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Tsunami Warning Lifted in Hawaii

Aired February 27, 2010 - 18:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our continuing coverage. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta. We welcome our international viewers on CNN International, as well.

Tsunami waves hit Hawaii today after a massive earthquake in Chile. We continue our special coverage of today's earthquake, and its aftermath. Hawaiians began evacuating coastal areas early this morning. The first waves actually reached Hawaii's Big Island just about an hour ago. So far no reports have of any damage or injuries. We understand the waves are only about three feet or so, but you'll hear from Jacqui Jeras, the first waves are usually the smallest ones.

The entire Pacific Rim, however, is it under tsunami warnings after an 8.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Chile early this morning. The death count in Chile has risen to 214.

President Barack Obama contacted Chile's president to express his condolences and offer some help.

Jacqui Jeras in our weather center. Let's talk about the tsunami to start off with. That's the immediate threat right now. '


WHITFIELD: Yes, there have been a couple of waves that have hit the Big Island. But those aren't the waves that people are the most concerned or worried about, right?

JERAS: Not necessarily. The first couple ones aren't necessarily the biggest, so we can continue to see these waves or, you know, rises in the water levels move on in. The worst that we have seen so far was just over three feet, and that was on the island of Maui. So we have seen it in many of the Hawaiian islands now, all of these rises have been anywhere between even less than half of a foot, to that just over that three foot rise.

We just got a direct quote from the director of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center saying that he thinks Hawaii very likely has dodged a bullet. But we want to be really careful with that, and let you know that the warnings are still up. And they're still posted. And so we want people to stay on high alert, to stay in those evacuated places that they're in, just to make sure.

We also had confirmed rises in tsunamis in California, a little bit of damage in Ventura, some buoys out in the water were damaged when that water came back away from the shoreline. So the waves will come in, and then they'll come back out. We saw rises above normal tide, about a foot and a half to two and a half feet in California. So we'll continue to monitor this as we go through the hours.

The Hawaii event was to take place 15 hours out. As we progress out into time, we'll watch as this moves up the coast here. The U.S. and on towards Alaska, so they can expect to see those rises. And we have also been seeing things happening around New Zealand where the rises have been a little bit more significant here as well.

So those waves will continue to propagate out over time, and we could see some sloshing back and forth. So hopefully this has been the worst of it in Hawaii. We'll continue to, you know, watch and see if anything else comes on up.

These are the dark buoys, as we call them, and this is a series of warning systems. And what these are, they are sensors that are on the bottom of the ocean floor that feel the pressure changes and any movement that would be happening with the crust. And see all these things lit up here, those are ones that are in that active mode.


JERAS: That have seen any of these changes, so, yeah, so --

WHITFIELD: That is incredible.

JERAS: It is all happening across the Pacific Basin. We're expecting that to continue in the hours to come.

Now in terms of who sees the worst of it, OK, this isn't all just, you know, how far away from the initial tsunami you live, this also has to do with the bisymmetry, or you know, the elevation basically of the ocean floor and what the shoreline looks like.

And so as we take a look at this computer model of what we were predicting here, you can see the red is anywhere where we were expecting to see heights of about a meter or more. So that's about three feet. Here's Hawaii right in the middle. So you can see as you get into the shoreline areas, you see that red, right? So it is the elevation, it is with the coastline, where we start to see some of those things increase.

And that's one of the reasons why we're so worried about what could happen in the Hawaiian Islands here is that, you know, this curves around the coastlines. And you get into these little bays and that water funnels up into the bay, for example, you know, here in Hilo, and so the water rise is going to be much greater in those little bays. And even go up the rivers than they're going to be, say, on the front side of the big island. This is going to continue to move through the chains in the upcoming hour. So, you know, tsunami continues to be a concern.

The other thing, Fredricka, by the way, not just the tsunami, we have been dealing with aftershocks. We have had dozens and dozens and dozens of aftershocks already. Some have been pretty strong; 6.0, 5.0, those are pretty strong. Most of which have been offshore, and away from the populated area. Santiago is up here. And most of these have been occurring further down. It is a very unpopulated area.

WHITFIELD: So sorry to interrupt, but that would be offshore, and that's pretty strong. 6.0, and beyond, magnitude, could that, too, help fuel the push of more tsunami waves, or could that, you know, help fuel the existing tsunami wave?

JERAS: Probably not. You have to have a little bit more strength I think than that. I think anything around the 6.0 or less is not very likely to generate another tsunami.

WHITFIELD: That's good news.

JERAS: But sometimes additional earthquakes can happen as a result of this, you know? If the plate moves, this could eventually push the plate elsewhere and trigger other earthquakes. So we'll continue to watch that threat as well. But these aftershocks can last for days, weeks, months and, yeah, even over a year after the big one happens.

WHITFIELD: Wow. That's incredible. Thanks so much, Jacqui Jeras, we'll checking back with you, momentarily.

On the Big Island, the island that has already seen a couple of those waves, even though they are between that one and three foot range that Jacqui was talking about, our own Thelma Gutierrez vacationing there on the Big Island, with her family. She's joining us on the phone right now.

Your family is now at higher ground. But you are staying at the hotel, where you all were, so you're able to continue to report on this, right?

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, actually, the family was moved up to higher ground, but then they came at the very last minute and told several of the managers of the Hilton Waikoloa, and myself, and another reporter, that we had to evacuate as well.

So, they moved us to higher ground. I'm sitting in an evacuation center with nearly a 1,000 people. And I can tell you here there are a lot of anxious people, folks who left all their belongings back at the hotel, people who were here with weepy children, who are taking naps on the ground, and who are watching the coverage of this thing.

And one of the things that we're expecting right now -- within the next half hour, Fredricka, is the Hawaii County civil defense. And hopefully they'll be able to, you know, announce an all clear. Of course, it is too premature to speculate on that now. But that's what (AUDIO GAP) officials were telling us, they were hoping for that so that people could return.

Nobody wants to return more than some of the folks who have been evacuated out this morning. I can tell you, it was quite unnerving to try to have to (AUDIO GAP) my beeper with CNN at the same time we're packing and trying to pull some of our belongings together. The kids were crying and so it was a pretty hectic morning. But, you know, that's what people are (AUDIO GAP) here that they'll get that all clear, they'll be able to return. But we have heard that even if that happens, there will be restrictions in terms of returning to the beaches, that kind of thing, or even riding in any of the boats out on the water for the next few days, because they think that the ocean conditions will be so uncertain. Of course, way premature to even speculate on that right now. Of course, we're still under a tsunami warning. And we're taking that very seriously.

WHITFIELD: And so while you're at an evacuation center. We were also seeing images of people in their parked cars along the roadway. Particularly in Oahu, on the way to the evacuation center, were you seeing some of the roadways on the Big Island that simply became parking lots?

GUTIERREZ: Well, on the way to this particular spot, it was really interesting, Fredricka, we're on Highway 19 and that actually hugs the coast. That's between Kona and up toward the Kuala coast. And what was really -- what really stood out about that is you had law enforcement officials along the way. They closed that highway down as soon as this warning was sounded this morning. They were doing this because they did not want anybody to try to gain access to the beaches, to take pictures of this, or to observe because it would just simply be too risky.

And so all of that highway was closed, which is also an eerie site because usually this area is well traveled as you know. And so the resort closed down, lots of people just laying around this evacuation center, waiting for word that they'll be able to return, either to the airport, to leave the island, or back to the resort.

WHITFIELD: Wow, I'm feeling for all those with the small children, including you with your kids, who are pretty shaken by all this. Thelma Gutierrez, thank you very much. Be safe. We'll continue to check in with you.

All right. So we're talking about the tsunami that is threatening Hawaii. All of this was triggered by that massive earthquake that took place overnight in Chile. Ralitsa Vassileva is at the International Desk, which we are now calling the Chile Desk, to give us an idea of what's taking place right now.

Earlier I spoke with the ambassador to the U.N., the Chilean ambassador to the U.N., who said, we're almost used to this, earthquakes that is, and we're not necessarily relying on any other countries to help in our emergency rescue efforts.

RALITSA VASSILEVA, CNN INT'L. CORRESPONDENT: That's right. That's what I'm hearing also. A call went out to doctors to report for duty. They're talking about major damage to hospitals. However, they're saying we can manage on our own. They're used to this as a country. Used to earthquakes, prepared very well for them.

I want to show you video, though, of the immense damage caused by the power of waves that crashed ashore in a town which is close to the epicenter, a town by the name of Talcahuano. You see the amazing force of this water, that tossed around fishing boats just like little toys, crashed them into each other. The pier has collapsed. Some major, major damage there.

This earthquake, it was so powerful, it was felt across the border in Argentina; 1300 miles away, two people died there from this earthquake. That's how strong it was.

As I mentioned in the beginning, there has been major damage to hospitals. Want to show you this hospital in another town, which is like about 65 miles from the epicenter, very close. Talca, you see the hospital there, the patients have been evacuated in what looks like a basement. They're waiting on the military, which is evacuating patients from many hospitals which sustained very severe damage.

The president, Michelle Bachelet, is saying they're trying to transfer patients to different hospitals which don't have as much damage. They're using schools; going to see if they can convert schools to shelters for patients. We also heard from the undersecretary of health saying that all hospitals are functioning. Those that are damaged are still open for patients. If anybody is injured, they can go there, even if they have to be treated in the streets.

And, again, Fred, they're saying we don't need outside help. We are managing. Although a call, I heard a call go out to doctors to report for duty, to come in from the north of the country to the center. A call to people to go to the hospital only in an absolute emergency.

There is also call to people to save energy, to save fuel so that there is enough for the ambulances to go around. Not clear exactly the extent of injuries to the patients. I was listening to the authorities talk about that, they're just say they have a lot of trauma injuries, won't go beyond that.

Also they're worried about the quality of the water. There is the end of summer in Chile. Very hot weather, people are thirsty. The water drains are burst, in many areas the water has been cut off. Also we heard some looting, desperate people getting into -- breaking into stores to try to get some supplies.

The president called on people not to loot, to have patience, that they're handling the situation. And we'll be hearing from President Michelle Bachelet within this hour. We'll bring you the latest. I'll tell you what she has to say.

Fred, back to you. This is the situation.

WHITFIELD: Thank you so much, Ralitsa. Appreciate that. More of our continuing coverage from Chile to Hawaii after this.


WHITFIELD: Welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. An update on the Chile earthquake and the tsunami worries that were triggered across the Pacific Ocean. The first tsunami waves are rolling into Hawaii, actually. Tsunami warnings have been issued for nations along the entire Pacific Rim.

The death count in Chile is up to 214 after today's 8.8 earthquake. There are no reports that any U.S. citizens have been killed or injured. President Barack Obama says the U.S. is ready to help if Chile wants it.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Earlier today a devastating earthquake struck the nation of Chile affecting millions of people. This catastrophic event was followed by multiple aftershocks and has prompted tsunami warnings across the Pacific Ocean. Earlier today I was briefed by my national security team on the steps that were taken to protect our own people, and to stand with our Chilean friends.

Early indications are that hundreds of lives have been lost in Chile and the damage is severe. On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the Chilean people.


WHITFIELD: All right, so what was triggered by that Chilean earthquake were the tsunamis, and so now we understand that Hawaii already has been hit by maybe two tsunami waves, but just in the realm of one to three feet, not that significant. We're hearing from oceanographers and our meteorologist Jacqui Jeras that first few waves are not the ones to worry about. They're concerned about what is to follow.

And Hilo, on the Big Island, is expected to get the brunt, expected to get the first big brunt of these waves. So let's talk to reporter Gina Mangieri of CNN affiliate KHON, in Honolulu.

Give me an idea how exactly people prepare? I understand that the warnings went out, the advisories went out, the sirens went off and people were to prepare. What does that mean?

GINA MANGIERI, REPORTER, KHON TV: Well, we had an exceptionally long time to deal with this, reporting to you here from Hawaii state civil defense, which is inside a bunker, inside Diamond Head Crater. Diamond Head, of course, one of Waikiki's most notable landmarks.

Hawaii State Civil Defense usually, under normal circumstances, has a rule of thumb they call, three by three. Starting three hours before the first anticipated arrival of the wave, they would start issuing the first of three warnings. Instead, this time they started warning us six hours earlier. So, starting from 6:00 a.m., a full five hours before the first wave is expected to hit, we got an unexpected wakeup call, of course, that was our first of many sirens. And then one on the hour, every hour, and then again on the half hour before each island expected the arrival of its waves. So we had plenty of time --

WHITFIELD: What do they do with that time? We hear everything from people going to get supplies, like what supplies? Clearly we see a lot of the boats, like the video we're seeing now, boats being either moved to higher ground or taken out to sea. How do people prepare in that six-hour span?

MANGIERI: In the case of -- unless you were near the shore, or in a tsunami inundation zone, there wasn't much to worry about. The state was telling people just stay put.

In Hawaii, most families do abide by the practice of keeping quite a bit of emergency supplies on hand; water, batteries, flashlights, electricity, to supplant if the electricity were to go out. Those seem to be in good supply. People, of course, rush to get gas and any back up supplies there. For those who lived on the coast there was a lot of needing to check, remind themselves they were in the tsunami inundation zone, and exactly where that was.

We have an enormous tourist population at any given time, tens of thousands of people, especially for instance, in Waikiki. Each hotel has its own procedure, whether they evacuate people out of the building and up to higher ground, or vertical evacuation.

WHITFIELD: And what does this mean, this inundation area?

MANGIERI: That's right. We have in our phone books, or even the state civil defense website the tsunami inundation zone. It is a line drawn on a map, based on where the water would be expected to hit if there was a 9.5 earthquake, from Chile. So that is what our models were based on. So, we went into today with a high degree of confidence that our inundation zone maps, that most of us rely on in our households, were accurate and would withstand this magnitude of earthquake because it was lower than the previous worst-case scenario that we had seen.

WHITFIELD: So does it mean most households kind of have this map or have their plan in place or something is posted, you know, in their homes or maybe it is on the Internet where people can at the ready get a reminder of these places?

MANGIERI: That's right. There is a real quick reminder on the Internet. In this case, I don't know many people have them taped up to their wall, but it is in the phone book in the white pages. So you can easily flip to it. And the state civil defense web sites were very busy this morning as well with people double-checking. You can even go in and check your address and see where you were.

WHITFIELD: I think you heard you earlier, before you came to work, you were among those in the store trying to get all the supplies, trying to get your family in check, so that they would not have any worries while you're at work.

MANGIERI: That's right. We have, you know, the kids are in a good place. My husband is a mariner, so he's on the sea taking care of boats at this time as well. So we had to do what many families have to do, get the babysitter, get to work. And make sure we can both do our jobs for the community.

WHITFIELD: All the best, Gina. Appreciate your time. Gina Mangieri, be safe.

MANGIERI: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: We'll have much more of our continuing coverage of the earthquake in Chile, and now the tsunami threatening Hawaii.


WHITFIELD: All right, we continue to watch the developments out of Chile, as well as Hawaii. Josh Levs is following the latest stream of information online as well.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It just keeps pouring in, Fred.

Really continuously. One thing we're watching now is all the latest out of Hawaii. We have the information from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center up right behind me. We're also following a web page over here that is, which is carrying live video from various locations inside Hawaii. We're watching the absolute latest throughout there.

Also throughout the day, since very early, I've been watching everything we have been getting out of Chile. I'll tell you we are getting some pretty stirring descriptions, even from our own iReporters about things they saw today. I have some graphics for you. We pulled up some of the most powerful quotes from our own iReporters today.

Let's go to this first one. I want you to see this: "We live in a 20-story building and with the way it was shaking, was not about to see how long it could last. Things in our apartment were falling off the walls and tables. The three of us made our way down the seven stories and got outside. We tried to gather ourselves and make sure everyone was OK. That's from Luke, who was in Santiago.

We have another one here as well from Anna Fernando (ph), also in Santiago. She said her bed was moving so violently that it woke her up. She says, "I'm on the 10th floor of a building and it was swaying and shaking. Suddenly it was just gone. Then the aftershocks came. My bed kept shifting."

Now, I want to show you some of the most powerful photos we have been getting throughout the day. One thing I have for you, we have been looking at photos from all sorts of different sources, including the Associated Press. Look at that, Fred. I don't know if you've seen this one.

WHITFIELD: Yes, that is extraordinary.

LEVS: It is extraordinary. This is one of the first pictures we saw from Santiago and it shows the power of that quake, that highway ripped apart. Those cars turned upside down. As we go through a few more photos there, from the AP, what I want everyone to see here, especially if you're catching up on the news now. That's an area called Talca, which is also one of the areas early on authorities were concerned about, that was a house. We're looking at pictures from Talca and Santiago of roads ripped apart, homes ripped apart, and some places you can't even tell what it once was that you were even seeing -- look at that. It is absolutely striking.

WHITFIELD: Extraordinary.

LEVS: I will also tell you that we can provide information all day long, but there is nothing like hearing the words of a person who is physically there, experiencing that quake. I'm going to bring you now a little piece of my interview earlier today with who would have "thunk" a guy name Elliott Yamin, who is known to "American Idol" viewers all over the world. He was a finalist a few years ago. He happened to be in Chile. He gave me a description of what happened to him in the hotel.


ELLIOTT YAMIN, SINGER TWEETED THROUGH QUAKE: I just feel very lucky to have sought out safety. I took the steps. There was one lone person who happened to be my neighbor next door to me, who was left on the floor at the time. And as I was yelling out, saw him kind of peek around the corner, and he started heading for the stairs. And amidst the building kind of rumbling, it was like a movie, it was like a Hollywood film.

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


LEVS: And you'll see on right now our full interview with Elliott Yamin, is one of the most popular things we have on the web right now. In fact, you hear him talk about the fact that he didn't bring enough insulin medication. He's a diabetic, but he has worked that out. He says he'll now be OK.

I'll do one more thing, Fred. I'm going to bring this full circle. We started off talking about Hawaii. You know what, scammers will take advantage of anything.

WHITFIELD: Oh, that's true.

LEVS: And I want you to see a Tweet that I was taking a look at here.


LEVS: And this is really important. This is a reTweet from a place called Twitter Tips. Careful with links to-I'll tell you about this in a second-popular target for spammers and malware right now. This thing right here is very popular on Twitter. This is called a hash tag. Anybody who is reporting anything on Twitter about Hawaii and the tsunami includes that in there. It is the pound sign and then HItsunami. And what Twitter Tips is saying is there are people out there trying to take advantage of this. They'll send out Tweets, they seem to be pictures or videos or information about the Hawaii tsunami. But what they actually are spamware or malware that can infect your computer. So, you know what, just don't click on any links that are unfamiliar to you. Check them out, be careful.

WHITFIELD: Wow. What a shame that there would be people who would want to take advantage of others in desperate situations like this.

LEVS: They are out there.

WHITFIELD: All right. Josh, thanks so much.

It is pretty extraordinary to hear so many different accounts coming from Chile, just like we just did as well as Hawaii. We're going to continue our coverage and continue to reach out to people living through this experience right now.


WHITFIELD: Welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Now an update on today's earthquake off the coast of Chile, and the tsunami waves that followed it. The massive 8.8 quake rocked Chile early this morning. At least 214 people are dead. Buildings have been toppled, roads crumbled, and bridges have collapsed.

The earthquake triggered tsunami warnings for the entire Pacific Rim. The first tsunami waves hit Hawaii's big island about an hour and a half ago. So far, there are no reports of serious damage or injuries. Hawaiians are still waiting for the all clear, however, signal. But an official at the Pacific Tsunami Warning center says Hawaii may have, quote, "dodged a bullet."

Jacqui Jeras is in the severe weather center. Boy, that's a very confident kind of outlook. Something tells me, you know, no one wants to let down their guard as of yet.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: And that's smart. The warning is still out there, so you don't want to say, hey, you know, everybody go back. Because there is still a little bit of uncertainty about these situations. But when the director of the Tsunami Warning Center says we dodged a bullet, hey, that's great news. Hopefully -- hopefully that's the case.

We did have a tsunami. It occurred. It happened. We saw several rises in sea heights for the Hawaiian Islands. We actually had more significant ones over in Chile. We had, you know, more than seven feet of water which came in there.

So this continues to go. We also had reports across New Zealand and this thing, as you can see -- this is the forecast and the timing for the propagation of this tsunami. You can see that this is going to head up, you know, the Western US coast. It is go to move up toward Alaska. This will be heading over towards Indonesia and into Japan.

In fact, you know, the tsunami that happened in 1960 from Chile quake, the highest tsunami that was reported from it was in Japan. So you don't want to say we're over and done with this yet. While it feels at this point -- at least for Hawaii, it feels like a nonevent, let's hope that's the case. But as long as the warnings are up, I want people to pay attention to that, stay where you're at, stay where you're put, until those warnings have been dropped.

There is no expiration time on a warning like this. The Tsunami Warning Center will say, hey, OK, we feel that that threat has been cleared and we'll cancel the warning. Until that happens, we're going to say, you know, we'll watch for more waves, and that's a good possibility.

WHITFIELD: So tell me how or whether all of those aftershocks that people are feeling in Chile might in any way impact the tsunami watch.

JERAS: Probably not. Probably not at all. Because, you know, you usually need a 7.0 or higher, in terms of generating a tsunami. So, you know, we had an 8.8, which is unheard of -- if it verifies, and that's what ends up being the case, that will be in the top ten that we know of in terms of most intense magnitude for earthquakes.

So this is crazy strong. In fact, coming up, when I see you again, Fredricka, I'll show you a comparison between this earthquake and Haiti, and why we have had less damage with this one. A lot of that has to do with the building codes.

WHITFIELD: And the population.

JERAS: And the population, exactly. This happened about three miles offshore in an unpopulated area. Santiago is way up here compared to where the big quake was. And so all of those things made this a little lesser than it could have been.

Granted, you know, still very tragic and we'll continue to see these aftershocks. There have been dozens of them, over 30, possibly as many as 50 now. I got to count them up. There have been that many.

WHITFIELD: That's incredible.

JERAS: But you expect to see hundreds of these aftershocks easily after a big quake like this would occur. And not are they going to just last for hours, but they're probably going to be lasting for days, for weeks, months, possibly well over a year.

WHITFIELD: You poor people are going to be shaking to the core for a long time.

JERAS: It is a very active fault, Fredricka. They're used to earthquakes, just not ones like this.

WHITFIELD: This was the big one. Thanks a lot, Jacqui Jeras. We'll be checking back with you throughout the evening.

Let's go Ralitsa Vassileva at the CNN International desk, which we're now calling the Chile Desk, because you're able to get a handle over all of the things being said from the president of the country on down.

RALITSA VASSILEVA, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Fred, we're still waiting to hear from the president of the country, Michelle Bachelet, but we just heard from the president-elect of the country. The country is in a transition. In two weeks, it is going to have a new president. We're hearing from both of them.

The president-elect is in the city of Concepcion, which is the second largest city in the country, the closest main city to the epicenter. And we heard from the president-elect right there in that city, talking about the damage to bridges, talking about a collapsed 15-story building. He's very angry about that, says that if building code was not followed for that building, that those who built it will be prosecuted to the full letter of the law.

This is a country which is very serious about building codes, having been through so many major earthquakes. That building, he said, was 50 percent inhabited. Rescue efforts are under way. He said that in Concepcion, thousands of people have been injured. There are a lot of hospitals damaged. They're trying to tend to those who are in need.

He also said water, badly needed water is being trucked into the city. He hopes that electricity will be put in there very soon, that it will be back there and running.

As I mentioned, bridges are severely damaged. Lots of concern for that building there in Concepcion.

Also close to the epicenter, I want to show you another piece of video that we have. This is from a smaller town Talcahuano. To give you an idea of the strength of the water, the waves that crashed into that port. A pier is totally destroyed. The boats have been tossed around like toys, crashed into each other, one on top of the other, and into each other. You see the force of this earthquake and the destruction it has caused.

It was so strong that in neighboring Argentina, 1,300 miles away, people felt it and two people died. We have heard from the undersecretary of health saying that there has been major damage to the hospitals. However, they don't need outside assistance at this point. They're trying to tend to all patients at the hospital, tending to the patients on the streets. But they are managing. They have sent out a call to all doctors and nurses, wherever they are, to report to duty, asking people to go to the hospital only in an absolute emergency, asking them to conserve power, to conserve electricity.

And so that's what's going on, Fred, right now. We expect to hear from President Michelle Bachelet within this hour at any moment. We'll bring you her statement as soon as it comes in. WHITFIELD: Ralitsa, thank you so much. Appreciate that. While they continue to pick up the pieces, try to assess the damage, try to reach those injured or in trouble there in Chile, in Hawaii, they are simply waiting. They're waiting for the results of what that earthquake triggered. We're talking about tsunami. Already there have been a couple of waves that have hit the big island. But nothing significant thus far and that's what people are most concerned about.


WHITFIELD: About 15 hours or so after that earthquake, 8.8 magnitude, hit Chile and still there are people, even stateside here, who are trying to reach out, trying to find their loved ones in Chile. Our Susan Candiotti is in New York. Susan, give us an idea what those efforts have led to.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, in one case, for several hours, the Rojas family -- they own a small grocery store in a town called West New York, New Jersey, right near New York City. And they have been frantic over what may have happened to their mother. So since early this morning, the family has been on the phone every ten minutes or so, trying to reach Iris Rojas. She's staying in Santiago for about three months, in their home, spending time with relatives.

Last night, just before the earthquake hit, her husband Hector left on a flight back to New York. So for hours they have not known what to think and whether Iris was OK.


MIGUEL ROJAS, SON: We don't want to think nothing happened to our mom. And we're still hoping the best, that at any moment she will communicate with us.

CANDIOTTI: Exactly. If only you could talk to someone else who lives nearby or --



ROJAS: We try. We tried some neighbors. We tried friends we have in common over there in Chile. And people tried to call, but seems to be like there is no communication. Communication all break down in Santiago. And we don't know what time they're going to establish communications, or really don't know what's going on. It is hard to say when you try to call every five minutes and you don't get an answer.


CANDIOTTI: And this is Iris' husband, who broke down in tears saying he knows his wife is strong, and that he has faith in god that nothing has happened to her, and that he eventually will be able to reach her. Well, good news, Fredricka. After trying all day, we just found out a little while ago that their prayers have been answered. Iris is fine. It turns out the house has some cracks. She was, you know, swept out of her bed. This happened in the middle of the night as you know. There is no power, no water. So she's been looking all over the place for some way to reach her family and finally she found someone with a working phone that could get out, and she called them and told them that she was fine.

So I guess it just goes to show that in so many cases we're hearing, time and again from families, don't give up, keep trying. But, of course, not everyone will necessarily have a happy ending.

WHITFIELD: Wow. That's great news for Iris Rojas and the rest of the family. I know they were worried sick, wondering how she was doing. Grad we're able to report that good news. Susan Candiotti, thanks so much.

Of course, a lot of folks are hoping for news like that as it pertains to them. So many of you in the US are trying to get information about those American relatives or friends in Chile. Right now, we want you to grab a pen and a paper. Here is the number you need to call. The US State Department toll free number is 1-888-407- 4747. Again, 1-888-407-4747.

All right, let's check in with our Jacqui Jeras because we know that people have been kind of at the edge of their seats in Hawaii, worried this tsunami that was triggered by this earthquake in Chile. Now what is the latest?

JERAS: The latest is that that bullet we were talking about officially dodged, Fredricka. They have just canceled --

WHITFIELD: Incredible.

JERAS: They just canceled the tsunami warning for Hawaii. So that is a bit of good news. They say the worst is over. The threat is no longer out there for a destructive tsunami.

However, you're still going to be seeing fluctuations in the ocean levels. The water continues to be very rough and very dangerous. And so they're saying even though the warning is canceled at this time, they say don't go back to resuming your normal activities or even re-entering any of these evacuated areas. You want to wait and listen for the official word from your county, civil defense people, because there could still be some dangerous conditions out there.

So the worst is certainly over with. We had the tsunami. Just over three feet was the highest that we saw on Maui. I would say, yes, Hawaii officially dodging the bullet on this one. And such great news.

However, keep in mind that those warnings are still out there for other countries, which do extend all the way to Japan. You know, it is not completely over and done with, but certainly a bit of good news here tonight.

WHITFIELD: And you mentioned that 1960 earthquake and tsunami, Japan got hit very hard. So Asian coasts as well as New Zealand, Australia, all of them are still keeping a close watch on what potentially could be brought from this tsunami.

JERAS: Right.

WHITFIELD: Jacqui Jeras, thanks so much. Appreciate that. A lot of folks who have evacuated, they're going to be really glad to hear this, but not really clear, Jacqui, whether they'll be --

JERAS: Don't go back until they say it is all OK.

WHITFIELD: We don't know if that means all clear, you can go back to your hotels or homes, right?

JERAS: My guess is -- they have a siren system, so my guess is that they also have some type of an all clear siren that they'll be sounding. In addition to that, I know prior to this, when the warnings were issued, the Coast Guard flew along the coast lines and made announcements that way. I would expect the same on the flip side of this event.

WHITFIELD: Wow. I was really feeling for those families with small kids that were, you know in parking lots and evacuation centers, because this now will be great news, including our Thelma Gutierrez vacationing on the big island.

JERAS: It is a scary thing. It is a threat that they're going to be dealing with for eternity, basically. So it is a good warmup, a good practice to realize how serious a tsunami can be. And now you know, because you lived through it, what you need to do in that situation.

WHITFIELD: Jacqui Jeras, thanks so much. We'll have much more of our continuing coverage of what was a tsunami that appears now to be officially lifted and, of course, still the aftermath of that earthquake in Chile.


WHITFIELD: Welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. If you're just now joining us, we want to update you that the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center says Hawaii is now in the clear. No longer is there a destructive threat. However, what caused this warning in the first place, that earthquake in Chile. And we're still learning new information about the damage caused by this sizable quake. It was centered about 200 miles away from the capital city of Santiago.

You can see the damage in this suburb right here. Pretty extraordinary. Some homes simply toppled, flattened. Officials say many buildings closer to the epicenter were reduced to rubble, just like this. The main international airport in Santiago also suffering heavy damage, and right now it is closed. Our Josh Levs has been communicating with a number of people online, whether it be from chile or even Hawaii. I know a lot of the folks in Hawaii are breathing a huge sigh of relief, because now it appears that the most dangerous threat of the by that quake has been lifted.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's great news. Again, as you and Jacqui were emphasizing, this does not mean go run around and go in dangerous areas, obviously. Listen for the authorities on that. But, yes, the warning has been lifted.

Fred, I've been over by the big touch screen computer throughout the day, 12 hours now. I moved into the middle of the NEWSROOM, which has been buzzing throughout the day. We have had a lot going on. Everyone coming in for a weekend duty, doing a lot of work here.

And one thing we have been finding today is that in Chile, also in Hawaii, a lot of people turning to the Internet. One thing that's been getting a lot of use today is Skype, people communicating over the Internet. I have a guy who is up on my computer right here, Charles Ball. We're about to speak with him. Charles has been inside Honolulu. And Charles, as I understand it, you basically are holed up inside Honolulu today. And your plan was you were going to wait it out there, right?

CHARLES BALL, HAWAIIAN: That's true. We're in a condo building at the edge of Honolulu Harbor, and we evacuated upwards in the building.

WHITFIELD: Talk to me about this. First of all, I want to emphasize, the authorities were OK with what you did. You were inside the building and you were told if you stayed there, that would be OK.

BALL: That's right. That was a recommendation from the hotels down in Waikiki also, to simply get above the third floor, and in the modern concrete structures would be safe.

WHITFIELD: I know you stocked up with all sorts of stuff. Lots of water, lots of food. Before we get to that, do me a favor, now that the warning has been lifted, turn around, look behind you, let me know -- because we're seeing a little bit behind you. Let me know what you're seeing. Are you seeing any activity? Is anything changing in the last few minutes? Are boats moving in? What's going on?

BALL: No, we never saw a major surge at the Honolulu Harbor. In fact, the waves appeared to be normal throughout the day today. The ships did sail out this morning. The Coast Guard cutters left before dawn. And most of the commercial shipping had left by 10:00 am. And they're still waiting offshore to be allowed back into the harbor.

WHITFIELD: You told me all you've seen is a real stillness. You told me you didn't see anything on the water that concerned you for your safety today, the water itself?

BALL: No. Not at all. WHITFIELD: But you did tell me it's sort of freakishly empty outside?

BALL: The police have -- we're down in an area that is considered to be a tsunami evacuation area. And so the police have stopped all traffic along the roads here. We're literally 50 feet from the water. And there is actually a highway that's between us and the water.

WHITFIELD: We've got to tie it up here. Quickly, you have seven days worth of food and water and backup supplies with you. What are you going to do with it all now?

BALL: The water will go down the drain. The food we'll eat over time.

WHITFIELD: The water -- the water is going to go down the drain? Perfectly good bottled water?

BALL: It is actually water from the tap that we put in some re- closeable bottles.

WHITFIELD: Good for you. OK. Also don't want to make light of the fact that authorities are still saying don't go running outside. Just because the warning has been lifted doesn't mean that everything is going to be perfect conditions.

BALL: No, we're staying at home.

WHITFIELD: Charles, thank you so much for joining us. He is actually one of the many people who joined us via iReport. He's been sending us photos, video, stories. I'll tell all our viewers, if you're in a position to do so safely, go to, no matter where you are in the world, and send us your latest. We'll share some right here.

WHITFIELD: We love that. So great to hear first person accounts. Thanks, Josh. Appreciate it.

We're going to keep bringing you the latest official information from Chile, as well as any information coming out of Hawaii. But to really understand what it is like, you have to hear what people are saying who have gone through this. Loreno Rios was visiting Santiago and she was riding in a car when everything started shaking.


LORENA RIOS, VISITING SANTIAGO, CHILE: It was the most terrifying experience because it started, and it kept going -- increasing and intensity kept going up and up and up. And everything was moving. We -- I actually thought that the ground was going to swallow the entire car.

And, you know, it was -- we were shaking. It shook the car, like nothing. And people start coming out on the streets. And then we also saw some type of lightning in the sky. And I think it was because it was shutting down the electricity.

Fortunately we did not see any -- any buildings suffering any kind of damage. However, many people got hurt inside because people fell on them or they got caught with glasses that had broken when they were running out of the building.

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

For a fraction of a second, I was paralyzed. The thing is that we were standing under the electric wires, so I knew when the worst position or the worst part we could possibly be. I told the guy that was driving, back up, because we were right under the electric wires. And at that point, we tried to back up, but the car wouldn't respond to the driver. I mean, it was like each wheel was going in a different direction or was kind of undulating and just going up and down. It was like a wave on the ground.


WHITFIELD: Eyewitness account there out of Chile. The CNN NEWSROOM continues with Don Lemon, with more on the Chile earthquake and how Americans are working to contact relatives there. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Have a great evening.