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Earthquake Hits Chile; Tsunami Warnings Issued for Pacific Basin

Aired February 27, 2010 - 04:00   ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: There are power blackouts reported in Santiago, and in Concepcion, the major city that is closest to the epicenter. Also, as we have been reporting a tsunami warning has been issued for the region. We have heard reports of violent shaking during this earthquake that occurred. Damage to buildings in Santiago, some buildings have collapsed. We are getting CNN personnel on the telephone to talk with us in just a couple of minutes.

While we wait for that to happen, we'll send you back over to Ivan Cabrera who has been watching, monitoring this tsunami warning.

IVAN CABRERA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Indeed, we have a tsunami warning, of course, for the entire coast of Chile, for the entire coast of Peru. Those are the two countries that are being impacted here. If a tsunami, a destructive tsunami is going to happen those are the two regions there, that we're concerned about most.

Keep in mind, Natalie, we talk about the speed at which these waves travel, the tsunami waves, right because it is not just one; because as you remember, in the Banda Aceh, 9.0 earthquake, these subsequent waves, they caused even more damage than that initial wave. But the initial wave travels at about 800 kilometers per hour. That is about 500 miles per hour. Essentially, the speed of a jetliner, right? And so we don't have much time to warn folks.

Near the epicenter, if a destructive tsunami was to have occurred it is going to be too late for the region there. But we put out the warning so that we can get the information out to folks further and further away, as that wave continues to propagate. Of course, the further away you are from the epicenter, the longer it is going to be before a tsunami does arrive.

That is our immediate concern, because at this point, the earthquake has occurred. There is nothing we can do about that now. We are talking about an 8.8 magnitude quake. That is going to cause incredible amounts of damage near and around the epicenter there. But what we can do is warn folks about the impending secondary damage, which comes in the form of a destructive tsunami. And at this point, again, we can talk about how the amplitude of the waves here, but the major point we are driving across is that those two countries could b seeing a destructive tsunami eminent. And we are going to keep you posted on that, Natalie, as we get more data in. Back to you.

ALLEN: All right. Ivan, thanks. Rolando Santos is president of CNN Chile, he joins me now on the phone.

Rolando, good to hear from you. What can you tell us about damage and what you are hearing?

ROLANDO SANTOS, PRESIDENT, CNN CHILE: Well, the situation started a little after 3:30 this morning, about 3:40 or so, there was a violent shaking in Santiago, no question about it. I literally got knocked out of bed and onto the floor. It was pretty clear because of the length of earthquake that it was going to be a major earthquake. The city almost immediately went dark. Looking out from the balcony of my apartment, everything went black. And the earthquake lasted, at least for the part where I was awake, a good 45 seconds, to almost a minute. So you can imagine the intensity of the shock. And you know, I've lived in San Francisco and been through some quakes in San Francisco, in California, and this was one of the worst.

Driving into the CNN Chile headquarters here, the city was virtually dark. I saw a lot of facades, I didn't see any collapsed buildings, although we have reports of that. Keeping in mind that, of course, it happened at about 3:40 in the morning, local time. So, it is a little difficult to see what was going on.

The quake itself was located about 100 kilometers north of the town of Concepcion. Concepcion is the second largest city in the region. And it was felt all the way from Concepcion, as far away as Argentina.

ALLEN: What have you heard, Rolando, as far as officials giving any accounts of any casualties? Are there any initial reports?

SANTOS: Yes, we are. We just, in fact, I just got a tape that came in from the office of emergency services, the president is there. And she is saying that the earthquake was a 8.3 on the Richter scale- we still use the Richter scale down here-or a grade 9 on the Mercalli Scale. And there are six confirmed deaths in the country. Five of them occurred in the Fifth Region-down here we are not situated by states or by districts, they are known as regions-in an area called Maule, and Maule is spelled, M-A-U-L-E, which is roughly, about 90 to 100 kilometers north of Concepcion, which would make it definitely six or seven hours south of Santiago.

ALLEN: So, that is Maule? Is that right?

SANTOS: Maule, M-A-U-L-E.

ALLEN: All right.

SANTOS: It is the region, for people who know the area, or are trying to look it up on a map, it is known as the B-I-O, like in boy, B-I-O. It was the original capital of Chile at one point, before it was moved up to Santiago and Barissio (ph). So, right now we have an unconfirmed report that the major bridge between the north and southern sections of the country is out, or at least not operable. I don't know if it is actually there is damage to it to the point where it is falling apart of whether simply there is so much debris and stuff that you can't get from one end of the country to the other, if you were driving.

ALLEN: Well, as you talk Rolando, we are seeing pictures of cars lined up on a road, no doubt people trying to evacuate. But you say, on your way in-did you-you say the streets were relatively quiet, where you were?


ALLEN: But I would imagine that is not the case in many other areas.

SANTOS: No, Natalie, because keep in mind, for us down here it is summertime, right? And this is the end of the summer season and like many parts of Europe, for example, literally Santiago is just a ghost town during the four weeks of February, coming into March. And so everyone is finishing up their vacation, so they actually may be streaming trying to get back to their primary residence.

Just to give you an example of the exodus, one way or the other, between Friday, which would have been yesterday, and Monday, the volume of cars in Santiago increases by 250,000 and that is people coming back home. So, without being able to see what you are seeing, it could very well be that they are people that are trying to get back to Santiago and to their homes to assess the situation.

ALLEN: All right. Rolando Santos, president of CNN Chile, we'll talk with you again, Rolando. Thank you very much. Rolando letting us know that they have been six confirmed deaths in the country, also that a major bridge connecting the northern and southern part of the country is not passable.

We have with us now, Brian Byrnes, he is a reporter from Buenos Aires, Argentina.

And Brian, I'm told that you monitored the president of Chile's comments, she made a short while ago, what can you tell us about what she said?

BRIAN BYRNES, CNN CONTRIBUTING REPORTER: Yes, Natalie, I was just listening to the press conference of President Michelle Bachelet. I'm going to repeat some of the things that Rolando said. But, yes, President Bachelet confirmed that there were six deaths so far, but she also made points to say that she expects there to be more deaths and more injury as the day drags on. They said they are still trying to figure out exactly where the epicenter is and they are continuing to monitor exactly where this occurred and trying to get people right now.

She said if you did need to move around people within the Santiago region, and throughout the whole country, she said they should only do so if it is absolutely necessary and she really urged tranquility for the people of Chile. She said they are working very hard to try to resolve the situation right now. She was having a meeting with some of her cabinet members right now to try to really assess the situation.

I can tell you here, in Argentina, across the Andes, several 100 miles to the east, in Buenos Aires, parts of the earthquake were felt here. And, in fact, in Buenos Aires, the city, many of the tall buildings in downtown Buenos Aires were evacuated immediately after the earthquake occurred. There was essentially late-night cleaning personnel and security staff for some of the downtown office buildings but they were in fact evacuated from the buildings as a precaution against this earthquake that took place in Chile, Natalie.

ALLEN: Well, that tells you the extent of how powerful this was, 8.8. Brian, did the president of Chile talk any about any sense of building collapses?

BYRNES: Not that I heard of. She did not make any reference, that I heard of specifically, about building collapses, but she did say that she knew that the damage was great and that they were assessing the situation right now and could only confirm, for the moment, were those six deaths, so far, Natalie.

ALLEN: All right. We appreciate you helping us with that, Brian Byrnes, from Buenos Aires. If you hear any more, please call us back.

Brian repeating what we have learned, just here, a few moments ago, from Brian and confirming with our president of CNN Chile, that there are six confirmed deaths. Major damage there in Santiago and Maule, where the epicenter-closest to the epicenter, we have not heard many reports from Concepcion, the second largest city there in Chile, with 200,000 residents. We haven't heard many reports from there, but as you can see, power outages, throughout Chile, as this earthquake descended; 8.8, is the latest report.

Many of you are taking to Facebook and your Twitter accounts to talk about this earthquake. There are already support groups even established on Facebook. The earthquake is the top trending topic on Twitter right now. Of course, we can't confirm what we are seeing but here is a snapshot of what we are reading of the urgent messages.

A former "American Idol" contestant is in Chile right now and he has said that he has gathered blankets from his hotel room, he's huddled in the street. And he wrote, "Here come some more aftershocks-sweet Jesus, and baby Jesus!"

Many of you around the world are hoping for the best for the people of Chile. CDiddy14 writes simply, "Oh, my God, pray for Chile." Another one, "saying a prayer for the people of Chile." So we continue to read what people are saying and we continue to monitor any Tweets that we get out of Chile.

So, we'll continue to bring you updates. We are getting more and more information as this story spreads and the officials ramp up there and the news 24/7 news is covering the story there in Chile. In the middle of the night this earthquake happened a couple of hours ago. We'll continue to bring you the latest video that we get and information. Quick break and we're back in a moment.


ALLEN: And hello again from CNN Center. I'm Natalie Allen with an update on the breaking news out of Chile. The government there now confirming at least six people were killed in the earthquake. The magnitude 8.8 quake hit after 3:30 a.m. local time. A short while ago the president of CNN Chile described to me shaking so violently he was knocked out of bed. He said it shook from about 45 seconds to a minute.

And also the epicenter of the quake, 320 kilometers from Santiago. Our CNN official there, in Chile, said that the closest town was Maule, spelled M-A-U-L-E. So we will continue to bring you these pictures that we're getting of the scenes from the streets there. This, I believe, is Santiago, people, of course, out on the streets. Cars on the roads as we continue to try to bring you information, we have received information that there is structure damage. Some buildings collapsed in Santiago and Santiago 320 kilometers away from the epicenter.

And also our personnel, from CNN in Chile, telling us that a major bridge that connects the northern and southern parts of the country is not passable. He couldn't say whether it had collapsed but he said not passable.

So, let's go to our meteorologist, Ivan Cabrera. We are headed there to talk with Ivan about these tsunamis warnings that have been issued, that could be occurring on the coast there.

CABRERA: Absolutely. And I think that is going to be the threat here. Of course the earthquake has already happened, but the tsunami has been generated. We do have confirmation from the buoys that we look at to let us know whether there has been any effect from that earthquake, as far as a tsunami being generated. And indeed, there was one generated.

I cannot tell you how destructive that is going to be, but I feel that that information, when we have situations like this is really irrelevant, because it can be destructive. The potential for it to be devastating is there, which is why you have to heed the warnings immediately, when you talk about a warning.

And behind me, here, our producer Brandon Miller, working in the background here, has been highlighting here. There you see Chile, which is under of course, the tsunami warning, which means that conditions are eminent for the arrival for those destructive waves. Because, as you may recall, they come in succession; you don't just get one wave coming in. You can get one after the other, after the other, each being successively even more destructive than the first.

So, we have a tsunami warning for Chile. We have the tsunami warning for Peru. North of that we have a watch. Think of hurricanes or typhoons. The difference is the time and how long it gets there. And the reason we have a watch further to the north is just geography. It is just because it is further away from the epicenter. If you think if a rock, you throw it in the middle of a lake, right? The waves propagate. And it takes a while. And the further you are away from that initial displacement of the water, the longer it is going to be to get to you. So that is why we only have a watch for Ecuador and a watch has been extended as well for Panama, and Costa Rica. And that is about the extent as far as how far north we are going.

But even further south, we have a watch for Antarctica. A tsunami watch for Antarctica as the epicenter is here. And of course, the waves are going to propagate in the 360 degrees here from the epicenter. And when you talk about an 8.8, the potential destruction is unbelievable. Remember the Banda Aceh, Natalie, if you recall. Obviously, that was a 9.1, and it occurred in a similar plate situation here.

When you talk about these boundaries, which is why the earthquakes occur, right? Haiti we had a strike slip earthquake, which is boundaries that parallel each other, not conducive for displacement of water. Right? Not conducive for a tsunami. But here what we have is the Naska plate, subducting under the South American plate. And so, essentially when you have converging plates they don't go down, they have to go up and so when you get that displacement of water, that initial burst, the rupture, that is you earthquake, and that is what will cause the tsunami.

And the correlation between the magnitude of the earthquake and the destruction that can be caused by a tsunami is certainly there. When we talk about say a 5.0, we don't get too concerned about a destructive tsunami being generated, but my goodness when you are getting into an 8.8, that is almost about 64 times more energy released from that rupture, from that earthquake, than what you had in Haiti, which was a 7.0. I don't care if you design a building specifically to withstand earthquakes, you are still going to get some kind of damage, even in those structures, from an 8.8.

Then you talk about structures that weren't built to sustain that shaking, because as you recall, again, it is that motion, the side to side and up and down, buildings cannot take that kind of motion, right? So, they are going to come down. We have already seen pictures coming out, not only of Chile, but I think we are going to continue to see this even further away from the epicenter.

In fact, this occurred-and this is the other problem here-in Haiti, obviously, we had all those poorly constructed structures which is why the devastation was so incredible. But that occurred in the middle of the day, the afternoon, and this occurred at 3:34, in the middle of the night. No warning, at all. Of course, you don't get those with earthquakes. So, you are in the middle of the night and you don't have much warning. But the one I can give you is the fact that this earthquake, then, Natalie, could have generated a destructive tsunami.

We know it generated a tsunami, how destructive it is we can't tell you. But certainly plan for the worst if you are watching us certainly from coastal Chile, or from coastal Peru. Those are the areas that I'm concerned about a destructive tsunami eminent over the next hour. And, of course, the further away you get the more time you have. It is up to local authorities now to take the warning from the USGS and do their-do what they need to do as far as their action to plan to be put in place. Because this is the time to do it.

Look at the epicenter here. I mean, this is just a few kilometers, just a few miles, a couple of miles away from the coast here. And the depth is also important. How deep is the earthquake? The further down, right? The deeper the earthquake is, the less energy that arrives at the surface. So, essentially a shallow earthquake is going to cause extensive damage or more damage than a deep earthquake. And this one was about 35 kilometers, that is about 22 miles, so relatively shallow. A shallow earthquake, 8.8 and occurring in a converging plate situation, where a tsunami-destructive tsunami, could have been generated. Just all the worst situations possible here and on top of that, Natalie, happening in the middle of the night, locally there.

ALLEN: Seeing there, behind you, looking at Concepcion, and seeing how close it was to the epicenter. And we have been covering this story for a couple hours now, Ivan, and we haven't heard anything, at least-

CABRERA: We're not going to. We're not going to, in Concepcion. An 8.8, that close to it, it is going to be devastating for them. You heard that this was felt as far east as Argentina, right?

ALLEN: Right.

CABRERA: Well, we have mountains here and if you get that energy felt all the way east, you know what is happening near the epicenter there, with an 8.8. You don't have to be a seismologist for that, Natalie.

ALLEN: All right. It will continue to unfold, absolutely. Ivan, thanks so much.

As he mentioned, yes, we talked with someone just a short while ago who said that people heard it-felt, felt the quake, excuse me, in Buenos Aires, to the east and over a mountain range.

We have been seeing these pictures. Obviously, this just outside a hospital, emergency workers assisting perhaps people being brought in who were injured in this earthquake. Again, six confirmed deaths but the president of Chile saying that she expected that number to increase as they learn more as emergency officials fan out across the country.

We talked with a few people in Santiago. Earlier I talked with Leo Perieto, in the Chilean capital. He was on the sixth floor of his apartment building. Listen to him describe what he experienced.


LEO PERIETO, SANTIAGO RESIDENT: It was probably three, four, five minutes long. I've experienced another very big earthquake. This one was very strong. Last time I experienced an earthquake I was at ground level, now I'm at the top of a building so it really moved around a lot. You could really feel the walls moving from side to side; all the big windows making lots of noise. It felt really, really strong.

ALLEN: Now that you have power back are you able to monitor any news reports? You said that you have heard some helicopters in the area?

PERIETO: Yes, cell phones went out, but the data services on the phones were still working so we could get on Twitter. We could send text messages to family and friends and see that they were all OK. And we have been getting most of our info off of Twitter, really. And even the official reports from the minister of interior have being moving around fast, the tsunami warnings, and all of that, and people reporting form all around Chile.

But I haven't heard much about people who are actually near the epicenter. We have heard reports from people nearby in Argentina, and further up north as well, in Chile, that also felt the quake.

ALLEN: Can you sense that people are out moving around, Leo, at this moment? Are they staying inside huddled down? What can you tell us about the environment around your neighborhood?

PERIETO: I actually woke up, I was in bed with my wife, so I got her out of the building as quickly as possible. And everything, everything was quiet, not too many people going outside. Quite quickly people started going back up, but we have been seeing some people saying on Twitter that they have been walking up around streets around my neighborhood. And that they are seeing many people on the streets.

What was quite incredible was that from my building I could look around and see everything was-was, there was a complete blackout, but the traffic lights, for some reason, were still working, which was good.


ALLEN: That was about one hour ago. Right now we are going to join a local broadcast in Chile. We are going to bring you the translation of this Spanish broadcast. Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): -on the floor, in the sector Puriente (ph), we are seeing some cars completely on the floor. We don't know if there are any injured people. We are trying to bring you the latest information after this earthquake registered in the city of Concepcion and it has also affected Santiago, 8.8 in the Richter scale.

We are hoping we won't find any injured people. All the emergency crews are out and they are working. They are hustling, they are everywhere. They are trying to find people that need help. The earthquake hit around 4 a.m., quite strong. Incredible consequences, drastic consequences, possibly fatal consequences.

We are now going to go to our other correspondents who are in other sectors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): They are being reports that some bridges that have fallen, part of the preliminary information, quickly we are going to one of our reporters over a phone line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Good morning, Monica.

Around 4:30 in the morning, a wall of an historic house just fell and injured a person and killed another one.

We are waiting or emergency crews to arrive at the scene to take the body. The family is just-they just don't know what to do with themselves. We don't know who this person is yet, we don't have the identity of the person yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There was a big earthquake that registered around 3:30 in the morning. We have also been hearing reports of another victim in the capital of a driver that was driving around the city, is this correct?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes, this is somebody that fell off their motorbike, but this happened before



UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): So the victims that we have right now are up to six. We have confirmed one more death in Valparaiso. And we have another death confirmed in Bahill (ph), Brazil.

The earthquake, 8.5 on the Richter scale, that hit the country around 3:30 in the morning. We have some preliminary information, two deaths in Menua (ph), a 40-year-old woman, a wall fell on her. And another woman, 60-years-old, heart attack.

So to recap, the epicenter was in Concepcion, northeast of the city of Concepcion, 8.5 in the Richter scale, 9 degrees in the Mercalli scale.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Total communications have been very difficult in the last couple of hours. And-and information, we don't have enough information about this earthquake, whose epicenter was in Concepcion. We believe it was quite, quite severe in this area.

To summarize, five dead in the Hallah (ph) Region, one in Vina del Mar. And another man dead in Barria Barastil (ph). And two more possible other areas of the city. So, 10 people confirmed dead in the last couple of hours. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): And also we are trying to confirm the death of this motorists that died around the time of the earthquake, but who did not die because of a wall fell on him.

Very important, we want to confirm that a couple of hours ago-



ALLEN: At CNN Center we are hearing the reports, there, from live broadcasts in Chile, in Santiago. We had been told there were six confirmed deaths, that number could very well rise of course. In that video we heard them say 10 confirmed deaths. But again, we are following all the developments as they come in very slowly from Chile. An earthquake striking in the middle of the night. Here are some of the pictures of the destruction that we're starting to get in. We've been told that buildings have collapsed in Chile in Santiago. Santiago is not even near the epicenter. It's 320 kilometers away. Concepcion is the closest city and let's get more on where this earthquake struck and what we know about what has happened since and the tsunami that it generated from Ivan Cabrera in the weather center. Ivan?

CABRERA: Natalie and I think that's the important thing here to drive home and that's what I want to talk about first. What you see is the imminent threat that continues here with the tsunami. The earthquake has already happened. There's nothing we can do about that, 8.8 there off the coast of Chile but what I want to do and Brandon, my producer back there is working on getting this in graphable form but I really just want to read out based on computer modeling here as far as the tsunami wave, the first wave arriving and so I'm going to give you the country and the coastal location and the time of when we expect this tsunami to arrive. Unfortunately there are about eight or nine locations where that's already happened in Chile. So I'll start where we have at least some time here.

We have about an hour and 12 minutes for the first arrival in Puerto Mont in Chile, the same amount of - excuse me, an hour later Easter Island, Punta Arenas at 12:13 GMT, Puerto Williams, that's 14:00 GMT and then we get into Peru, Morgendo (ph), that the arrival there in about six minutes, 12 minutes is what we have San Juan La Punta (ph) at 10:45 GMT, Ecuador, Larivadad (ph) at 12 GMT. So obviously as we get further and further away from the epicenter we have more time. Once you get into Columbia and Panama and Costa Rica you have several hours to prepare and get your citizens off the coast for this potential destructive tsunami and Brandon if we get any updates on the amplitude of the waves here pass them along to me but the latest I have again two to four foot waves generated from this tsunami and because of the varying coastlines across the Chilean coast here and across further north into Peru, the depth and how shallow it is and the orientation, it is all - that all plays into how destructive a tsunami can be as we had it with Banda Aceh at the 9.0. Some coastlines fair down for worse than others because of the orientation, because of the shallow depth there so it is difficult to say which areas would be impacted worse but the point here is you get everybody out. You get everybody along the coast away as fast as possible where you do have enough time and obviously the closer to the epicenter the less time you have.

What I want to do now is talk about the potential folks that are going to be impacted here because this is significant. What we do here with computer modeling as well is we have this. We call it the shake map here and that estimates how severe the shaking was and when we talk about the severe shaking that is when we talk about buildings coming down, right? So we have a population here over two million possibly feeling the severity of the earthquake at 8.8 and the numbers get a little bit lower as you get further away from that epicenter but again, 7.0 in Haiti, just to give you perspective, right? We had this recently so it's fresh in your mind. A 7.0 in Haiti, when you get to almost a 9.0 which is what we have here 8.8, that's about 64 times the energy or 64 times worse. It's not 1.8 times worse. It's 64 times the power, the displacement of energy from that epicenter so the destruction is just incredible closer to the epicenter there and again, Concepcion is only about 100 kilometers away from the epicenter. We already have reports of complete building collapses as far away as the capital and that is 300 kilometers away. So you can do the math there and certainly deduce what can happen closer to that 8.8 earthquake.

And again, so we have the two threats Natalie here of the earthquake has already happened. Search and rescue obviously is going to be underway in massive capacity across these countries here but the imminent threat that we're still following is going to be for this tsunami. I must say the tsunami - joint tsunami warning center here has certainly put out advisories as well for Hawaii. If you're watching this from mainland Hawaii, you want to stay abreast of the information here. There is no imminent threat as far as any tsunami but they are forwarding some of the data here and a watch or warning may be imminent there as they continue to get more data from those buoys that essentially let us know how far reaching the tsunami is and how potentially destructive it is but certainly the farther away you are like Hawaii you're going to have several hours before that reaches you where you're closer to the epicenter here you're obviously not going to have any time at all, Natalie. So we'll keep you posted and as soon as we get any updates as far as any additional watches or any expanded warnings, we'll certainly know then. Natalie?

ALLEN: Ivan as you talk I'm just sitting here thinking daylight can't come soon enough for the people of Chile as they try to help those who might need it right now there as everyone is mobilized to see the extent of the damage and the deaths. There is a meeting being shot. I think that's the president of Chile there on the screen. I'm not absolutely certain but we have heard from her this morning. It is. Rafael Romo is with me. He's our senior Latin American affairs editor. He says that is President Michelle Bachelet is it Rafael?


ALLEN: Bachelet and let's talk about what has happened in Chile here in the middle of the night and what we could be looking at Rafael. ROMO: Well I think the biggest concern right now is that it happened precisely in the middle of the night, 3:34 a.m., 1:34 a.m. eastern in the United States. A lot of people sleeping. It's very different when it comes to for example Haiti that it happened just before five o'clock in the afternoon. And the other problem is that we don't really know the extent of the damage and we won't know until we see some sunlight. It's going to be very difficult to really assess the damage until then.

Now one thing I can say though the difference between Chile and Haiti is that in Chile they've had experienced a situation like this. this is not too far from the site of the largest ever recorded earthquake in 1960 with a magnitude of 9.5, killed more than 1600 people so you would expect buildings in that area to be better built than the buildings that we saw collapse in Haiti. So that's a little bit of good news. Of course, officially we have the President Bachelet saying that it's been six people confirmed dead but the reality is that we won't know for quite some time. The problem too is that the tsunami alert may impact several other countries in the area. We're talking specifically about Peru being so close to Chile but also it's a list of several countries like Ecuador, Columbia, Panama, Costa Rica and even as far south as Antarctica. We were listening to reports of people feeling the earthquake on the other side of the south coast in Argentina, Buenos Aires people feeling it there as well. So it makes you wonder, magnitude 8.8 hits at 3:34 in the morning local time in Chile, some of the buildings that collapsed, were there people inside? Are we talking about people who are going to be trapped? Chile sent a brigade of search and rescue workers so you have a lot of people with experience in this kind of situation in Chile so hopefully it's not as bad as some people have indicated but definitely a big concern, Natalie.

ALLEN: Right. Certainly destruction in Chile far, far different story. Everyone thinking of Haiti right now since that just happened but far, far different because they are prepared for these things and they are built for these things but as Ivan has pointed out, at 8.8 you're going to have some buildings collapse because they just can't withstand it and the people that we've talked with, Rafael, they've been in it before but they've said this one was really terrifying.

ROMO: Exactly. And a lot of times people get confused when it comes to how earthquakes are measured. We say Haiti was 7.0. Chile is 8.8. There's only - some people would say there's only one degree of difference but as has been indicated, we're talking about a magnitude of 64 times higher than we saw in Haiti and Haiti we've seen the images that it looked like a war zone. Now the first images that we're getting, it doesn't look nearly as bad as we saw in Haiti and that's because, Natalie as we've been saying, the difference is that Chile - the building code in Chile is much, much better so I would expect that many of these buildings have really - are still standing, not as many collapsed buildings as we have seen before and we begin to see the first rescue efforts and people trying to go back to normal two hours after this happened and one of the problems Natalie is that many power lines are down. Communications are down. And so there's no way to talk to a lot of people. Concepcion is an area of about 670,000 people, one of the largest cities in Chile and so as you can imagine, a lot of concern for the federal authorities there in Chile.

ALLEN: And we really haven't gotten any reports and Ivan was saying we're not going to. They're so close to the epicenter no telling what they're going through right now but we continue to get these pictures and as we mentioned, this happened, what, a couple hours ago. News coming in very slowly about the extent of the damage. The media crews doing what they can there in Chile and also since you're just joining us Rafael, we heard from our president of CNN Chile, Rolando Santos that this shook so violently it knocked him out of bed and it went for almost a minute. As you mentioned, the biggest recorded earthquake in history happened in Chile in 1960 and so the folks there in this country very well prepared, probably as well as we can expect for this part of the world for a major earthquake but this was a huge one.

ROMO: Natalie, I'm also very concerned about the coastal areas because we haven't received any information as to what might have happened there and we understand that the earthquake set off a tsunami and so I'm talking about the hard to reach areas. Chile has a very, very long coast and communications are down. No -- power lines are down. No telephone lines. I'm talking about small towns that probably don't have television or radio or any other means of communication that might have been effected by this and we haven't heard from them. Here we see President Michelle Bachelet talking to the media in Chile. She has confirmed that there were six people who died as a result of this 8.8 magnitude earthquake but again, that's very preliminary information and authorities there in Chile are only beginning to assess the damage of this earthquake Natalie.

ALLEN: All right. Rafael Romo with us, our Latin American affairs editor.

We're going right now to live coverage, the president of Chile is speaking. Let's listen.

PRES. MICHELLE BACHELET, CHILE (through translator): There will be a meeting of the (inaudible) committee with everybody to share all of our information. We are taking all the necessary precautions. We are working and any information that we have we will give it out immediately. There are areas in the country where obviously communications are not normalized. There's three teams that are leaving Santiago going to the seven, eight and nine regions with special equipment so that whether communications have been effected they can restore them. We're going to evaluate travel plans at this point in time. Right now we're just focused on the impact this earthquake has had on our population and infrastructure. We're taking all the necessary measures at this time and we will let you - we will keep bringing you information as we have it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It was - the president of the republic, Michelle Bachelet, she is meeting with the emergency committee. They started meeting at 6 a.m. here in Santiago. They've been meeting for about 45 minutes.

ALLEN: All right. You've been listening to tape actually that was videotape taken of the president of Chile Michelle Bachelet jus a short while ago talking about the emergency response to this earthquake and all of the teams that are fanning out across the country to assist people who have been impacted. We have on the phone with us now Randy Baldwin. He is a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Randy, talk to me about the magnitude of this earthquake in Chile.

RANDY BALDWIN, U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY: Well this is a magnitude 8.8 earthquake which classifies it as a major event and it occurred of a depth of about 22 miles and it occurred somewhat within a number of different populated areas approximately 200 miles southwest of Santiago and approximately 70 miles northeast of Concepcion.

ALLEN: Thanks Randy. Well what can you tell us when you say 8.8, what does that tell you as a geophysicist of what we could be seeing as far as the danger that Chileans have been through and we'll talk about the tsunami as well.

BALDWIN: Well an 8.8 is a major quake and it occurred along an area of a plate margin boundary between the South America plate and the Nazca plate and in this particular area, you have the Nazca plate, it is diving beneath a portion of the South American plate and along this boundary where that is happening is a zone that produces that produces earthquakes and volcanoes. This area has historically produced large damaging quakes in the past so for an 8.8 earthquake, you would expect there to be the potential for you know damage on any of the population within that area.

ALLEN: And what about the tsunami warning that has been issued for Chile and Peru and how far does the watch extend? Can you give us information on that?

BALDWIN: The information that I currently have was that a local wave was generated that had a height of approximately somewhere between three and four feet and so the tsunami warning or the tsunami watch was in effect for Ecuador, Columbia, Antarctica, Panama and Costa Rica which are the coastal countries that are adjacent to here but the tsunami warning was in effect specifically for Chile and Peru.

ALLEN: An 8.8, when was the last time that we saw such a strong earthquake occur in recent years Randy?

BALDWIN: I think the previous large quake prior to this one was back in 2004 and that was the quake that occurred off the coast of Sumatra and it was in the lower nines.

ALLEN: And a lot of people will probably be thinking about Haiti right now. Randy, kind of give us the relationship of the size of this quake in relation to Haiti.

BALDWIN: Well this quake is larger in terms of magnitude. It's still to be determined what the actual effects will be in terms of damage, casualties and things like that because the Haiti quake occurred right within a major population center and that has everything to do with how close a population center is to the epicenter of an earthquake.

ALLEN: What about any reports of aftershocks or the chances of that there in Chile?

BALDWIN: Yes, there have been a number of aftershocks that we've seen show up and I would say that the people could expect aftershocks for at least the next coming weeks if not longer.

ALLEN: Weeks you said, that's plural.

BALDWIN: Yes, that's correct, yes.

ALLEN: Now can you expand on that and how strong they possibly could be, any way of knowing?

BALDWIN: Well, we have identified aftershocks of thus far of 6.2, 6.9 and 6.0. However, generally the main shock is the largest and then over a period of time the aftershocks decrease in magnitude.

ALLEN: Well we thank you so much for talking with us, Randy Baldwin, geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey. Thank you very much. Randy telling us that the people there in Chile can expect aftershocks for several weeks and they've already had two registering 6.2 and 6.9. Thank you again sir.

I'm sitting here on the set with our Latin American affairs editor, Rafael Romo, who's with us and we've been talking about the fact that just listening to this geophysicist talk about how big this earthquake is and it's the middle of the night. There's so much work to be done, so many people that could be in duress right now and a big area for these emergency teams to try to perform rescues and do searches.

ROMO: And Natalie we just heard from President Bachelet as well and she was saying that they already had three teams of search and rescue specialists leave the capital of Santiago going to areas of the country and the coastal areas that might have been effected. So that's good news, the fact that they have been able to mobilize so fast and she also said that they are evaluating travel plans whether they consider closing down airports and assessing also the condition of the roads. There's no way of knowing at this point what might have happened to roads especially those that go through the coastal areas. President Bachelet was saying that she had a 45 minute meeting with some of her closest cabinet members and they're trying to decide at this early hour what to do, what's next, what areas of the population they should focus on and we were saying before that it hit not too far from the city of Concepcion, population 670,000 so we're not talking about small towns here. We're talking a major population center and also about 200 miles from the capital of Santiago so what happened in Santiago? I want to know about the buildings that may be in the outskirts of the city that may not have been as well built as some of the buildings in downtown Santiago. All of those questions are going to have be answered sometime soon and especially if we're talking about the possibility of people who might have been trapped. It hit at 3:34 in the morning. That's about the worst possible time for an earthquake to hit Natalie. We were remembering that in Haiti it happened just before five o'clock in the afternoon. This happened at 3:34 local time in Chile which is 1:34 eastern time in the United States.

ALLEN: We talked with a hotel worker right after it happened and her voice was still shaking and as I mentioned earlier, she said she's been in many earthquakes there in Chile but she'd never felt anything quite like this. That's quite terrifying and her hotel is in tact in Santiago but had some damage and the power was out. Do we want to go to Rolando Santos now? We're going to go to Rolando Santos. He's the president of CNN Chile and I talked with him probably about 30 minutes ago. He describes what he felt and reports that he has heard. So let's listen to that tape.

ROLANDO SANTOS, PRESIDENT CNN CHILE: There was a violent shaking in Santiago, no question about it and you know I certainly - I literally got knocked out of bed and onto the floor and it was pretty clear because of the length of the earthquake that it was going to be a major earthquake. The city almost immediately went dark. Looking out from the balcony of my apartment everything went black and the earthquake lasted at least through the parts where I was awake was a good 45 seconds to almost a minute so you can imagine the intensity of the shock. I've lived in San Francisco and been through some quakes in San Francisco and California and this was one of the worst. Driving into the CNN Chile headquarters here, the city was virtually dark. I saw a lot of facades. I didn't see any collapsed buildings although we have reports of that. Keep in mind of course that it happened about 3:40 in the morning local time so it's a little difficult to see what was going on. The quake itself was located about 100 kilometers north of the town of Concepcion. Concepcion is the second largest city in the region and it was felt all the way from Concepcion as far away as Argentina.

ALLEN: What have you heard Rolando as far as officials giving any account of any casualties? Are there any initial reports?

SANTOS: Yes we are. We just - in fact I just got a tape that came in from the office of emergency services. The president is there and she is saying that the earthquake was an 8.3 on the Richter scale. We still use the Richter scale down here or a grade nine on the mercalli scale and there are six confirmed deaths in the country. Five of them occurred in the fifth region. Down here we're not situated by states. We're by districts. They're known as regions in an area called Maule and Maule is spelled m-a-u-l-e which is roughly about 95 to 100 miles north of Concepcion which would make it definitely six or seven hours south of Santiago.

ALLEN: That's Maule, is that right?

SANTOS: Maule, m-a-u-l-e.

ALLEN: All right.

SANTOS: It's a region - the region for people who know the area or are trying to look it up on the map, it's known as the bio region and that's spelled b-i-o like in boy, b-i-o. It was the original capital of Chile at one point before (inaudible) so right now we have an unconfirmed report that the major bridge between the north and southern sections of the countries is out or at least not operable. I don't know if there's actually - if there's damage to it to the point where it's fallen apart or whether it's simply so much debris and stuff that you can't get from one end of the country to the other if you were driving.

ALLEN: That was Rolando Santos, president of CNN Chile with us about 45 minutes ago. We have heard another report that there might be already 10 confirmed dead but he knew of six at that point. 8.8 quake jolted Chile, of course South America's Pacific coast but its effects were also felt in Argentina on the continent's south Atlantic coast and earlier I talked with reporter Brian Byrnes in Buenos Aires who told us about how it affected Argentina. Let's listen.

BRIAN BYRNES, REPORTER: I can tell you here in Argentina across the Andes several hundred miles to the east in Buenos Aires parts of the earthquake were felt here and in fact in Buenos Aires the city many of the tall buildings in downtown Buenos Aires were evacuated immediately after the earthquake occurred. It is essentially was late night cleaning personnel and security staff for some of the downtown office buildings but they were in fact evacuated from the buildings as a precaution against this earthquake that took place in Chile.

ALLEN: Very far away this 8.8 magnitude earthquake. We're going to go into our newsroom live now, our Errol Barnett is monitoring social media and how people are responding to news of this massive earthquake. Errol?

ERROL BARNETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Natalie this is the biggest topic online right now, people around the world reacting to this massive earthquake. In fact, if we check Twitter, Chile is the top trend on right now as people are sending messages, sharing bits of information as well. We can actually show you what we're looking now if we take in the control room GR412 you'll be able to see a computer screen we have for you with all these pages pulled up and also we have a map I want to show you. It's which plots the location of tweets coming out and what we see is that along the Chilean coast people one of the biggest fears right now is the tsunami, a fear of water rushing along the coast. As you can see there messages and tweets all being sent at the same time. People are also, if we check the next page here,, sending messages and little bits of information, locals listening to radio stations and they're power is out. Communication lines are down. They're listening to radio stations noting that this death toll is continuing to rise. Also on Facebook so far all I've found on Chilean Facebook group has a few hundred thousand members, it's been flooded over the past few hours with a lot of messages of support. Here you can see one person saying that prayers go out to all of the people in Chile. This individual has family there. They're hoping to hear from them soon. Many other people are posting similar messages as well.

Another resource we're keeping our eyes on right now is A few moments ago we had Mauricio who sent an I-report this one here from neighboring Argentina and he says that he lives in the city of Mendoza and in fact that's just across the border from Santiago in Chile and he felt the strong movement of the quake there as well. I've tried to reach out to him over the phone. The number that he's provided that phone line is down at the moment but we're continuing to track this so viewers should keep in mind, if you have any pictures or video or eyewitness accounts of what's taken place these last few hours and what's taking place now, head to and upload them. We'll try to reach out to you over the phone and via email as well to get more details from you. But right now it's kind of more in the assessment phase, people online really reacting to what's taking place, people shocked that this major quake coming just after another large quake off the coast of Japan yesterday. People really are sending messages of support, many messages in Spanish as well. No pictures as of yet. As we know this happened in the middle of the night there in Chile but we're going to continue to track social media and I-report as well so we can get as many eyewitness accounts in as possible. Again, you can head to if you have any information or eyewitness accounts. We're tracking it all and we're tracking all the social media sites as well Natalie.

ALLEN: Errol thanks so much, Errol Barnett in our newsroom, we'll continue to stay in touch with him. We're told the president of Chile is making more remarks now, Michelle Bachelet, let's listen.

BACHELET (through translator): We don't know if there are others that have died because maybe the wave caused by the earthquake. We don't have - we don't have any specific details. We will bring this information to you as soon as we have it. We know there's damages at different levels but as a precautionary measure we evacuated some hospitals, several hospitals, especially the ones that are older, just as a preventative measure. Some of the hospitals here in the capital city have also been evacuated with the help of the army.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): What does it mean that we're calling some of these areas zones of catastrophe?

BACHELET (through translator): It basically means that we're releasing emergency help to these areas with any kind of a bureaucratic tie up.