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Massive Earthquake Strikes Chile

Aired February 27, 2010 - 19:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Don Lemon. This is CNN's breaking new coverage of the massive Chile earthquake and the tsunami waves and worries that spawned all across the Pacific.

I want to tell you that you're looking at live coverage. This is our partner network, CNN Chile. You're looking at an interview that they're doing now. As a matter of fact, we're listening to the president of Chile. Why don't we take a listen in?

PRESIDENT MICHELLE BACHELET, CHILE (through translator): I have flown over the capital regions, del Maule, Hielo (ph), and had meetings with the local authorities to learn on site and to coordinate the actions necessary for -- to help the affected population.

The forces of nature have hurt our country greatly and we are now having to face adversity and having to stand, again, and we are taking all necessary measures to normalize little by little the functioning of all of the basic services and utilities in our countries. But there is a great task ahead of us. I have been in six main regions that have been affected. And we will make available help to the people that have been affected.

The ministers have to do a detailed count of the staffs in each one of their areas. We will delay the start of classes until the 8th of March in order to protect the safety of our children and to open shelters for people that are requiring them. And we will continue to deliver the food to those schoolchildren that have received it until now.

We are stopping all gatherings in the next 72 hours of the population. We will move by sea help for Juan Fernandez area and we're making every effort to be able to bring supplies in terms of water and energy, normalize the public transportation, re-establish communications, and guarantee health care in a timely manner.

I'm calling all the Chilean people to have trust and follow the indications of our authorities to maintain the calm and to avoid any unnecessary risk and to make good use of the different sources such as water, electricity and fuel. And I want to recognize the media that have been transmitting and broadcasting news about us. And I also want to thank the work of our armies as well as the police and firefighters, as well as the health care workers who have been working together with the people without respite.

And I want to thank, in the name of my country, the solidarity that I have received from the different presidents, chiefs of states, from Mexico, the United States, Russia, Argentina, Bolivia, Spain, Ecuador, Great Britain, United Nations, as well as several international organizations in these dramatic moments. We feel once again the support of the international community. Yesterday, we had to help Haiti, just like today we are receiving the solidarity.

Dear people of Chile, I want you to know that all of my ministers and government authorities are dedicated 100 percent and all of their energies to work in order to bring to normalcy the situation in our country. However, as you see, this earthquake was of great magnitude and we have a great task ahead of us in terms of the immediate emergency and in terms of reconstruction. It will not be -- it requires time and resources, but more than anything, the will and collaboration of each one of us.

Our history is full of natural disasters that have put in -- that have tested our strength. But our history also has registered the strength and perseverance of our people. And as we have done it before, I have no doubt that we will move forward once again.

Lets be strong, Chile. Thank you.

LEMON: Again, that is the president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, holding a press conference -- really urging people, especially the international community, for help and also thanking them and telling the people of Chile to be strong and that help is on the way, talking about how they're going to open up the international water ways, to try to get some aid in.

Again, I'm Don Lemon at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. We want to welcome our viewers from around the world to CNN's breaking news coverage of the massive Chile earthquake and the tsunami waves and worries really that it spawned all across the Pacific. When have you ever heard anything like this, an 8.8 magnitude quake spawning such tragedy all across the Asian Rim?

At this hour, at least 214 people are confirmed dead from the quake. And we don't yet know how many more have been injured in all of this. We want to tell you that buildings have collapsed. You can see the video there. They are destroyed and major roads have split in two.

It all started at 3:30 this morning in Concepcion -- Chile's second largest city. And that's when a magnitude 8.8 quake -- a huge earthquake -- struck about 200 miles outside the capital of Santiago. Now, this giant quake caused tsunami warnings to be issued across the Pacific and all the way to Hawaii. And we're in just one day, tens of thousands of people evacuated coastal areas. We saw the entire coastal area of Hawaii evacuated in just a short time.

We have learned that Hawaii tsunami warning was canceled just a few minutes ago. And even people in coastal California were on alert for this for a while. But there is no report of any damage to report there so far. We're still on top of it and our Jacqui Jeras is checking as well.

It has been a day really of high drama. But in Hawaii, at least the worst fears did not come to pass. An expert at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center says all -- it all was a very, very close call.


DR. GERARD FRYER, PACIFIC TSUNAMI WARNING CENTER: Yes, I think we have dodged a bullet. Yes, I think so. In fact, it's almost -- it's almost the best sort of tsunami you could possibly have.


LEMON: So, the images coming in from Chile are really just quite stunning -- simply just stunning. Imagine the terror if you were on the bridge when the cement started to crack and it came crashing down. Traffic was moving on this bridge in Renca where the quake hit. The force is smashing and overturning cars there. The sheer power turned buildings into splinters and also pebbles.

We're still learning the extent of the destruction right now, but so many are homeless tonight. Most people were asleep, in bed, when that quake hit. And suddenly, they were scrambling for their lives.

This girl was one of the lucky ones -- rescuers were able to bring her safely out of that rubble.

All the latest on this massive earthquake is coming into our Chile desk. And that's where we can find our Luis Carlos Velez. He is standing by for us right now.

Luis, what are you tracking right now for us?

LUIS CARLOS VELEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Don. We're taking care of what's going on with Chile now.

Obviously as you said, President Michelle Bachelet talked a few minutes ago. She said that 214 people are the victims of this moment. But they keep on working to gather the correct numbers. Right now, they also are saying that 2 million people have been affected by the earthquake -- either they're injured, either they have lost somebody, either they're lost, either probably they -- probably lost their houses, something like that as well.

At the end, very emotional -- as you saw her, she was dressed in black, mourning the victims. She said several times, "Fuerza Chile," which means a strong force to Chile. She asked for everybody to be conscious about the use of energy, the use of resources, because that's going to be obviously used by the rest of the people over there in Chile, in Santiago, and all the cities that have been affected by the earthquake -- Don.

LEMON: All right. Thank you very much, Luis. So, we'll get back to you.

We want to tell you that our Jacqui Jeras is standing by in the CNN severe weather center.

Jacqui, you know, we said that Hawaii dodged a bullet. But still, from this earthquake that happened in Chile, there are going to be aftershocks and they could be happening for months to come.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, absolutely. And we've seen a lot of those aftershocks as a matter of fact, Don.

We'll pull up our Google Earth here for you and we'll zoom in a little bit and show you this area that we're talking about. And here you can see that big dot, that was the epicenter, that was the big one, 8.8. We've seen many, many aftershocks. In fact, it looks like it may be up to almost 50 of them at this time -- many of which have been on the range of 5.0 and 6.0. So, those are still very intense quakes.

However, we don't think at this point that any of them have been strong enough to cause additional problems, and many of them have been offshore, weak enough that it would not generate an additional tsunami. So, that's a little bit of good news.

But these will continue and, you know, people are going to feel them and it's going to be unsettled and you do get that concern that there are still people that might trapped under the rubble, that if you get enough of a quake here out of these -- with these aftershocks, that it could, you know, shift things around a little bit and potentially harm them. So, hopefully, we'll watch these die down, but you will literally likely see hundreds of these, believe it or not.

Let's talk a little bit about the damage and the pictures and the kinds of things we've been seeing out of Chile, compared to what we saw in Haiti are very, very different. A lot of that reason is because it's not a very populated area. You know, this is all farm country in here. Look how far north Santiago is, where the most people live close to this epicenter.

So, this is an analysis of how many people felt the worst shaking of this from the Chile event. And take a look at the worst category that we have up here, extreme and violent, zero. So, nobody felt the absolute worst of that earthquake. So that's a little bit of a good news, I guess, in terms of what we've been experiencing.

And now, as we take a look at the Haiti earthquake, we'll zoom down here. Take a look at the number of people who saw the extreme and violent shaking. So, thousands and thousands of people certainly felt that, and that's because, you know, where that earthquake happened, it was right near the most populated area.

Now, one other thing I want to talk about a little bit was the tsunami threat and what we've been dealing with here. OK, we officially did have the tsunami over Hawaii. The warnings have now expired.

But they're warning people: don't go back and resume your normal activities. Wait until you hear back from local authorities when they think everything is safe, because the water is still going to be a little erratic and a little uncertain and certainly dangerous. You don't want to go out in that.

Now, if we've gotten past the Hawaii hump, we still have more places that are going to be feeling the impact of this. We could still see rises in Alaska. We could still see rises over there in Japan. And even still some rises over here into parts of Australia.

So, you know, the globe, as a whole, hasn't been feeling the worst of this. And this is a computer model, animation that shows you just kind of how some of these waves happened to behave.

And I've had a lot of e-mails of people saying, well, why is it safe for my relatives to be out on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean, but it's not safe for them to be on the shoreline? Well, it has to do with the shoreline. The bisymmetry as we call it that helps lift up those waves and cause that big height. So, you're doing fine in the middle of the ocean. You probably wouldn't even feel this if you're on a cruise ship right now.

And there you can see as those waves propagate and we will have a little sloshing back and forth in the Pacific Basin for a couple of days. So, the ocean levels will be unsettled for at least two days probably after this major event.

So, great news for a lot of folks in terms of the tsunami, Don. But we'll still be dealing with those aftershocks coming up here for a while.

LEMON: Unbelievable, Jacqui, 8.8. That's really just -- and we said it was a mega-thrust. So, this was a huge, huge seismic event.

JERAS: Yes. It's what we would call great in terms of the magnitude of this storm -- or storm, excuse me -- of this earthquake. If it holds true and still stays verified at 8.8, this will be in the top 10 of most extreme earthquakes that we've ever recorded.

LEMON: All right. Jacqui Jeras, thank you very much.

I want to tell you again, you're watching CNN, the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. I want to welcome our viewers from around the country and also, I want to say, we just heard from the president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, and she said more than 2 million people were affected by this massive 8.8 magnitude quake.

I want to tell you that we're trying to keep you updated on all of this -- all of this breaking information that's happening in Chile. You can find out the very latest on the relief efforts at -- where you can go to help. A lot of people are asking how they can help. So, just go online to our "Impact Your World" page at Again,


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It got louder and stronger and more intense and faster. And it was -- it was absolutely terrifying, terrifying. Frightening.


LEMON: Those are the words of survivors -- amazing stories coming out of Chile after today's 8.8 magnitude quake and we're sharing their stories with you all evening long here on CNN. We'll be live for you.

And no sooner than the news of an earthquake in Chile hit the airwaves, nurses, doctors, from all over the world ready to go at the drop of a hat. And we'll tell you how an effort like this comes together so quickly.

Also in stories like this, we get a lot of information from the social networking sites. So, we want you to weigh in as well. Your comments -- especially your iReports if you're in the region.

We're back in a moment.


LEMON: I want to get now to someone who experienced this, firsthand. And he is none other than Rolando Santos. He's a senior vice president of CNN Chile. He joins us by phone and he tells us about the scene and the mood there.

Real quickly, you said you're a big guy and this knocked you out of bed this morning. Take us through that.

ROLANDO SANTOS, SENIOR VICE PRES., CNN CHILE (via telephone): Well, you know, I got up a little bit before it started and I lived in California where -- worked and lived in San Francisco, Los Angeles. So, tremblers and quakes are not a big deal to me. And I thought, oh, it's a quake. And kind of blew it off a little bit.

Then it started getting worse. And I looked out over the skyline from my apartment, I can see Santiago and the next thing I know, Santiago went dark, and I'm on the floor, and the lamp shades are coming -- I mean, the lamps are coming down, all the books, stuff off the wall. And I tried to get up once and fell right back down. So, I crawled into the bathroom and into the bathtub and I started counting, 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 -- try to get an idea how long it lasted and I got to 20 seconds inside the tub. I know it took me at least that long to get there.

LEMON: Most people are saying, Rolando, it lasted for about 45 seconds to a minute. And even in that time, it may seem short, but when it's happening, I'm sure it seems like an eternity. But apparently, 8.8, it was very violent -- obviously, knocking down structures that have been there forever and pretty secure structures and, of course, killing 214 people.

SANTOS: You know what? This country has a long history of earthquakes. One of the largest earthquakes was a 9.5 magnitude in 1960 that killed 3,000 people. So, they're used to earthquakes.

But even by any Chilean standard, the psyche of this country definitely got rocked by this particular earthquake. People are shaken tonight. It's just after dark now.

People are shaken. They're uncertain because communications are iffy, so they can't get a hold of their loved one. They're using social networking. Twitter lines are going crazy.

And most of all, there's a lost anxiety because there have been dozens and dozens of aftershocks. I stopped counting the aftershocks after they hit 25. And we've had an aftershock as strong as 6.8 that was felt all the way in Argentina.

So, that's pretty much the situation right now. People are trying to get settled in for the evening, and every time one of these aftershocks hits, you know, there is a collective -- you know, hold your breath, wait to see how long it lasts, and you try to go back about your business.

LEMON: Hey, Rolando, we have a lot to cover here. But real quickly, speaking of those aftershocks? How bad are they? What do they feel like?

SANTOS: Well, you know? The whole newsroom shakes. And it doesn't just shake for, you know, five or six seconds, it will sit there and vibrate back and forth. The longest one we counted here in the newsroom was close to 40 seconds.

LEMON: Your reaction -- I'm not sure if you heard the president of Chile -- reaction to her comments talking about 2.2 -- at least 2.2 million people affected by this and asking people to just hold on. They're going to -- there's going to be help and asking for help and from the international community, while thanking the international community in advance as well.

SANTOS: Well, as I said, this is a country that is very much aware of earthquakes. I think one of the reasons that the death count hasn't gotten any higher at this point is because they have had so many quakes that every time they rebuild, they rebuild with the latest seismic technology and building techniques. And I think that's one of the reasons that even though, technically, this was -- I think I read somewhere, heard somewhere, one of the experts today talking about seven times -- 700 times stronger than the one in Haiti --

LEMON: Right.

SANTOS: -- the number -- the death toll should be far less than that simply because this is a country that, over the years, because of all of the earthquakes, has basically rebuilt itself, being conscious of that happening.

LEMON: This is my final question to you. How long before rebuilding? You keep mentioning that, but before things can at least get back to some normalcy.

SANTOS: You know what? I think it is too early to answer that. Right now, they're just really getting into many of the areas because major roads and major bridges that connect the country from north to south are gone at this point. So, there is no way to really begin -- give you an idea of that.

LEMON: We're so glad you're safe and we thank you so much for taking the time. We know that you're running the network over there, CNN Chile.

Rolando Santos is the senior vice president of CNN Chile. He is joining us by telephone right in the middle of that earthquake when it hit.

Thank you, again, Rolando.

SANTOS: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: And for people in Hawaii, you know, it has been a day of watching and waiting for tsunami waves. When they finally arrived, they didn't live up to their early billing.

CNN's Thelma Gutierrez found herself in the middle of an evacuation this morning and she is on the big island of Hawaii. We're going to talk to her in just moments to find out how people were preparing there. They were scared -- her words exactly.

Meantime, an emotional reopening at SeaWorld for the first time since one of its trainers was killed. Spectators watched the giant whales perform today.

And power, that's not what's happening in the northeast, because they have no power. The latest winter storm has drivers going nowhere fast and it has shut off the lights for hundreds of thousands of people. We will update.


LEMON: We're going to continue to follow the breaking news coming out of Chile. But we have some other stories for you -- our top stories as a matter.

A suicide bomber in Pakistan has struck a police station, killing three people and injuring more than 20 others. It happened in the Northwest Frontier Province. It is the third time in a week that a police station in that region of Pakistan has been attacked.

Socked in by snow and in the dark right now, utility crews are trying to restore power to about a half million people all across the northeast today. That's down from more than 1 million homes and businesses that lost electricity in Friday's slow-moving storm. The heavy snow, hurricane-force winds and flooding rains battered the region and canceled more than 1,000 flights.

Well, the show went on today at Florida's SeaWorld, three days after a female trainer was killed by a 12,000 pound whale. Some 2,000 people packed the park stadium for the first show which included a memorial for the dead trainer. The killer whale did not perform today, but officials say he will be part of the future shows, despite now being involved in three deaths.

A tragedy for the Osmond family to tell you about: Singer Marie Osmond's 18-year-old son has died. Media reports say that the young man jumped to his death from his Los Angeles apartment building. In a statement released through her publicist, Marie Osmond said she and her family are devastated and are in deep shock over their loss.

As we have been reporting to you, at least 214 people are dead after an 8.8 magnitude earthquake rocked Chile today. That number could rise. Rescue efforts are continuing to devastate areas. The capital is without power and basic services, including water and telephones.

So we go now to Margaret Aguirre. She is global media strategist for International Medical Corps and her group is waiting just for the green light to go into Chile.

So, Margaret, thank you for joining us. So, what is the Medical Corps? What are you doing to prepare to deploy to the affected areas right now?

MARGARET AGUIRRE, COMM. DIR, INTERNATIONAL MEDICAL CORPS: Well, International Medical Corps has teams that are standing by. We're essentially getting ready. We're getting our medical supplies, medicines ready, so that we can deploy teams into Chile if we are needed.

Obviously, Chile has extremely good capacity to respond to emergencies. They had teams in Haiti so they have good capacity. But, obviously, you know, hospitals have been destroyed. Many, many families are out of their homes, or displaced. And so, they are going to need help.

LEMON: So, so I imagine you got the call -- someone woke you up possibly, but you guys are always ready to go to situations like this. It's you, other agencies like yours, of course, the Red Cross always there to help out.

So, listen, how do you contact and round up doctors and nurses from around the country? That's a short notice really.

AGUIRRE: Yes. Well, we have -- actually, International Medical Corps has existing networks already in place. So, we have arrangements with hospitals around the country -- you know, Stanford, Columbia, UCLA, as well as, you know, various hospitals and universities, as well as, like, the Service Employees International Union, doctors and nurses who are ready to deploy. So, in the instance of Haiti, we literally had teams that were ready to deploy the day of the earthquake.

LEMON: So, listen, Margaret what equipment do you think is needed right now? If people need to help -- is there anything that the American public can do for you or people who may have medical supplies who can help? What's needed right now?

AGUIRRE: Well, obviously, the best way to help an organization like International Medical Corps is to give us the flexibility to be able to respond in the way we need to, whether it's sending in supplies, airlifting supplies or sending in personnel. So, you know, it sounds crass, but cash donations going to our Web site, That's always a great way to help us to be able to make the decisions whether we're going to procure equipment on the ground or be able to bring stuff in, be able to give us the flexibility to make those decisions about what's needed most.

LEMON: Listen, it's not crass if you're trying to help out people -- you know, thousands and thousands of people who have been affected by this. As the president said, 2.2 million people so far affected by this.


LEMON: Margaret Aguirre is a global media strategist for International Medical Corps -- we appreciate it.

And we also want to tell our viewers that you can always go You can impact your world by helping out as well. Money -- all the help that they can get in Chile, they're going to need it.

You know, it is a suspenseful day for coastal residents in Hawaii. Tsunami warnings force people to head for higher ground today. One expert says people there really dodged a bullet. We'll tell you about that.

And Hawaii's drama really started in Chile. We'll talk to a geologist who will explain how a quake there can spark tsunami fears all across the Pacific -- and guess what? It's not over yet.


LEMON: Much of this happened overnight as you were sleeping. The drama playing out in Chile. People startled by this, so if you missed it, we're going to show you the really best parts of it right now.

The scale of this earthquake in Chile almost impossible really to overstate. The massive force sending panic across much of the Pacific region, and it all started when people were least prepared.


LEMON (voice-over): It hit in the middle of the night, 3:34 a.m. local time, off the coast of Chile, a massive 8.8 magnitude earthquake, shaking the ground with unbelievable force.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a violent shaking in Santiago, no question about it. I literally got knocked out of bed and on to the floor. And it was pretty clear because of the length of the earthquake that it was going to be a major earthquake.

LEMON: The force 800 to 900 times stronger than the earthquake that devastated Haiti in January.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the intensity kept going up and up and up. And everything was moving. I actually thought that the ground was going to swallow the entire car.

LEMON: The damage on land is only part of the problem, the rumbling sent pulses across the Pacific, triggering tsunami warnings in dozens of countries, from Russia to Indonesia, Japan, Australia, and in the U.S., Hawaii.

VOICE OF BARRY HIRSHON, PACIFIC TSUNAMI WARNING CENTER: There will be many, many waves and what will happen is civil defense will give - we think that the amplitudes have decreased. Then civil defense will give an all clear that it is safe to come back. I would stay away until civil defense gives the all clear.

LEMON: Chile's president taking to the airwaves, declaring areas of catastrophe, urging people to stay calm.

PRES. MICHELLE BACHELET, CHILE (through translator): Sometimes people stay in homes that are high risk just to try to protect their property. And I would like to make a call at a higher moral conscious, a basic higher moral conscious, because when we have such a catastrophe of this nature, we are all involved.

LEMON: Now the death toll climbs, from a rumbling earth.


LEMON: That's how it played out and it is still continuing to play out, of course, in Chile and really in Hawaii as well. We say they dodged a bullet but really there are still aftershocks that still could affect them. So for people in Hawaii and elsewhere, it has been a day of watching and waiting for tsunami waves that finally and thankfully arrived and didn't live up to their early billing. We're glad of that.

CNN's Thelma Gutierrez, she works with us, she found herself right in the middle of an evacuation this morning. She heard the sirens. She's on the big island of Hawaii. And the only way you described this earlier to me is that people were in fear and they were panicked about this, Thelma.

VOICE OF THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, they were so much in shock, Don. Imagine, you know, having these sirens go off at 7:30 in the morning and then you have people pounding on your door, telling you get out, get out now, waves are coming. It was that kind of warning that, you know, made us all kind of question, well, what is going on and how soon is this going to hit?

LEMON: I see, Thelma, this is video you sent in earlier - you e- mailed this video to me, and this is you and your husband shot this video from his cell phone. So these people, I guess, were awaken, they got out of bed and they were told to get out of the way. Explain to us what is going on in this video and what you and other people did as the warning started coming and hearing the sirens?

GUTIERREZ: Well, all of a sudden you get these poundings on your door, you have just minutes to gather a few things together. You don't really know how soon this wave is going to hit. At least at that point. And so many people rushed out. We're talking a thousand people, Don, here at this resort alone. They rushed out to the trains, to the boats, however they could to get back to the reception area where there were buses waiting to get people to higher ground. And there were about a thousand people who had to be evacuated, a thousand guests and not to mention 500 employees of this hotel. So they moved this all to higher ground. One thing is that then we started getting more information about what was going on. They said the waves were going to hit within an hour and so there was a lot of city sitting, watching, waiting.

Many of us were in this clubhouse, watching the big screens, watching local coverage. And just waiting.

LEMON: Yes. And, Thelma, I don't know if we have the video of the waves earlier as they were preparing for it to come through. Thelma, we talked about the waves and talked about hearing those sirens going off. And much of it was a warning. And as I said, when I got to you, thankfully, thankfully that this didn't happen and the same thing that is happening with Thelma Gutierrez, what she woke up to, played out really all over Hawaii today.

So Thelma, we're going to let you go get back to your family and we're glad that you're OK as well as others around you. Thelma, thank you.

In the meantime, I want to tell you, these are live pictures coming now from Hawaii. Where exactly is this, guys? This is KHON from our affiliate in Hawaii. And this is Oahu that you're looking at. The concern, of course was that this big - the tsunami would create waves, maybe up to nine, 10 feet that would come there and really just wipe out a big part of islands there. That did not happen.

They canceled the tsunami warning just a short time ago. And so we're going to continue to look at this, to follow it, and to see just because it is canceled, our Jacqui Jeras said, of course, the earthquake can spark other earthquakes and aftershock quakes that can come after. So we'll continue to monitor that.

We have much, much more on the damage in earthquake-torn Chile just ahead but we got some other stories to tell you about, including this one of former NBA player accused of sexual assault and sex trafficking?

And hiding in plain sight. Reports tonight that Iran is making its nuclear weapons stockpile visible to everyone. Why?


LEMON: I'm Don Lemon. You're watching CNN. This is continuing coverage, breaking news happening in Chile because of the devastating earthquake in Chile has attracted offers of help from around the world. And President Barack Obama says the United States stands ready to do its part. So why don't we go to the White House and check in now with CNN's Kate Bolduan.

Kate, we're hearing from the White House, the president and others in Washington. Why don't we start at the White House with the president tonight? KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Hey there, Don. Well, the U.S. is ready to help. That's pretty much the very clear message coming from President Obama today. President Obama says that he spoke personally to Chilean President Michelle Bachelet this afternoon offering assistance if needed in the rescue and recovery efforts there. And he echoed that sentiment and that message of support when he made a brief statement to cameras this afternoon. Listen here.


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.


BOLDUAN: And you heard the president mentioned there that he was briefed in the situation room this morning by his national security team which included the FEMA administrator, Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano and secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

Now, in Chile, the U.S. embassy there in Santiago, they have set up a command center and are working very actively. Of course, you can imagine to help any and all American citizens that are affected in that hard hit area. Don.

LEMON: And you mentioned the secretary of state. She was supposed to travel there, really, South America next week. Is she still going?

BOLDUAN: Right now the schedule is staying right there. The secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, was scheduled to leave tomorrow, actually, for a previously planned trip to the region, to Latin America. And that includes a stop in Chile and we're told that plan remains the same. The itinerary is set and she's scheduled to leave there for tomorrow.

LEMON: Kate Bolduan at the White House. Thank you very much, Kate.

There is, of course, that story and other news going on. Time now for your top stories. The show goes on at Florida's SeaWorld, just three days after a female trainer was killed by a 12,000-lb whale. Some 2,000 people attended the first show, which included a memorial for the dead trainer.

The killer whale did not perform, but officials say he will be part of future shows despite now being involved in three deaths.

An Iranian mystery to tell you about. Today's "New York Times" is reporting that Tehran has moved almost all of its nuclear fuel stockpile to a plant above ground. An international inspector says that's like putting a bull's eye on it. Some even speculate that Iran is inviting an outside attack to unify the politically divided country.

His country is impoverished but Zimbabwe's president got a birthday bash with a huge price tag. Supporters of President Robert Mugabe say they dropped $300,000 on celebrations for his birthday. They claim they raised the money from donors. Mugabe called a dictator by his critics managed to hold on to power for three decades. He's now 86 years old.

A former NBA all-star has been arrested on charges of sexual assault of a child and sex trafficking. Alvin Robertson who played for the San Antonio Spurs was taken into custody yesterday in Bentonville, Arkansas. Police say he was one of seven people who kidnapped a 14-year-old girl, forced her into prostitution and made her dance at a strip club.

There will be no face-to-face meetings for now, for the jailed couple accused of kidnapping Jaycee Dugard and holding her hostage for 18 years. But a California judge says Philip Garrido and his wife may talk by phone twice between now and April. Jaycee was just 11 when she was snatched outside her house in 1991.

An agonizing wait for a New Jersey family. For hours today, they had no idea what had happened to their mother. She was in Chile when the earthquake struck and CNN was with the family when word finally came. We'll bring you that story straight ahead.


LEMON: As we see every major disaster and big story we have been covering, especially within the last couple of years, lots of information happening online. And CNN's Josh Levs has been following the streams, really reams of information online about the earthquake in Chile and the threat posed by tsunami waves in Hawaii.

So he's been getting lots of information from iReporters. I- reporters have been watching and just gripped watching them. And you know, they tell these horrific stories but they're so calm about it, you know, because it is after the fact no doubt, Josh.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And they have been helping us throughout the day. You know, they provide us information which we then share and I tell you the internet, in general, within Chile and Hawaii, has been playing a huge role throughout the day today.

In fact, coming up, I'm going to have a warning for you about some scammers. I can't believe what they're doing but first I want to show you some of the powerful pictures that have been going on, that have been sent all over the place online today. Let's zoom in here. The first thing I'm going to show you is a web site called which we often link to from what they is pulled together some of the best twit picks. This mean, people inside Chile, posting photos on twitter and then they have pulled out this list. And when you go to the main page of, you see that right now.

I find this one striking because if you look at that sign right there, it's now on its side, it says internet. Apparently it's some kind of internet cafe. This is all inside Chile now. You can see some of the things that have been going on there. One of the big reasons people are using the internet today, they're concerned about their loved ones.

We have been hearing throughout the day, we have been hearing 12, 13 hours, throughout the day we've been hearing from people all over the world, worried about loved ones. Take a look here, Google has set this up. It is called the Google person finder. And what they're doing now is they're having a - giving you this ability to basically type in a name, and maybe someone out there will have information on that person.

So if you're looking for someone or if you have information about someone, you jump in there, you provide the information, or you say who you are looking for. It could help you get in information about your loved one. Some people don't have access to cell phones right now and a lot of cases, it's a matter of communication. The web is jumping in there.

Also Don we're talking about iReports. It's time to get to those. Let's take these screens we have for you here. I want you to see some of the powerful pictures we've been getting from throughout the day from Chile. And if you look at the side of that building there, it's torn apart. It's falling apart. These come from Alejandro Garcia in Barrio Brasilia (ph), which is a neighborhood in Santiago, Chile there. You can see - look at that.

Let's sit on that one for a second. But all these buildings are falling apart. We have seen plenty of destruction in so many of these photos. There you go. They brought it back. Let's just sit on that one for a second because if you look at the extent of the rubble there, you can tell some of these really beautiful, ancient structures, anyone who has been to that area knows a lot of these building and what they look like.

And you see, unfortunately, in too many cases just turned into rubble. I have one more iReporter here for you. This one from Helen Pogrel who sent us some photos as well. She also is inside Santiago. She was talking about some of efforts going on there. There you can a little chunk of that building fell off.

LEMON: Hey, Josh, before you move on. I know you want to talk about the scams that are happening already.

LEVS: Yes. Look at that. LEMON: We want to linger on these pictures. Guess what? We know from doing these the pictures are going to come in and they're going to get even worse. We are finding regions outside of Santiago that have been hit because sometimes, you know, when daylight comes or the next couple of days later, you find places beyond areas where there are media centers that have been damaged. So we're going to see more pictures coming in, probably throughout the evening and in the upcoming weeks.

LEVS: Absolutely. I mean what we've been seeing so far. We've had some Santiago, we also have from several other areas, Vina del Mar. We have from an area a little bit south called Halka (ph). And you're right that it's gong to get more and more (INAUDIBLE). Keep in mind there was the original 8.8 And then after that you had so many more earthquakes causing more damage beyond that. If something originally made a structure weak what happens next could make it fall apart.

And also I was talking about the limits on communication, Don. Some people who were not able to get online, will be tomorrow. An iReport is possibly the best way in the world to see some of these powerful photos. So you're right.

LEMON: You know what, Josh, I have been on Facebook and even on Twitter. That is the quickest way for me to like unfriend you if you send me just random invitations about things that are checked out. People are starting to send out all these things now about how you can give money and you know, what to do. . Give us a warning real quick about what to look for again and what people should be doing.

LEVS: Yes, we've got to do this. And let me show you something. This is a really good example of what was going on before. You know, we've been keeping an eye on Hawaii as well. And there is this hash tag which is something that you write in tweet on twitter. There was this sign #hitsunami for Hawaii tsunami and look what Twitter says careful with links to live feeds. Popular target for spammers and malware right now.

Short version here, you don't need to know what that code word means. Basically what they're saying is there are bad guys who are already trying to take advantage of people looking for information, looking for live pictures, live video or as you were saying trying to reach out and help. There are these links that could lead to something bad that will infect your computer. Be very careful, don't go to something you don't -

LEMON: Yes. What is that? Pound, what is hitsunami where you can go get that information.

LEVS: #hitsunami.

LEMON: So listen, I want to tell you. We know where information is vetted, where you can get it. That's right here at You can go right there. Everything is vetted. You know your money is going to a place that has been checked out. Josh Levs, really appreciate it. Thank you, sir. LEVS: You got it. Thanks, Don.

VOICE OF ELLIOTT YAMIN, FORMER "AMERICAN IDOL" CONTESTANT: The building was swaying back and forth as was my room. Things were starting to fall off of the walls. The lights were starting to flicker on and off and then that swaying very abruptly turned into just a very violent shake and that's when I stood up and kind of headed towards my doorway.

LEMON: So you saw his picture. You may not have recognized his face in that small picture. You might have not recognized his speaking voice, but his singing voice you would certainly recognize because that is former "American Idol" contestant, came pretty close to winning, reached the top 10 or so. His name is Elliott Yamin. Remember him, he was caught in the middle of the Chile quake. We will hear from him just moments away.

We have been saying Hawaii dodged a bullet. Did they really? There still could be some aftershocks. But we'll see here. The Tsunami Warning Center said they dodged a bullet. They cancelled that tsunami warning. Jacqui Jeras tells us what is next.


LEMON: All right. So joining us right now from Eureka, California, Lori Dengler is the head of the Department of Geology at Humboldt State University. So thank you so much for joining us. She's joining us tonight. You can see via the internet. So what can you tell us about this earthquake in Chile from a historical perspective. How does this compare to past earthquakes really now in this region, in that region?

LORI DENGLER, GEOLOGIST: This earthquake is likely to continue to produce significant aftershocks for weeks to months that will certainly pose a problem to the people in Chile. But are not likely to produce tsunamis that would affect the far reaches of the Pacific basin.

Certainly, there are other sources in the Pacific that can produce big earthquakes, the Pacific communities, those of us who live on the Pacific rim and in the Pacific need to be very concerned about other significant tsunami events. Having dodged the bullet today doesn't mean the bullet is gone because that gun still has more bullets in it.

LEMON: Yes. And we are talking about a fault here. We can see an active fault. So, listen, I know that we have gone through this a little bit and we have some graphics to sort of support this. Can you explain to our viewers, you know, in layman's terms exactly what spawns a tsunami? How it is generated?

DENGLER: Well, a tsunami is caused when the sea floor basically moves up or down which is what happens in a very, very large earthquake like today's earthquake. The faulting motion literally pushes part of the sea floor up and part of the sea floor down. There is a lot of ocean on top of that sea floor and it has to go somewhere.

So it is very much like dropping a very large rock into a pond and those ripples travel out in all directions. Chile being very close to the source of the earthquake, the first waves arrived there only minutes after feeling the ground shake whereas we're still waiting for the arrival of the first waves in Japan then Kamkatcha.

LEMON: Miss Dengler, we are looking at these dart, these buoys that are out there and there are some that have these yellow darts that show that they are in real time and that these are gauging, measuring the levels, the rumbling. Explain to us what's going on, how it is gauged, the tsunami?

DENGLER: Well, these dart instruments, I actually prefer to call them tsunameters because they're very much like a seismograph is to seismology. The tsunameter detects the water height out in the deep ocean where it's not affected by coastal shape and water depth, and it gives us a sense of really what the tsunami energy is out there in the ocean. We need that kind of information in order to be able to forecast what the likely impacts are in other parts of the Pacific basin.

LEMON: All right.

DENGLER: Twenty years ago, if this earthquake had happened, tsunami warnings would have been issued, but we would not have had a clue about what the likely size of the tsunami would have been at various places in the Pacific.

LEMON: And Lori Dengler -

DENGLER: And these...

LEMON: We're going to have to leave it there.

DENGLER: So it looks like -

LEMON: We're going to have to leave it there. Thank you so much. Lori Dengler's the head of the department of geology at Humboldt State University, having a little bit of a problem with her audio there. She can't hear me. So thank you very much.