So, these are two of the anchors there that are following the situation there now. This is coming in from CNN Espanol or CNN Chile specifically. What I hear her saying right now is they're trying to make contact with the secretary of education to try and find out what's going to happen with the schools.

They're also sharing some of the very first pictures from the scene. They are describing which streets are being closed, route 68, she says, interestingly enough for those of you who know the infrastructure there in Chile.

I'm going to do this. I'm going to try and do as much translation as I can, so I'll bring you the actual reports as they're coming out of there. I'll listen in and I'll do a simulcast translation simultaneously for you.

But let's go ahead and take a quick break, we'll set all these things up. And as soon as we're able to do that, we'll come back and we'll continue the process of bringing you all the information as it comes in.

Fred and I are going to be talking to our producers, checking the feeds, checking the wires and seeing everything that we have available to us so we can literally share it with you as it comes in. And keep in mind, folks, this is a changing story.

It's an ever-changing story, not just in terms of what's going there in Chile, which obviously officials don't really have their hands on yet because who knows how many people may be trapped, who knows how many buildings they haven't got to. Remember, this happened at 3:00 in the morning. But as Fred has mentioned several times, the impact that this could have on other places as a result of tsunami.

So, stay right there. You're watching CNN special coverage. We're going to be right back.


WHITFIELD: Welcome back.

We're continuing our coverage of the earthquake, 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile and now, the effects of that. We're talking about tsunami advisories that are in place that are putting the United States's West Coast on alert, as well as coastal areas of British Columbia, Australia, New Zealand, Asian coast as well.

And what took place earlier in the 11:00 Eastern hour, there was a tsunami siren that went off in Hawaii where people there are bracing for a possible impact of a tsunami in the 4:00 Eastern hour.

Meantime, in Chile, they are still trying to assess the damage. We understand at this point the death toll is 122, but of course, that number could rise as they -- first responders try to get to the hardest hit areas -- hardest hit areas of Concepcion and Santiago, Chile.

SANCHEZ: CNN Chile is all over the story, as you might imagine. They have been on the air since they first heard of it. They have been carefully monitoring the situation and they're reporting now inside of Chile.

Let's dip into this and I'll tell you what's being reported. This is information coming in as we speak.


SANCHEZ: He said many houses have now fallen in the area of Arosco (ph). The supermarket has been completely destroyed as well as one of the supermarkets in Concepcion has also fallen to the ground.


SANCHEZ: The anchor is thanking the reporter. Now, we've got another reporter, he's going to be talking from Concepcion. He's asked exactly what's going on the ground there now?


SANCHEZ: People are reaching the area of Sandoval (ph) now. She says that most of the people are still in the streets, afraid to go. Apparently, afraid to go back into the buildings.

In San Pedro de La Paz, the government has now set up a help station where they're trying to give people water and whatever other necessities they may need. Firefighters are trying to get to some of the scenes.

Now, they're monitoring a radio station out of Concepcion. She is describing the situation now in Talca. She says the president is extremely effected by this and has been effected emotionally. Eighty- five people -- the report is that 85 people are unaccounted for in that particular region.

Kolarco (ph) is another area that's been effected in Chile, so much so that they -- inumerable numbers -- inumerable homes have fallen to the ground. He just said that in Coliumo, Coliumo, which is right near the border, or on the seashore, I should say there with the Pacific Coast, he says houses have disappeared. Those are -- that's a direct quote. (SPEAKING SPANISH), the houses have disappeared. That's in Coliumo.

She said there's no question, the area that's been effected the worst is the areas right next to the coast. Six different regions of the country have been effected by the earthquake. It has been 12 hours now, and the government has not yet put out an official report on the number of casualties or damages as a result -- property damages as a result of this earthquake.

There is very little information and the reason there's very little information is many of the roads are blocked and government officials cannot -- don't have access to these areas.

Chad, are you there? Chad Myers, are you hanging? Chad, can you hear what I just -- what I am translating from these reports?

MYERS: Yes. Sure, of course.

SANCHEZ: I just want to bring you in. Now, it sounds to me, and you, Fred and I have covered these an awful lot. You know, Fred, we in the media have a tendency to bring you the pictures from where we have them.

MYERS: Sure.

SANCHEZ: Where information is available.

MYERS: Correct.

SANCHEZ: And guess what, information is going to be available to us, you know, closest to the region where we have our satellite trucks, where we have our reporters, where people still have telephone contact, where the technology allows you to report.

What I just heard her say, and maybe you can illustrate this for us on the maps is the areas that have been hit the hardest are the areas right along the coast and because they're cut off from communication, and because the roads are closed, at this point, there's no way of knowing just how bad things are there. But I also heard her say that some of the houses have literally fallen into the ocean, or have, pardon me, have disappeared was the word that she used. I misspoke.

Put this in perspective for us with your maps.

MYERS: There's no question that the earth now is not in the same place, the land mass there right near an 8.8 earthquake is not in the same place as it was. Land goes up and down as earth shakes, especially on a subduction zone like this when the land can either pop up or the land can go down.

But something else, this is very interesting and I just kind of came upon this. I want to take you back to Haiti and I want to compare to what we're seeing today. Here's the Haitian earthquake. There's Haiti right there, a very small quake, a lot of shaking, but a small area. In that small area, we had 2.5 million people feeling extreme to violent shaking. 3.2 million, somewhere in there. 2.5 million, a lot of people felt that extreme shaking.

In this case, where it's a large shake area, but not as big of a shake, but you still get the 8.8 because you multiply those together, there are zero, zero people in the violent and extreme shaking. Now, the 5 million in severe with moderate damage, but those numbers are so strikingly different compared to millions, 2.5 million feeling that violent shaking in Haiti and zero feeling it in Chile.

The reason why is because where it shook, there's not that many people. There are not that many people along the coast. People don't live there. You can -- I can zoom all the way in. Here, let's just grab this, if I have time.

SANCHEZ: But that's just -- but that's -- but wait a minute. That would be the complete opposite of our megalopolis in this country.

MYERS: Isn't that funny.

SANCHEZ: We live, in fact, we concentrate our populations on the coast.

MYERS: Yes, uh-huh, I know. And this is how it is in South America. That's a road. This is a -- three miles from the epicenter. Here's the road. Here's a house and a house and another one, down the road a little bit, another house.


MYERS: Not the buildup on the coastal shore.

WHITFIELD: Well, perhaps that speaks to the history of the earthquake that take place in that area and thus, they haven't overdeveloped it.

MYERS: And -- right. And this is farmland. This is very fertile, very useful soil. You don't grow much in the Andes, OK? It's -- there's not much oxygen ...


MYERS: ...up there and the soil is really very awful. And so, in places that they can use the soil, they do. And plus, when this soil here shakes because it is literally landfill, it's dirt, it's glacial marane (ph), it's all of those things that -- not bedrock, it shakes a lot. It shakes like a bowl of Jell-O and that's what happened here.

SANCHEZ: But you know, the point to be made, and I think what I would kind of like to get a handle on or ...

MYERS: OK. SANCHEZ: least have our viewers come away with, you know, Marshall McLuhan said you know, the basic assumption of technology is that all things that are done are made and determined by the implements and the procedures that are used to make them, which essentially means that just because we in the media don't know what the impact is, doesn't mean there haven't been an impact. So, because ...

MYERS: No, but I don't think it's as big as Haiti, without a question. Even though it's an 8.8 compared to a 7.0, and a lot more shaking or a lot more total shaking went on with this 8.8 than the 7.0, more -- many, many more people were effected more violently with the Haitian earthquake.

I don't think most people know this -- go ahead.

SANCHEZ: So, I was just going to say, so these reports that I just heard, that they don't have any information from the coastal areas, and that the roads are blocked so they can't get in there, and the telephones aren't working, et cetera, et cetera, does not mean that those areas are as impacted as we've seen areas like you were making the analogy to Haiti, for example. But it does mean that it's been effected.

MYERS: Well, they are effected, but there's not 3 million people.


MYERS: There aren't 3 million living in rock and stone houses that don't have mortar and don't have rebar holding these stones up.

SANCHEZ: That's great perspective. You know, that's -- you know, Chad, that is excellent perspective and -- you know, just once again, I'm just going to tell you I'm glad we have you so that when we get information, we can run it by you and you can put it in perspective for us.

MYERS: Earthquake magnitude, the number that you see, 8.8, it is -- not only is it shaking, but it is the size of the area that shakes. So, you get shaking. Let's say that shaking is a 5. You multiply that by the square footage that moved. There's a lot of square footage. There's 600 miles from the one aftershock to the bottom aftershock. And then, how many feet or miles did it shake? You have to multiply that by a very large number and then you get 8.8.

Haiti was a 7.0, but the shaking may have been a 9, and the square footage was very small. So, when you multiply those together, you get a 7. You multiply these two together, you get an 8.8, but the shaking may not have been as significant, but the size of the move, the square footage that slid was larger in the Chilean quake where the square footage in the Haitian quake was smaller.

That's why the numbers don't match up. That's why it seems like this Chilean quake is bigger. It's bigger because the square footage that moved is bigger, and that's all. SANCHEZ: Dr. Science.

WHITFIELD: I like it. Chad Myers, thanks so much. We'll check back with you momentarily.

We're going to have much more on the earthquake that shook Chile and now, the tsunami warnings that are in effect as a result right after this.


WHITFIELD: Back to our continuing coverage now, people across the Pacific Basin are bracing for possible tsunamis after an 8.8 magnitude earthquake struck central Chile early this morning. The quake killed at least 122 people, toppled buildings and rendered many roads and bridges simply impassable.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, I don't know how well you can hear me on the mike ...


WHITFIELD: The tsunami warnings is what you're hearing right there include Hawaii, where blaring sirens warn people along the coast to get to higher ground. CNN's International Desk is covering this story from all angles by our own Rafael Romo.

Rafael, what are you learning?

ROMO: Fredricka, the International Desk is now the Chile Desk and we're following closely every development out of Chile.

What I can tell you right now is that one of the main challenges is that many of the hospitals in the capital of Santiago were badly damaged by the earthquake. So, the need now is to get patients out of the hospitals and transfer them to safe buildings.

As you can imagine, this is going to be very challenging when a lot of the streets in and around the capital of Santiago are in bad shape. And then, you also have thoroughfares like Highway Number 5, the most important one in the country, also in bad shape. Bridges that have collapsed, and all kinds of infrastructure problems.

But the fact remains that all of those people who were in the hospital already before the earthquake have to be transferred, and also you are dealing with the situation where you have hundreds, thousands, possibly tens of thousands of people who were injured as a result of the earthquake who also need medical attention.

So, that's just one of the challenges that the Chilean authorities are having to deal with right now, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks so much, Rafael. Appreciate that. We'll continue to check back with you. We'll have much more of continuing coverage of all that's taking place in Chile and now, the tsunami advisory that's affecting so many coasts -- Pacific Coasts of the U.S., we're talking about Asian coasts, Australia, New Zealand, it goes on.


WHITFIELD: But of course, the focal point, Hawaii because in the 4:00 Eastern hour, that's kind of the expectation of when they might feel a tsunami.

SANCHEZ: And those of you who have been with us for some time, and I know many of you are just joining us 'cause it's a Saturday, and like you, it may have taken a while to find out what was going on and to get your bearings on this thing.

So, the point to be made, and I think Chad Myers illustrated this very well recently was there's a whole area of the Pacific that is going to be incrementally effected by this earthquake off the coast of Chile. It's not just Chile itself.

I apologize if I'm sounding repetitive to some of you who may have known this, but if you were to take that epicenter spot that we pointed out for you there with that red dot, and literally go as you watch -- as you look at the screen, go to the left. Draw a line straight out from there and all those islands that we all fantasized about when we were children, Robinson Crusoe Island, Christmas Island, all those places there, those are the ones that might feel the brunt of this, including and as Fred just said, all the way over to Hawaii.

So, stay with us because that's the developing part of this story aside from people who may be trapped in buildings in the Santiago and Concepcion areas, that we're going to be trying to drill down on and get you information on here as we move forward.


All right, Rick Sanchez, thanks so much. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. We'll see you throughout the day for our continuing coverage.


WHITFIELD: All right, our colleagues over at CNN International are going to take the baton from here. We're going to go into their coverage for the next couple of hours and then, you can join us again 3:00 Eastern time for more live coverage with Rick Sanchez and I.

SANCHEZ: Off we go, but we'll be monitoring things for you here and as we get the information, we'll be sharing it with you. We'll see you in just a couple of hours.

Now, to CNN International.