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Continuing Coverage of the Chilean Earthquake, Tsunami Warnings

Aired February 27, 2010 - 17:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: We're going it continue to listen to live coverage from our affiliate KHON now as we look at this live image that they are bringing us.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Looking at that finger of reef right now, it definitely seems unusual that that reef was exposed just about five minutes ago, and now it's covered up by water. And I've seen the surf get a little bit more choppier than it was just a few minutes ago. So this could be related to one of the initial waves coming on shore here in Honolulu. But albeit, a small one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Andrew, thanks very much. We're glad to have you onboard. Glad to have you up there with that vantage point. We'll be switching back and forth the rest of the day to keep folks informed on what's going on.

We're approaching the noon hour. We'll keep that camera going for just a moment. We'll be checking back with Hilo. We've been fortunate to have the services of B.J. Penn at his vantage point. Great look at the Hilo shoreline and Hilo Harbor. Also, Mark Vaneri (ph) has been Skyping us this morning with his view of Hilo Bay. A little more of the downtown area, the work area around there to see what happens.

But once again, we're still waiting to see what happens as far as the tsunami that was anticipated, anticipated at about 11:04 this morning in Hilo. That has not developed. Now we're told by oceanographers that that is not unusual. That many times the size, speed, force of the tsunami cannot be precisely estimated even with all the science that we've developed, all the ocean buoys that have been put in place to get exact measurements of wave heights, et cetera. It's hard to tell exactly when and how big that wave will be.

We're hoping for the best, obviously. Our visitors who are arriving at the Honolulu International Airport and others, may find themselves in a holding pattern. Not in the air, but on the ground in safe place until all this passes. That will present some difficulties for them on Maui at the Honolulu airport, they will have to wait for quite a while until the all clear is given. Due in large part to the fact that the rental car lots are all in the inundation zone. So, they'll have to make sure that all of that is clear before they are able to proceed to their destinations, wherever that might be. Of course, a lot of people flying in to Hilo to visit the volcano and Volcano National Park. Again, all of these things on hold while we wait to see what Mother Nature has planned along the coastlines of all the islands. And once again, while we've focused on Oahu and Hawaii Island, especially the southern portion, the fact is that all the islands are under tsunami warning, not an advisory, a warning. You heard the sirens going off first thing this morning at 6:00 that indicated there was trouble on the way. This as the result of a huge earthquake in Chile.

An 8.8 magnitude earthquake that happened overnight, last night our time, and great deal of devastation there. The quake felt as far away as Brazil. And Santiago, 200 miles northeast of the epicenter of that earthquake. Severe damage to a lot of buildings there. No estimate on the death toll. Communications, of course, cut off to a lot of those areas, parts of rural Chile and the Andes hard to get to. It will be days, weeks perhaps before an official estimate of the damage and the death toll can be made.

In the meantime, we wait for word from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. And from my friends in Hilo. It's coming up on 12:02. Let's check back in with Jai Cunningham at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center -- Jai.

JAI CUNNINGHAM, KHON ANCHOR: Kirk. Nathan Becker is talking to us right now, oceanographer.

NATHAN BECKER, OCEANOGRAPHER: So far, we're observing, as you are, the drainage and refilling of Hilo Bay. And we've mentioned on our sea level gauges, the first wave is about a meter higher than normal sea level and then backed down about a meter below sea level. And it is continuing to oscillating about every 20 minutes. We've also seen a wave on the North Kailua just the North of Kona. And there is a very small signal we saw on the point gauge, I just looked at. But right now Hilo is still, as you see on the TV, it is filling and draining, and this could continue for some time. And so, this could get bigger, we don't know yet. Earlier the first wave is not necessary the largest wave. But this is very clearly this is a tsunami taking place in Hawaii right now.

SANCHEZ: You said that these things come in 20-minute intervals, these particular waves. It's been about 40, 60 minutes in now. So, we just said the first wave is not necessarily the biggest but the third could be the biggest. Are we on the third or fourth wave?

BECKER: From what I saw, the second wave started to decay, started to go back down. We had the second peak. So, peak to peak is about 20 minutes, I guess, or so. Yes, I think only the second wave has come through so far.

SANCHEZ: We're hearing about discoloration in the bay, is that something that would be an apparent sign of sort of tsunami activity?

BECKER: Sure. This thing can generate unusual currents in the water, in shallow water and could be churning up the sea bed there inside the Hilo Bay. That's probably what you're seeing. SANCHEZ: Any indication that perhaps this is a best case scenario concerning what the worst was feared, a six foot wave hit the Marquesas Islands and now we're not seeing the same heights here in Hilo?

BECKER: I'm going to be -- we just don't know yet. This is something we have to wait and see. I will be very conscious about this. We could still see a larger wave.

WHITFIELD: When can people start to feel a sense of relief?

BECKER: When we start seeing smaller and smaller waves. When the waves started to decay in size and shrink, we'll probably use that to decide to cancel. But they're not there yet.

SANCHEZ: And what time period could that be, in your previous experiences? Could this last another hour, another two hours?

BECKER: It's about an hour, the two-hour time frame in that case of scenario.

SANCHEZ: And did this officially started at 11:06 where the folks expected it or it will start a little later?

BECKER: In Hilo is later because the tide gauges inside the harbor. And that slows down the arrive of the wave to the gauge. So it was a little delayed from our prediction at the arrive of the mouth of the harbor.

SANCHEZ: So, what time it will come in?

BECKER: I think, it was about, I don't remember exactly but it's like five to ten minutes later, something like that.

WHITFIELD: You mentioned the water being a meter higher. In Hilo, have you heard any reports of any type of damage or debris or anything like that?

BECKER: Not in Hawaii, I have heard these reports of damage in Ventura, California, as a result of this tsunami.

SANCHEZ: Yes. What information can you tell us?

BECKER: I don't know. I took the call and handed it to my director. But it was from the Alaska tsunami where our senior director was getting those reports. And it is his responsibility for the U.S. mainland.

SANCHEZ: All right. We're hearing from Oceanographer Nathan Becker to talk a little bit about what they have seen and some of the data that they are receiving at this time.

So, as they talked about, the second wave, the second surge has already occurred. We're just about a meter and it's measurement. So, not necessarily large waves. But then, again, we will keep you inform, as I say, another hour or two that they will be kind of keeping track of this. Kirk -- Back to you.

WHITFIELD: All right, you're listening to our affiliate coverage there, at KOHN. You heard from the Oceanographer that was being interviewed there, talking about the first few waves. But the expectation is until they see waves diminish, that's when they will reassess the tsunami warning. But right now though, all indications are even though, they have not seen any large waves. They get to the Hilo side of the big island. Tsunami warning still very much being taken seriously. Our Jacqui Jeras is in the Weather Center. That was interesting information that we heard from that oceanographer, Nathan Becker. What stood out for you?

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, what stood out was, he gave some very important information that we started to see these rises and these falls. We've seen two of them now. We know they come in a series of waves. And we know that oftentimes some of the largest will come in and maybe in the middle of an event like this. Now, this is Google earth. We've got some data plotted over of some of these places where we observe these files. And if you can take a look there, you can see the big island, here at Honolulu. And this is one of these buoys where we start reading some of these measurements. You can see it flashing there on our screen. So, we pull up the gauge here. And you can see as we go along in time, flat, flat, flat, flat, flat.

And there we have that big red spike. So, that's an indication of that tsunami which we were talking about. Which is just off shore in that area. So, we're seeing these rises around and near the islands here in Hawaii. So, if we've seen two of them, unofficial report is that it's three feet already. We know that we could potentially reach that six to maybe eight foot height, potentially more than that. There is still a lot of uncertainty as to, you know, exactly how high this thing could go. I want to zoom in and talk a little bit about the topography in this region right. We know, these islands are made up of volcanoes basically which rise out of the water. And we were talking about that threat in Hilo. And one of the areas where we have seen some of these rises.

So, here's Hilo. Right there in the bay area, right there. And we'll zoom in even closer. And you can see, look at that point. Let's stop it right here. There we go. All right. Let's stop the animation for a second. See how that all funnels in here? So, this water is going to come around and it's going to be heightened because it's all getting pushed forward to the small little point here. So, we're going to expect the water to be higher here than it's going to be down in this area along the coast. And of course that is a very populated area where everybody lives. And that's why you have to evacuate people out of here. Now, something out there, I want to point out. Can you see this little ridge out here?


JERAS: That is a kind of the bowl. Think of this as being a bowl, OK? The elevation, you know, on the ocean floor is a little bit higher out here. It dips down in the middle and then goes back up here into the coastline. And that's a great concern. Because, think of it as the bathtub, right? And so, as that water comes up into this area, it's going to slosh back and we're going to see a little bit of back and forth more because of the makeup of this bay that we're going to see in other areas as well. So, they're going to experience a little bit more back and forth, say, than other areas of the Hawaiian Islands.

WHIFIELD: You talk about volcanoes. It was a point of reference for folks, you know, they know about Kilauea because of the eruptions over recent years. This is the island, the big island where Kilauea is.

That's right. And those volcanoes are further out here with higher elevations are. But, you know, the more height that you have closer to the shore, you know, the less that water will going to get inland. So, that is a little bit of good news. That hopefully, it won't get, you know, too far in. There you can see the airport by the way, to kind of put it in the perspective. And then you can see the elevation which begins out here. So, that water should literally go mile in shore. I just want to remind folks, that, you know, you're watching some of these tower cameras maybe on the internet or on our network here as well. And you didn't see much of that rise or much of that fall, it comes at a steady stream. It's not like Chad Myers said it perfectly earlier, it's not "Hawaii 50."

You know, you're not going to see that big wave hit the curve. You know, they will expect the surfer to be in. It will going to be that slow and steady rise that moves up and moves back. And we've been seeing that now over the past 20 minutes or so. So the confirmed tsunami is occurring. We've seen some significant rises and we can expect this to continue potentially for hours to come.

WHITFIELD: Wow! All right. Thanks so much Jacqui. We appreciate that. And on the right hand side of your screen, you're seeing the images just before you saw this image which might be a part of that bowl in Hilo that Jackie was talking about. You saw some images of a lot of cars, parked cars on a roadway. That is on the island of Oahu. We saw it earlier because evacuations have taken place whether it's on the big island or on the island of Oahu which were on Honolulu and Waikiki beach are. Well, that means, people have been taken to higher ground. Whether you live there or whether you're a tourist. So, imagine vacationing there in Hawaii and then suddenly there are tsunami warnings in place. Mark Putzy is from Wisconsin, he's in vacation in Hawaii. I understand, Mark, you have sought higher ground. Which island are you on?

MARK PUTZY, EVACUATED IN HAWAII (via the telephone): Well, we're on the island of Kauai.

WHITFIELD: And what do you experiencing there?

PUTZY: We had an emergency evacuation this morning from our hotel which was about, our room is about 20 feet from the beach. And we're on the first floor. We were evacuated to one of three points. There is golf of course up in the mountain area. And it is pretty crowded.

WHITFIELD: How did you get there?

PUTZY: We rented a car. So, we actually drove here.

WHITFIELD: OK. And how about for other folks who may have been staying at the same accommodations as you? If they didn't have a vehicle, did the hotel or the place where you were staying, did they provide transportation to get people to higher ground?

PUTZY: Yes, here on the island, they had a bus for anyone who didn't have cars. And they transported them off to a shopping center or a park or here on the golf course.

WHITFIELD: Did you take supplies, anything with you? Because, you don't know how long you're going to be on that road.

PUTZY: Oh, that's funny because my wife had a bigger bag. And all our suitcase and our luggage and I have to leave mine. I thought if we got stranded and we got flooded, then I'll have no clothes. This is day one of our vacation. So I got everything, too.

WHITFIELD: Oh my gosh. Day ones of how many days were you planning to be there?

PUTZY: We're here for seven days.

WHITFIELD: Oh, my. How nervous are you?

PUTZY: Not at all.

WHITFIELD: Not at all. Why?

PUTZY: No. We had breakfast and now we're in our third cocktail. So, right now it's all good.

WHITFIELD: OK. All right. So, you brought some cocktails with you. You don't necessarily have your luggage. But you feel like you have the important staples.

PUTZY: That's exactly right.

WHITFIELD: All right. Well, what is the expectation about how long you're supposed to stay foot? Are you getting any directive from anyone?

PUTZY: Well, they're telling us about at least two hours if not three hours before they receive the all clear or if damage occurs. I'm not really sure what happens.

WHITFIELD: Have you vacationed in Hawaii before?

PUTZY: Yes, we have.

WHITFIELD: OK. And so, have you ever been there when there is a threat of a tsunami? Is that why you are so nonchalant? You've been through this before? PUTZY: No, I never have. But we're on higher ground and safe up here. So, I mean, the only damage is or expectation is where we stay if our hotel gets flooded, I guess.

WHITFIELD: What are other people around you saying? Are they mostly hotel residents or are they island residents?

PUTZY: Mostly tourists.

WHITFIELD: Are they saying anything?

PUTZY: No. They're just -- pretty much the same thing we are.

WHITFIELD: Everyone is going to become fast friends in this situation?

PUTZY: Exactly right.

WHITFIELD: And so, what about food? You know, if it means being there for a few days -- few hours? Food or bathrooms? What have you planned to do?

PUTZY: I understand the golf course we're at is the only restaurant open in the area. And, you know, they're serving food or drinks. So, you know, right now that's good for us, anyway.

WHITFIELD: OK. Mark Putzy, we'll hope you will be able to continue your vacation. Is it your plan to stay there for your complete seven days regardless of what transpires?

PUTZY: No, actually, Monday we're going to the big island which I understand is experiencing little more this then we are. So, hopefully our hotel there will not be damaged. But we'll wait probably tomorrow and see.

WHITFIELD: OK. All right. Mark Putzy all the best and be safe.

PUTZY: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Mark Putzy in good spirits there as they wait out the arrival of the tsunami. We heard from our Jacqui Jeras earlier as well from an oceanographer who said the first couple of waves were already hit the Hawaiian Islands by measurements of about three feet or so. Let's continue to listen in as we look at live pictures of Hilo Bay right there. Hilo Bay expected to be the first hit from the other significant waves coming from the tsunami. Let's listen in to KOHN.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And, you know, you always going to get an element of people that do, do that regardless of warnings, but that's a camera shot at this point. But this is a live shot at Waikiki Beach. There are some exposed areas that you can see towards the middle of your screen. This is definitely less wave action coming in. So, I would also say, like we're seeing in Koala basin. We're also seeing the same thing happening in Waikiki, receding waters and we're seeing some of that right now. Now, another thing I want to show you is where the buoys are positioned around the pacific. Do we have those dark buoys that's help us determine where and how much energy the tsunami is generating and what, you know, what direction the waves are going?

The buoys that you see on the screen, all of them are active buoys at this time. All of them are yellow. The ones that are flashing like a Christmas three, those are on a higher level of alertness. Because, they have picked up indications of the tsunami. So, you can see they're flashing from near Chile all the way up the California coast, all the way up to Canada and Washington.

The buoy near Hawaii is also flashing, these are the back buoys. And the one that is in the middle of the ocean and the south pacific, this is the one near French Polynesia. That was flashing as well. And now, also buoys that are picked up indications of tsunami activity in and around New Zealand and Australia, and Asia, Japan and in the Philippines. So, these are the areas that have the data, they know, that this is happening and at this point. It's a watch and wait situation as we see how that energy is transferred and moved into the water, and comes upon our coastline. Kirk -- back to you.

KIRK MATTHEWS, KHON ANCHOR: All right. Thank you very much, Justin (ph). Once again, we take a look at the relief out there. Just off the beach park to see what's happening with regard to the tsunami waves. And so far, the water is rising and falling and rather rapid fashion. This is a live look now or web cam look of Kauai. And, I'm not sure if this is which caused this is. But we wanted to show from you This is Kappa, the coast of Kappa. And no real severe action there, as can you see. But of course, that northernmost of our island chain and that means that it may take a little while for that to get out there. I can't tell if the discoloration of the water is just normal tidal action or if there is something else happening.

Once again, this is a web cam picture from Hawaii video, from Kappa, Hawaii. And we'll keep that available to ourselves as well to see what happens. Again, even if the tsunami action is somewhat limited, you heard the oceanographer say that the currents change radically. That so many different things can happen with regard to the ocean and its activity during an earthquake generated tsunami that it's hard to tell exactly what to expect. That's why we err on the side of caution just to be safe and why all the civil defense officials and police officials evacuated beaches, low lying roads are closed and so far we are waiting along with you to see what happens next. Just the activity that surrounds this has impacted a lot to folks as you might well imagine.

The shopping malls with the exception of Kahala Mall here on Oahu are all closed today, due partly, we assume, to not being able to get folks to work. Because, they've all been told to stay off the roads. Once again, the traffic watch cameras have, many of them, have been turned toward the sea from their various vantage points. This happens to be in Waikiki. The beach absolutely bearer. Not a soul there. Because everyone has been told to go to the third floor or above. We do see someone. Look at that, walking down along the beach in the lower right hand part of your cam picture there. That person may not have a radio or television or a computer or any common sense.

I would love to be able to holler at him. That is probably one of the most idiotic things I've ever seen. All right. It is now 12:18. We've been talking all morning with the people on the big island in Hilo. Mark Venire (ph), the brother of John Venire (ph), has been giving us his perspective. He is on higher ground with the good look back at Hilo Bay. Also, B.J. Penn little bit further away, but he also has some great look with the camera, Skyping us with his vantage point. We appreciate that information as well. So far it has been just wait and see. We've heard from the folks at the pacific tsunami warning center. No indication when the all-clear will be givens.

Although -- Mr. Becker did say that in another couple of hours if things continue the way they are and the waves get smaller, the rise and fall of the tsunami waves as they enter the harbor, as those grow smaller and decrease in size and intensity, that it may be that they give the all clear. But, you can see, we were talking about as far as the water receding. Now, this is probably at the low point for our south shore. This is reef just off the Oahu beach park. Just only half hour go was covered with water. Now, it's not that we expect that it will be covered once again very soon as that third wave comes through.

We were told that it takes some 20 minutes or so between the Ebb and Flow of the ocean waves, the tsunami waves. Also, a clarification, I may have said tidal wave from time to time. That just means, I didn't spend my youth in Hilo, and I know that the correct term is tsunami. That is the singular correct term. And as you also know, people all around the world are watching and waiting to see what happens next here in the pacific. It is 12:20. Let us head to Waikiki and talk to our Ron Mizatoni who is on higher ground in one of those buildings down there. Ron, what's the mood? It's probably pretty antsy with all of the beautiful weather. But being told they can't go outside.

RON MIZATONI, KHON ANCHOR (via the telephone): They can't go outside. Slowly but surely more and more people are making their way outside. I look outside now and I see three people wading in waist deep water. There are five or six surfers right now and about nine or ten people on the beach and that number continue to grow about a minute. From what we see up here, they things look pretty much the same. We could see that there's going to be slight, a buoys like recession in the water but nothing major at all. A few more shots of reeves are being spotted from high above here on the 11th floor. But again, nothing significant in this far, as far as water surges or tidal changes here in Waikiki from our vantage point -- Kirk.

MATTHEWS: Ron, it would be worth if it's you and Joe and the crew were up all night and all the rest of us all this day and this is the worst that happen.

MIZATONI: I'm very hopeful that I know these things are very unpredictable. You know, until the all clear is given, I'm just hoping this is the worst that we're going to see. We know, across the state of Waikiki where we all know how important this industry is to, not only on the state but to this country.

MATTHEWS: -- Tries the economy and folks look forward to coming here with great excitement and anticipation and we want to be able to give them good news wherever they are in this great land of ours. We did see a fellow walking in the waters there, Waikiki with his pants rolled up. And I had to comment that either he didn't have television or radio or computer or common sense for that matter.

MIZATONI: Well, you know, like I said, there are three or four surfers out there who are enjoying quite a session because there is nobody out there. But again, you know, is it worth it? Surf is not going anywhere. Like I tell my kid, the beach will always be there.

MATTHEWS: You're a surfer. You know better than most. There is a time and place for everything.

MIZATONI: I live in -- and I'm up on the other floor.

MATTHEWS: Thanks very much. We'll check in with you again as time goes by. We're looking through a traffic camera watch here pointed towards the beach of Waikiki. That's Kalaha and Kapahulu and for those folks familiar with that particular beach, you're used to seeing bodies laying all over the place, with towels and beach chairs and coolers and that is absolutely boring today. All though, Ron did indicate that more and more people may be filtering down from above the third floor in the different hotels there on Waikiki beach once more time has passed. It's now 12:23 here. And we plan to hear from Marisa Yamane who is at Heeia Kea Boat Harbor (ph). One of those harbors described by the oceanographers as peculiarly this constructed, so that, they might take a beating if in fact the tsunami roared through. Marisa, are you on the line?

MARISA YAMANE, KHON ANCHOR: Yes. Hey, Kirk. About, ten minutes ago, we noticed how the water level went down about a foot, a little over a foot then went back up again, about five minute later. So, definitely something is happening here right now. It's very odd to see because Heeia Kea Boat Harbor is like a ghost town. A lot of boats have gone. A lot of people came early this morning, took their boats offshore. Many boats are actually parked about two miles off shore planning to ride out the waves there and they brought their boats inland.

And just like here, Heeia Kea Boat Harbor, the town is also a ghost town. It's really odd to see no line in front of the Matsumoto shaved ice stand. Pretty much, no one is on the streets, no cars, no people. And actually coming up as we were coming up the north shore through Oahu all along the highway, Kamehameha highway, a lot of cars were parked on the side of the road. A lot of north shore residents. So that, they were told to basically evacuate their homes. It was a voluntary evacuation. A lot of people just parked on the side of the road just planning to sit there up on higher ground. A lot of the roads up into the north shore are blocks. Police had set up road blocks. They didn't want anybody to go along Kamehameha highway, along the oceanfront area. But, anyway, that is latest from our report. We'll send it back in to you in the studio -- Kirk.

MATTHEWS: All right. Thanks very much, Marisa.

YAMANE: You're welcome.

MATTHEWS: We will check back with you in a little bit. It's too interesting that the level of the harbor rising and dropping a foot in just a short period of time. Not uncommon, we're told, by those who know. When there is a tsunami in effect because the waves come in several different forms. We can see here again a shot -- this is a live shot from our tower camera on the tower cam on Hawaiki tower, 47 stories up. We're showing you this particular reef because only a short while ago it was totally covered with water. Now, the water receded. And this is unusual. Because, it's not a typical tidal action. This is more than likely, more than likely a direct result of the tsunami which was generated by that 8.8 earthquake in Chile overnight.

We have not heard anything different from Hilo. We are keeping our lines of communication open with Mark Venire and B.J. Penn in that particular part of the state just in case anything does develop. But right, now we are told by the folks at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center that they are waiting and seeing along with the rest of us, they wouldn't even say they're cautiously optimistic yet.

Although we did get a sense of that when Mr. Becker told us that a rise of a meter at Hilo Bay and then the water receding that much and more is a good indication the first two waves did not cause any problems. And they are calling it that it is a tsunami related wave action that's happening in Hilo harbor. Once again, the threat is still there. It is not over. And so you are urged to stay out of the inundation zones. Stay on higher ground until you're given the all clear. That will come through us from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center and Civil Defense Officials up in Coco Head. Speaking of the Warning Center, let's head back out there, with Jai Cunningham -- Jai.


WHITFIELD: All right, you've been listening to live coverage from KHON, our affiliate there in Honolulu. I'm Fredricka Whitfield here in Atlanta. So, what is it like being a tourist or resident for that matter being in Hawaii? And a tsunami is on its way. There have been some signs the first couple of waves up to about three feet. But nothing significant to hit shore. We've got with us Karen McMullen, who's is from Montana, was vacationing there in Hawaii. She is on the line with us now. So, Karen, I understand you're on a hillside. You're able to see the ocean. Which island are you on?

KAREN MCMULLEN, EVACUATED IN HAWAII (via the telephone): I'm on the island of Hawaii. And we were staying in Foito (ph) which is low land oceanfront. And we were evacuated at 6:00 this morning.

WHITFIELD: OK. I spoke with someone just about 15 minutes ago who is also in Kauai. And the hotel where he was staying, they evacuated all the residents and sent them to a golf course. Describe the setting where you are.

MCMULLEN: All right. This is Karen again. I'm standing in -- over the ocean, looking over the ocean on a high cliff with a golf course surround us and a public park.

WHITFIELD: OK. Was this the location that perhaps your hotel encouraged you to go to?

MCMULLEN: Yes. They told us what to do. And I know the island well enough that I know where to go for higher ground as well. I've been here about six times.


MCMULLEN: So, we visit here regularly. And we're in Kalaheo which is a high, you know, a higher community up over the ocean.

WHITFIELD: So, you're a regular visitor of Hawaii and you'd been there six times. Have ever been through a tsunami warning before?

MCMULLEN: Not here but I have been on the Oregon coast. And it was very similar to the alarm sound and I knew the sound this morning when I heard that at 6:00. And within five minutes our hotel management called the room and instructed us and told us what to do. And I have my son and daughter-in-law and grandson here and my husband. And we packed our bags and loaded the car and went and started driving to higher ground. We're very calm.

WHITFIELD: OK. You were able to remain calm because you recognize those sounds before.


WHITFIELD: But obviously, you're there on vacation, alarms sounds at the middle of the night. You know, initially what were your thoughts?

MCMULLEN: A little selfish. I wanted to be in a lounge chair today sitting in the sun. But I knew we just needed to, just act and follow instructions and we did so.

WHITFIELD: So, what were the instructions that you were given?

MCMULLEN: The instructions were that we needed to get out of hotel and close up all the rooms, close the windows and go in towards town, in towards the center of the island and go to higher ground. As she mentioned some places we could go. We're very near what is called Kaloa town. It is a wonderful old town here in Hawaii. We went there. And we gathered up some supplies. We didn't want to be pessimistic, but being cautious. We gathered water and things. My son is diabetic so we wanted to make sure we had the right kinds of food for him if something happened and we were without services for a while.

WHITFIELD: You have supplies for about how long?

MCMULLEN: They had recommended to get supplies for about three days. So we did do that.

WHITFIELD: Wow, you are well prepared tourist. (LAUGHTER)

MCMULLEN: Well, we went to the store.


MCMULLEN: On the news, they were saying Costco opened early and all the other stores. We didn't go in that far. But there was very good information. I don't feel like I've seen any panic here at all.

WHITFIELD: I know you'd rather be on a lounge chair at this time.

MCMULLEN: I would.


WHITFIELD: But, you know, do you have any nerves? There is this countdown of when this tsunami or when the first larger wave might be hitting the big island. How nervous does this make you? How nervous does it make you?

MCMULLEN: I'm a very cautious person. I'm a very prepared person usually, so I usually just paying attention. I'm noticing what is going on. We asked for information. There are a lot of people around us. So people have different information. I was just listening to your own news broadcast as well, which helped me understand what's going on, too. So the only thing we're missing is a little radio.


WHITFIELD: All right. Karen McMullen, thanks so much. All the best to you and your family.

MCMULLEN: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: And everyone else as well.

MCMULLEN: Absolutely. Thank you very much.

WHITFIELD: Hopefully, you get a chance to hit that lounge chair and resume your vacation there in Hawaii.

MCMULLEN: Thank you very much.

WHITFIELD: Appreciate it.

I want to bring you up to date. We're talking about the threat of a tsunami in Hawaii. It has been triggered by that massive earthquake that took place in Chile overnight, an 8.8 magnitude earthquake. And officials there are promising a quick response to all those who may be in danger or injured as a result of that earthquake that struck in the middle of the night. Many people were, of course, asleep. Here's what we know right now. Officials say at least 214 people are now dead. That number is likely to rise. The quake triggered tsunami warnings for the entire Pacific basin. Officials say the leading edge has reached Hawaii. A large wave killed three people on the island of Fernandez off the coast of Chile. and ten people, we understand, are missing. Damage has been extensive in Chile, including collapsed buildings, loss of essential services and people in the streets are looking for places to go. Many people have been displaced. The airport serving the capital of Santiago has been temporarily closed.

We want to continue our coverage with the help of our sister network, CNN International being led by our Ralitsa Vassileva. Let's listen in right now.

You're actually at the Chile desk. Give us an idea of what is being assessed? Lots of new information and video that is streaming in. Many hours now after that quake hit.

RALITSA VASSILEVA, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. You mentioned the airport. Well, we heard that airport will be closed for another 72 hours. There are 300 passengers who are waiting there at the airport trying to get out. We heard that the terminal is damaged. Two floors have collapsed on each other. We know that the major port city of el Paritso (ph) is also damaged.

I want to show you video we received of the roads. Major, major damage to the roads. I want to show you this video there. We know the main highway linking the north and south of this very narrow strip of a country has been cut into half. Major damage. That will be a huge, huge logistical challenge.

Also the major port of el Paritso (ph) has closed the subway in the capital, major damage to hospitals is being reported. The military is trying to evacuate patients to hospitals that are not damaged. But some are making due. I want to show you this video from this hospital. That is in the town of Falca. The hospital has evacuated its patients in what looks like a basement. And they're all there waiting to be evacuated.

This is a major priority, what to do about the hospitals for the president, Michelle Bachelet. Let's listen to what the president had to say earlier.


MICHELLE BACHELET, PRESIDENT OF CHILE (through translation): The two largest hospitals for emergencies have to have both structural damages. So we're transferring patients to different hospitals. We have the hospital and they're seeing hospitals in other institution. We also looking into possibly using a school as a medical institution, the health center. They're looking for places where they can see patients. Again, the hospital also with structural damages. The different hospitals in the areas, we need to check for damages so we can move quickly and solve this situation.


VASSILEVA: Now we expect President Bachelet to address her nation momentarily. I'll tell you about it, Fred, tell you what she has to say.

We also heard from the undersecretary of health, saying that all hospitals are open. Some of them are damaged there. Even if they have to treat people in the streets, they are open. There's been a callout to all doctors and nurses to come and help in that central region, asking people to go to the hospital only in an absolute emergency.

They're saying that they don't need outside help. For now, they are managing. I was listening very carefully to find out what kind of injuries that they're reporting. I just heard the undersecretary of health say they have trauma injuries. That's all she would say.

Asking people also concerned about the quality of the water, it's very hot. It's the end of summer there. People are very thirsty. There are water outages. So they're telling people if they drink water from an unknown source to boil it. We've also heard panic. People are looting grocery stores to get hands on water and food.

I'll keep you updated on what the president has to say as soon as we hear from her and bring you video from an epicenter where a town has been hit by a major wave with boats -- I saw the video just now -- being strewn around and crashed into each other, fishing boats are right there on the shore. Very dramatic video. I hope to be able to bring you both the president's speech and also that video.

Back to you, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Relitsa, thank you so much.

And we'll be joined by the Chilean embassy momentarily to give us an idea about what kind of rescue efforts or emergency efforts are in place to help compliment that coverage from the president, Bachelet.

And, of course, as if that isn't enough, the earthquake that hit the Chilean coast, it, of course, has triggered a tsunami now threatening the Hawaiian coast. Much more on all of this, right after this.


WHITFIELD: Perhaps minutes away from the islands of Hawaii being hit by dangerous waves spawned by a tsunami, and all that triggered by that earthquake in Chile overnight.

Our Jacqui Jeras is in the Weather Center.

You, too, have been watching these images coming out of Hawaii. Extraordinary images coming out of Chile. Complete polar opposites here, but they're related.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, absolutely. It's the action with the earthquake, actually, that causes the tsunami to happen. This is a subduction zone off of Chile, as we call it, and it lifts up the crust of the earth, which then pushes the water, and then you start to see that move on to the shoreline. And that propagates across the entire ocean.

This is a new forecast model. This is from NOAA. There you can see, here is Chile. That is where the earthquake and then tsunami occurred. And this is going to take us out more than 24 hours. And this will give you a really good idea about the behavior of waves and how something like this would progress. Now this isn't what's actually happening right now. This is a -- you know, you talk about a meteorology computer model forecast, well, that's exactly what this is.

A couple things I want to point out. As we go through the process, at the top of the screen there, you can see the time clock. Notice how this moves up the west coast here, first across California. That's why we've seen rises around Santa Monica. Also, we had some reports of damage around Ventura. Just some buoys as that water came out. There you see it move across Hawaii.

Something else to point out, look at how this thing moves around Australia. It's not just one coast that's going to get it. It moves around and it propagates so every inlet and every little bay certainly isn't immune.

And now you can see, as this wraps up towards the 24 to 27-hour period, it reaches all the way towards Japan. And you can see there was some sloshing, as we call it, going back and forth, these waves come out. So we'll see some fluctuations in the waters. You know, certainly in the next couple of days, for sure. There you can see as it moves across Hawaii and all of those little islands.

So we officially have had reports of a tsunami in Hawaii. It's been just about an hour or so since those initial reports came in. We know there have probably been at least two of these surges as can you call it where that water rises. It's only been about three feet. That doesn't mean we need to let down our guard right now. Because these come in waves and in series. They could be five minutes apart, 10 minutes apart, 15 minutes apart, even longer than that. So we're not sure of the timing of the next one. And it's likely that they're going to be bigger than the first couple. The first one is not always necessarily the biggest. So this is the water behavior. You know, it is liquid. It will move around, every one of those little areas in Hawaii. And we'll continue to monitor that.

We've have seen the gauges rising in this area. This is the NOA dart buoy system. Those are the little detectors that sit on the bottom of the ocean floor and feel the pressure changes. And that will give us a gauge and give us an idea of what we're going to see. There you can see off the coast of Chile this is the tsunami. These are just the regular waves, as we saw them go up and down. It's this area right here in red, when that moves above the normal wave motion, and that's how we know that the tsunami had previously occurred on that one. We haven't seen any marks like that near Hawaii just yet. But we're going to continue to monitor these just outside that area. You can see that flashing. That indicates that we're in high alert mode. And that we may see some of the fluctuations beginning to take place.

WHITFIELD: So I wonder, Jacqui, potentially, could the tsunami lose steam while it travels hundreds of miles here? Yes, there have been some three-foot waves that have already hit the big island. But might it be that it fizzled somewhere? How would we know that? What would be the indicator?

JERAS: Yes. Yes. It would definitely, eventually fizzle just like any kind of water moving, where you throw that little pebble into a lake, right? And the initial splash is the biggest one and it moves out. It's going to weaken with time. And so we'll continue to watch those waves, maybe be lesser and lesser as we head, you know, across into the western Pacific.

However, the thing that we need to keep into mind, while we're having weakening, the forecast predictions is that we could still get up to seven or eight feet in some of these little bays and inlets across the Hawaiian Islands. So while some weakening, so to speak, could be taking place, that doesn't mean it's still not going to be a deal here for Hawaii.

So, yes, lesser wave action out here. You know, more wave action back in here. But the makeup of the bisymmetry (ph), as we call it, or the topography on the ocean floor, has an impact of how big the waves are going to be on any given location.

WHITFIELD: Wow. It's very fascinating.

Jacqui Jeras, thanks so much.

Reminder, the tsunami is actually triggered by that earthquake in Chile, hundreds of thousands of miles away. However, the efforts to help save survivors in that country are in full swing. They're still trying to get to, traversing these roads damaged by the earthquake, 8.8 magnitude quake, has been a challenge at the very least.

Let's get the latest on the situation from Chile's ambassador to the U.N., Heraldo Munoz, joining us from New York.

What are your efforts like to contact people on the ground there in Chile to determine what are the greatest needs?

HERALDO MUNOZ, CHILE AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Well, from 5:00 in the morning, President Michelle Bachelet was on the emergency center in Santiago coordinating the action. So the government -- and then she was flying over the region and then overseeing the rescue operations, as well as the deployment of all the ministers in the areas more strongly affected between Santiago, the capital and the southern city of Conception.

So far, the situation is under control in a sense that we have displayed all the resources that the country has. Recall that Chile is a country with a history of earthquakes. So we have very stringent building regulations. We have the capacity to mobilize resources in order to help the population. And that has been going on throughout the day.

Evidently with some major obstacles, for example, the Pan American highway that crosses Chile from north to south, has been cut in several places, with bridges collapsing and with the actual highway has been cut. And damages, particularly around the city of Conception, with high-rises that have fallen, old buildings that have suffered major damage. In Santiago, the Santiago airport is closed due to severe damage in the terminal.

So this is a major tragedy for us. But the government is working and mobilizing all of its resources. and the president will be addressing the country very shortly to coordinate this action.

WHITFIELD: So since you mentioned the airport is closed.


WHITFIELD: Chile has a history of earthquakes, the infrastructure has been built with that in mind. However, we have seen a lot of images of collapsed buildings, apartment buildings, et cetera. Clearly, there is a big need to try to reach any survivors in these collapsed buildings. But give me an idea since the airport is closed, that means you're unable to get a lot of outside help. Do you feel that Chile has all the emergency equipment needed to address this very sizable earthquake?

MUNOZ: Yes. Despite the regulations and the capacity that we have to react, this is an 8.8 earthquake. If we compare it to that of Haiti -- and we have seen the images that you have shown and other networks of that country destroyed -- that was a 7.0. This is an 8.


MUNOZ: Despite that, so far, this is sad because any loss of life is -- has to be lamented. There are 200 people that are dead in our country. Perhaps without the regulations, without the reaction, there would be thousands upon thousands. But nevertheless, the damage is considerable. The people evidently are fearful.

There have been after effects, after shocks of over six points since early in the morning. And nevertheless, I think we're mobilizing to deal with the situation. We don't need outside help so far. The situation evidently evolves and we would have to evaluate it. So the closing of the airport is not necessarily limiting outside help that would be needed. We have been contacted by presidents of friendly countries, the secretary-general of the OAS. The secretary- general of the U.N., Ban Ki-Moon, called me to offer the help that could be need, the World Food Program of the U.N. But as of now, we're dealing with this tragedy with our own resources, with the calm and with good coordination. But we have to evaluate this. The material damages are very, very considerable.

FRED: And the images that we're looking at right now really demonstrate the road damage, how so many highways and roads are simply impassable. Does this mean you'll have to rely on great air support in order to get to those in greatest need?

MUNOZ: Exactly. Air support, for sure. And that's the way we have been mobilizing where the authorities have to coordinate some these action. Fortunately --

WHITFIELD: And you think you have enough of that?

MUNOZ: Yes. I think we have enough. But we'll have to evaluate as the situation evolves. For example, what happens with schools? The school year begins in -- on Monday. This is the end of the summer in Chile, southern hemisphere summer. The schools will probably be delayed in opening at least a week. And all of this represents tremendous challenges for the transportation system. So we'll have to evaluate whether we have all the resources to deal with this situation. So far, the evaluation that is being made is that we do. But this is something that we'll have to be estimated as we get a hold of the true damage.

There are some highways that have been severely damaged, even very modern and recently built highways into Santiago, for example, that have suffered, overpasses that have suffered major damages. So that will impede the mobilization, the transportation. But the air resources, so far, are capable to reach those people more at risk, those who have been hit the hardest.

WHITFIELD: That's good news.

Chilean ambassador to the U.N., Heraldo Munoz, thank you so much.

MUNOZ: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: We're continuing our coverage of the earthquake in Chile, and the resulting tsunami now threatening Hawaii.


WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Two significant natural occurrences that we continue to watch, the Chilean earthquake that took place overnight, 8.8 magnitude quake, triggering a tsunami that is now threatening the Hawaiian Islands.

Our Josh Levs has been following the information online about the waves, about what is taking place in Chile.

What are you learning?

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred, we have a lot that has just been popping up over the last few minutes. I wanted to show all of you a few really important things.

We'll start off with Chile. Google just got in touch with me. I want to show you what they launched. Zoom in on the screen here. They have created the Google Person Finder. We have been talking to you throughout the day about people concerned about your loved ones, inside Chile, as a result of what happened today. It is called Chile Person Finder, it's And if you go to Google, you should be able to find it there.

Take a look. Click, "I'm looking for someone" or "I have information about someone." When you go in there, type in the person's name and they will see if they can hook you up with someone who has information about someone, doing their best. It's the beginning of an effort to help people, in some ways, the way we saw after Haiti.

I want to jump over here. It is more visual for you. This is Look at what mashable is doing. Throughout the day, people have been using Twitter to send pictures., which is a web site that talks about what goes on online and sometimes share stories with us at, they have gone through the twit picks, so they're called, from Chile, and they're sharing the best ones they have seen. You can see cracked streets there. You can see some rubble here. And they've just got this collection going. You can go to You'll see some of these most powerful photos popping through in the last few minutes, all of them right here.

While you're doing that, I'll encourage you to check out what we have at, which I'll show you next. Let's finish this. Here you go., we have a house here. It's kind of dark here. Zoom in, this is one of the photos we got today. This is from inside Chile. This is a home that has been destroyed. We also have this video that someone sent us going around his house and seeing what was destroyed there inside his home. He says what is usually relatively pristine house is suddenly turned into something of a nightmare with cracks and holes in it. He's in the Santiago area. He had been at a disco club right before this. He said, at first, he thought people were just dancing heavy. And then all of a sudden, they all realized, when the disco ball started to swing and the floor started to move, they realized there was something more. He ran home and look what he found when he got there. One of our iReporters, one of the many popping into now throughout the day. This is just a handful of what we're getting here on the Chile side.

I want to bring you over here now to what we're getting from Hawaii. There is a few important things you should know about on the Hawaii side now. One of them is this web site right here, it is hitsunami, They're caring this UStream technology, which can take video from places all over the world and make it available to you in a way you would never have found it in the first place.

So right now, they are looking at some of the key video coming in from Hawaii. An abandoned beach there, areas that people have moved out of. Obviously, you can see what appears to be just a marker right there in the middle of all that.

A couple more things and then I'll let you go. This is from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. What we're seeing here, this is beginning a ton of traffic throughout the day. This right here gives all the latest warnings for people in that area, including inside Hawaii. And I believe I have them here, a couple of the photos that I want to show you again. I showed this a little more than an hour ago. I want to go back to it. This is from 1960.

This is a shot from Hilo inside Hawaii, from the Associated Press. They pulled out this archive shot. This was after the biggest earthquake in recorded history. It was 9.5, back in 1960. Now, so far, for today, we're hearing that this one was an 8.8 today. So from some historical perspective, A.P. sent out this photo of people in Hilo after the damage at the time. Obviously, for many reasons, it will be different today, a lot more warnings. Structures have changed, cars have changed. They said, they just pulled this out. Interesting to check it out. This is some of the photos that we have been getting from the A.P. in Chile there.

So, Fred, we're following all the interactives for you. We've got Twitter is going. We've Facebook going. We got our own blog going, absolutely every front. We're following the interactives for you.

I'll tell you something, for people in Chile and in Hawaii and all over the world, the Internet is playing a huge role today in getting information, sharing information, and looking for loved ones.

WHITFIELD: As we have been seeing in so many events, particularly over the past year.

Josh Levs, thanks so much.

LEVS: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Much more of our coverage from Chile to Hawaii after this.