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Magnitude 8.8 Earthquake Hits Chile; Chilean Citizens Talk About Their Experience

Aired February 27, 2010 - 09:00   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: I want to take you now on the ground to downtown Santiago. On the phone with us is Adrien Lopez. She has been experiencing aftershocks all morning long.

Adrien, if you will though, please take me back to when the earthquake first struck, the 8.8 magnitude quake. What did that feel like?


NGUYEN: I can hear you, yes.

LOPEZ: Yes, great. Well, let's see. It was -- I had just been a bed a couple hours and it shook me out of bed. I literally rolled out of bed on to the floor. I was kind of remembering back to living in Alaska and you have to immediately go to a door frame. So I stood under the door frame, got down on my knees and was just trying to find my dog. She was barking. It just kept shaking.

I mean, I felt a few aftershocks -- or a few tremors before in this thing. But the sixth floor, I thought the building was going to collapse. All you could think about was the recent earthquake in Haiti and how those buildings collapsed but we made it through. Scary.

NGUYEN: And then afterwards, we've been hearing of aftershocks as strong as 6.9 in magnitude. For all accounts, that's a pretty large earthquake in and of itself. So you've been hit time after time, it seems, in the past few hours with more aftershocks.

LOPEZ: Yes, and actually that's why I've been waiting for this interview; the building is still shaking. I mean, I'm kind of nervous on end, I haven't slept yet and the building just keeps moving. I kind of wonder when it'll stop. I mean, the first part's over at least. I'm trying to clean up all the glass and ...

NGUYEN: Are you getting any direction from emergency crews as to where to go, shelter set-up, what to do next?

LOPEZ: Well, I mean, for the most part, this downtown area is intact. I mean, that's what's good about Chilean architecture is most of the big buildings here in the center are good and you see people out walking around a little bit. But the -- in each building, they've come around and made sure we're okay and to let the (ph) cut the gas off. Some buildings have water. I've been lucky to have my WiFi up this whole time, so I've been able to communicate on Facebook and Skype and stuff, so.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN ANCHOR: What kind of things have you seen? Where -- now, we're finally able to get pictures, Adrien, and ...


MARCIANO: ...and quite frankly, some of the pictures look eerily reminiscent of Haiti, although better built structures, but some of them are completely collapsed. Other than the panic you saw and felt in the -- ensuing minutes after the quake, what have you seen on the streets where you are?

LOPEZ: Well, I honestly haven't been able to go to the streets because the elevators don't work in my building and 16 floors is not -- we had a big water break, so I can't walk down the stairs either. But from my terrace, I mean the police station is right below. There's been constant helicopters, you see windows broken out and stuff on the streets.

The major stuff is in the older areas of town, which is kind of on the outskirts, the buildings collapsed. But like I said, downtown's pretty modern, so the buildings are mostly for the most part are still up (ph).

MARCIANO: What have they told you? Has anybody told you anything as far as, you know, getting you out of there? So, the stairwell is blocked, they don't want you to leave your room? What's your status?

LOPEZ: Well, yes. They called up and made sure I was OK and the water -- we have at least cold water running in our building, so I'm OK. I'm getting a lot of messages from friends around the city asking if I want to go down. They did ask me to go down right after it happened, and I thought well, the worst is over, we'd be OK after that. I mean, I don't really want to go down into the street and hang out, so I'm just weathering it here with the aftershocks.

NGUYEN: Adrien, what are you hearing about Concepcion because we understand that's what, about 212 miles away from Santiago, but it is very close to the epicenter. Are you hearing any more information as to what the status is of the damage there?

LOPEZ: Well, I know the bridge collapsed outside the city. I'm pretty sure the bridge that gets people out of Santiago to the south, I mean there are some bridges collapsed further down near Concepcion.

And a lot of friends have family in Concepcion because that's the second biggest city and they've been actually trying to call me to get them to communicate messages through internet and stuff like that because the phone lines haven't been up in that part of Chile. Hardly anywhere in Chile, in the south, so yes.

NGUYEN: And you're without electricity at this hour as well, correct? LOPEZ: Well, surprisingly -- you know, I think it's because I'm right next to a police station downtown here that about an hour after -- you know, it was eerie for a while not seeing any lights in the whole city, looking out across the city. But about an hour later, the downtown area, we got electricity back. So, it wasn't too bad. A lot of other areas don't have anything yet, so.

NGUYEN: All right. Adrien Lopez joining us by phone from Santiago, Chile. This area is the most heavily populated there. It is the capital, but another densely populated area, that being Concepcion which you're seeing video of right now, that is where we understand a major portion of the damage is.

We've been watching all morning long video coming in to CNN of buildings that have sustained a lot of damage. Some of them have simply collapsed and there are reports of people trapped underneath some of that rubble.

MARCIANO: There are and we're dialed into it with our International Desk. Boy, it's a good day to work at CNN and that we can get the information due to our international resources. We're joined now been CNN Latin American affairs editor, Rafael Romo.

Rafael, let's get -- tell us what you know as far as the information now coming out of Chile.

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Well, some of the new information that we're getting is that we are beginning to see the first incidence of people walking into buildings, stores mainly where windows have been broken and they're taking merchandise from there. That information comes specifically from the city of Vina del Mar, which is a coastal city.

Also, this city is famous because they hold a music festival every year which is very popular in Latin America. It attracts thousands and thousands of people. They were supposed to have their closing night tonight. That has been canceled, as well as three other concerts that were scheduled for this weekend. So, the situation is definitely changing rapidly in that part of the world, in Chile specifically.

And we are also hearing that the death toll still stands at 78. But again, that's very preliminary information that we're giving you right now. We also heard that at the national highway -- No. 5, which is one of the main highways in Chile has been closed, it's not going to reopen.

Also, when it comes to transportation, the airport in Santiago, the capital, will remain closed for the next 72 hours. The problem there as far as we have learned is that the terminal has been badly damaged and there's just no way that authorities are going to be able to fix the problem in just a few short hours.

Now, they tell us that the runway is OK and operable, but you cannot have one without the other. So, they have decided to close the airport in Santiago, the capital, for the next 72 hours. As you can imagine, this is going to affect air traffic in South America for the next three days.

So, still a very volatile situation in Chile and we're keeping a look at -- we're getting video feeds from Chile right now and we'll give you the latest information in the next hour.

Back to you.

MARCIANO: Rafael, I'm curious. Maybe you can share a little insight with our viewers about the country itself. How well equipped is it for a situation like this? Obviously, Haiti more of a third world country, I would suspect that Chile would be a little bit better equipped.

ROMO: Well, Chile has had 13 earthquakes since 1973 and the country itself is very prepared for a situation like that. They have experience -- they actually sent teams, search and rescue teams to Haiti when the earthquake happened last month. And their codes, their building codes is a lot better.

So, this earthquake, the magnitude was a lot higher, but the reality is that their buildings are much better built. So, this, if you will, will compensate when it comes to the number of fatal victims as a result of this earthquake.

NGUYEN: Rafael, I just want to break in though because while they may be equipped -- and we're watching right now CNN Chile as they're doing live interviews at this hour. They are following the story just as much as we are. But as Chile is equipped for earthquakes, how equipped are they to deal with tsumanis?

ROMO: That's right. It's a situation that they haven't seen and there's a big concern when it comes to the coastal areas, I'm talking specifically about the city that I mentioned before, Vina del Mar, places like Valparaiso.

We have to remember that we are in approaching the end of the summer in Chile. A lot of people were vacationing. This weekend in particular is supposed to be the unofficial end of the summer vacation there. So, a lot of people were spending their weekend there with their families. Also, a lot of international tourists who were there for the music festival in Vina del Mar.

So, definitely, it's the worst time for something like this to happen.

MARCIANO: All right, Rafael, thanks very much. We'll be checking in with you, of course, throughout the morning and the afternoon.

We want to go over to Josh Levs now. He's been tapping into that great resource, that is the internet. Helped us so much in Haiti, also helped in Sumatra.

NGUYEN: And you know, a lot of people are tweeting and that's how -- unfortunately, many times when disasters like this occur, we're getting some of the first information, some of the first i-Reports, if you will, on the ground.

Josh Levs in place right now. What have you learned so far by just reading some of these and watching these throughout the morning?

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're getting a lot of tweets, we're also getting a lot of new photos. People are sending in information from all over the world.

What I want to do now is zoom in right here. We'll get to the tweets -- I have some new photos from an area called Talca. This is hitting us from the "Associated Press" and we're seeing these now for the first time.

Scott, can we take this shot way in? I want everyone to see some of these really destroyed areas. Some of these difficult -- some of these pictures are very difficult to look at. You see destroyed homes. You see a destroyed car. You see a woman there covering herself in a blanket. She seems to be with her dog right there. These are from Talca.

I was just looking at a map, these are south of Santiago. You can see people here. In some cases, they appear to be dealing with bodies. This is someone taking a picture of what apparently was, according to the description here, it was once a hotel. Many people would visit there, historic hotel and you can see some of the destruction there.

Also, I want you to see some some of the photos we had a few minutes ago. These from the Santiago area. Some of these really difficult to see, a lot of destruction in these pictures. And I'm going to lead up to one of the most powerful pictures we've seen of all.

This is a highway in the area of Santiago, all those coming to us from the "Associated Press." It does appear as though a road basically got torn apart and some cars that were on that turned over. You can see bits of rubble here. So, all those photos now we're seeing from the "Associated Press."

Let's go over to some of what we're getting here. We're following the largest earthquakes in history from the U.S. Geological Survey and what they are saying here -- when you take a look at this number, if it sticks at 8.8, what we're seeing today would indeed be one of the top 10 most powerful quakes in recorded history, which goes all of the way back to 1900.

And I'll jump you over to Twitter for a second because we've been getting a lot of tweets from you today. That's how you can send tweets to me and we've been hearing from people concerned about their families here. I got this one from a guy in Brisbane, Australia, saying "I received a tsunami warning on my mobile phone. I live in Brisbane, Australia." He's all the way out there.

On top of that, you got Facebook groups that have now been set up here. Take a look at this, Chile Earthquake. More and more people joining this today. There's a little map they've set up over here. Families that are concerned about their loved ones inside Chile are reaching out. Some are posting photos, some are posting videos. They're just saying if you have any information at all.

And there's a web page over here that's getting a lot of traffic today, And what they've been doing is linking people to all sorts of video from inside Chile, including the main TV network there that's been doing a lot of news, not getting it right now.

All right. All of that -- pretty much all of it is linking to you, we're bringing it to you at today along with all the latest photos, latest tweets, the latest messages from you. And if you're in a position to safely take pictures wherever you are in a region, whether maybe you've been struck already or you're concerned you might be struck later today, go ahead and send them to We go through a lot of steps before we show them on TV, but we want to make sure they were taken safely. But if you have those videos, stories, photos, keep them coming.

Rob and Betty, I'm going to keep jumping in here with all the latest images throughout the day, including some that are really difficult to look at as we see some of the destruction there in Chile.

MARCIANO: And Josh, try to get a few more from Talca. You know, the USGS highlights cities that are the most populated and give them reference points to the epicenter ...

NGUYEN: Right.

MARCIANO: ...and Talca is the most populated city closest to the epicenter and the -- a couple of pictures you showed ...

LEVS: Yes.

MARCIANO: ...certainly were devastating.

LEVS: Devastating.

MARCIANO: So, that gives us an idea of the power and try to dig a little bit deeper with that. We really appreciate it, Josh. Thanks, man.

LEVS: You got it. Sure.

NGUYEN: And CNN does have resources on the ground there in Chile. We have a bureau base there in Santiago. So, we are bringing you pictures coming from the devastated area and we're going to continue to update you on the situation there. But here is the facts as we know it. An 8.8 earthquake struck Chile overnight around 3:35 in the morning local time. So far, at this hour, we have learned of 78 deaths associated with this earthquake.



NGUYEN: Welcome back. We want to update you on the breaking news out of Chile this morning. An 8.8 magnitude quake, just a very massive earthquake has struck Chile. So far, 78 people dead. Now, I know many people are wondering about their loved ones in Chile and we are getting a statement from -- in fact, the State Department. Officials tell CNN that there are about 1,000 American citizens in the most effected area, about half are dual nationals.

Now, there are no reports yet of any American injuries or deaths according to the State Department official. But there is little or no communication within the areas of Concepcion, which is very near the epicenter. The embassy has not been able to reach the security officer in that area just yet. But the embassy has set up a crisis center and they are urging Americans to use text messaging, Twitter, Facebook, social media to stay in touch with their loved ones and they are working on that crisis center.

But again, about 1,000 American citizens in the most effected area following this earthquake and the State Department is monitoring it and they are setting up a crisis center. Of course, we'll continue to update you on any movement by the State Department in regards to all of this.

MARCIANO: Of course, CNN has -- is all over this story. We're tapping into the worldwide resources of CNN, one of which is CNN Chile Bureau and we're going to dip into some of that coverage to bring you the sights and sounds. It will be translated in English from one of our people here in the U.S.

Let's listen in.


MONICA JIMENEZ, EDUCATION MINISTER OF CHILE (through translator): And infrastructure is OK at schools and children can walk to school. On Wednesday, they will -- schools will be up and running. Don't forget, these schools also serve to feed these children, so it's important that they have access to these schools.

QUESTION (through translator): Do you think that some -- they will maybe miss part of the first semester?

JIMENEZ (through translator): I hope not. I hope it won't be in this situation, I hope it only will be temporary. Also with the municipalities, this is a generalized situation. We'll be informing you step by step. We're meeting now. As you know, communications are down in some areas. We're asking for patience or calm. We are operating, we're handling this situation and we'll be informing you step by step how everything evolves.

I think there's local radio and TV radio we will be using to pass along information from Santiago. The only -- the only news that I can give you is that the seventh region will not begin classes. Today, tomorrow, and normally the schools will start on Wednesday, so we have some days. We will pass along the -- we will communicate whatever the final decision is. We have the local and regional directors of educations. We have the mayors and we have the private. Around noon, we will be meeting at the ministry of the different functionaries and we will be making some determination as to what will be the best thing for the children and families.

I will ask for patience, for calm. We're asking people to just stay where they are, don't run any risks. We will be (INAUDIBLE) the situation.

QUESTION (through translator): How are we evaluating the situation in Santiago and what will happen?

JIMENEZ (through translator): The metropolitan region, there's some damages in some sectors. That's why I'm telling you we're evaluating. We're evaluating what the situation of the infrastructure for some of these schools. And there's also the situation of transportation. The ministry has given some information. The metros are not working. There's other situations. We need to figure out how transportation is going to be resolved, how the bridges are opening up, or roads. We will have to coordinate with each other.

If the different schools don't run -- if the infrastructure of the schools is OK and the kids can walk to school, then we'll continue as planned for Wednesday. If not, then we'll have to figure out another plan. We're talking with other private sectors. They were ready to begin the school year, so ...

NGUYEN: OK, you've been listening to the minister of education there in Chile. I want to take you now on the phone to Mauricio Hernandez. He is in Santiago and he joins me via Skype in fact, not on the phone but via Skype. So, we should be able to see him.

And I understand, Mauricio, that you were actually about to go to bed when the earthquake struck. Take me back to that moment in time and tell me what happened.

MAURICIO HERNANDEZ, SANTIAGO RESIDENT (via Skype): Well, it was very difficult because I was getting into bed, very tired after watching a movie. And I was almost falling asleep when everything started to move slowly at the beginning, very softly. I am very used to little shakes or at least one earthquake before. So, I was not in panic. But after, I don't know, it felt like 10 minutes, but probably it was only 30 seconds, everything started to move very, very, very quickly.

And so, my wife was sleeping next to me. She also woke up and we didn't know what to do because we live in a sixth floor in this building, which is seven story. But everything was going from left to right, diagonal movement and then, I was very scared. I mean, I could hear a TV set falling off, things in the kitchen area also falling off on to the floor. A couple of desks, the computer. I don't know, many things trashing and going on to the floor.

We tried to use the stairs to go down the building. I don't know, somehow we couldn't make it. We preferred to stay there in the bedroom, in some kind of a secure area until everything stopped. I believe it was about three or five minutes. I'm not sure. It felt a lot longer.

NGUYEN: Really? So, the quake itself, you felt it from three to five minutes? Sometimes people say you know, it's just a few seconds. But three to five minutes?

HERNANDEZ: But that's the point. I'm not sure how long it was, but it felt very long. I mean, probably just a sensation or being afraid, but it felt very long.

NGUYEN: And you say you've experienced earthquakes before. This is quite a large one, 8.8 magnitude. Although you're some 200 miles away from the epicenter, how did it compare and sense of power when you felt these before, how powerful was this one in your mind?

HERNANDEZ: I felt it before near the year '83, 1983 or 1985. I was very little, so I don't remember well. I was living in Vina del Mar, near Valparaiso which today -- I mean yesterday, it was grade 6, I believe, in Valparaiso. And here in Santiago, it was about 8, if I remember correctly, and well, this was my first time in a building. So, everything moved.

I mean, totally different. I was -- maybe because I am a grown- up now. I think this is more serious now when I was a child. But now, I was scared. When I was a child, I was just afraid. I mean, everything was new to me. But this was something very scary to me.

NGUYEN: Yes, no doubt on that.

HERNANDEZ: And also because I'm not living with my kids, I am separated. So, one of them is in the south of Chile where then afterwards I understood it was the epicenter. And she still cannot come back to Santiago because roads are closed apparently.

NGUYEN: So, you haven't heard from her at all?

HERNANDEZ: So, we were very nervous. Huh?

NGUYEN: Have you heard from her?

HERNANDEZ: Yes, well, I could talk to her finally after the whole morning or night trying to call her. But lines are very bad. They are going down very -- very often, so we could speak for about two or three minutes only. And she was OK fortunately, again. Nothing happened to the hotel where she was staying.

But she told me, so did her mom, that everything in the area near them was -- it was a terrible scenario. I mean, many buildings or houses were on the streets down. Some buildings, part of them were off on the floor as well. But the hotel where they are staying, thank God nothing happened to them.

NGUYEN: What is the name of that city?

HERNANDEZ: They are in San Carlos (ph), San Carlos, Chile, something like that.

NGUYEN: OK, very good. Well, thank you so much for sharing some of your experience with us. No doubt it must be frightening and continues to be so with all the aftershocks that will unfortunately continue for days and possibly even weeks. But we do appreciate your time with us today. Thank you so much, Mauricio Hernandez.

HERNANDEZ: Thank you -- thank you to you for reporting everything that's going on here.

NGUYEN: Sure, no problem. All right.

MARCIANO: Well, we're doing it using every resource we have.

NGUYEN: Exactly, using folks just like him to tell the story on the ground. And Josh Levs has been using the social media, in fact, to get some additional information. It's very difficult, especially just within the few hours following a major disaster like this when you don't have those telephone lines and electricity is down and it's difficult to get that news coming out of the effected areas.

LEVS: It is. Yes, in fact, every time I jump off the air with you guys, I check my latest tweets and I check with the latest online. We're getting more and more information, particularly from families trying to find their loved ones. We're going to be talking to you more about that.

But first, I want to show you something. Just a few minutes ago, Rob was talking about this place Talca in Chile because we got some photos from there. We're going to take a look at where it is. It's one of the more populated areas there.

Let's zoom in on the map, I want everyone to see. I pulled it up for you so we can get you some more information. But then, I'm going to get you back to some of the absolute latest photos, some of them extremely dramatic here.

I'm using Google Earth, so where this A is, that right there is Talca, right there. And I want you to see Santiago is right up there and this gives you a little bit of sense of proportion because we're hearing that -- we've seen pictures already from where Santiago was effected, we're seeing pictures right here of Talca and let's get over to those photos. A lot of people joining us by the minute. Some of them very difficult to look at, some of them gruesome, and some cases we can't be sure exactly what we're seeing.

This is a picture from Talca. Right here, this was a historic hotel, popular tourist destination apparently for people who go there. You can see just the beginning of the word hotel left there on that sign, that person standing there taking pictures. And everything along here is just pure rubble. You can barely -- you can't even tell if that's a street honestly. I can't tell right now if that's a plaza or a street because it's so strewn with rubble.

And also, we've been seeing pictures from Santiago. So, as you look at this, think about the geography of this. You had Talca, you have this picture, the most striking one I've seen in Santiago with what happened to the road right there. And when I flash you back to the map now, you're going to see the difference. You got Talca down here, Santiago all the way down there.

We're talking about a pretty thick area of the stretch of Chile that was effected today. In fact, I was looking at this Spanish newspaper. Here's one right here, Lotsaserra (ph) and they were talking about -- where did it go? Well, they were saying that seven of eight zone, regions in the country were declared disaster zones.

Let's do a big picture now. If Chile is down here, it's right along that stretch, what you have over here is going to be the United States and the West Coast up here. You have Hawaii over here. So, that's why when you're seeing a really, really powerful earthquake that takes place just off Chile, big enough to hit a long stretch of that country, you're going to be seeing these concerns about tsumanis all of the way up here into Central America.

There has been just some concerns, some people are being careful about the West Coast of the United States. Obviously, we're reporting to you concerns about Hawaii over there. I got a tweet from a guy in Brisbane, Australia, who is having -- talked about that he got on his cell phone a tsunami warning today. All of that happening right there.

Let me flash you over to some of the interactives we're following for you as well. The USGS talking about the top 10 earthquakes in all of recorded history, going all the way back to 1900. The biggest was a 9.5 in Chile about 50 years ago. If today does indeed prove to be a 8.8, it fits right in with one of the top 10 earthquakes that's -- in all of recorded history, for as long as these recordings have been going on.

And quickly, I want to show you this -- this wasn't working when I was on for air -- the air with you guys about 20 minutes ago. This is now working and it's getting massive traffic. This is called ustream -- the letter U, not the word you, U-S-T-R-E-A-M, And they are carrying live TV news from inside Chile. So, those who understand the Spanish, those who want to see while you're watching CNN what is going on online, you can see this website. It's getting a lot of traffic there.

And I'll also tell you we at CNN are calling the best of all the news networks around the world that we have relationships with. We're getting you all sorts of information. And finally, I want to just show you quickly, we have a lot going on on Facebook here. There's new groups that seem to pop up every few minutes. And more and more and more tweets coming in. They just keep on coming.

Chile remains the No. 1 topic over here, trending worldwide. No. 1 topic by far is Chile with people sending more and more tweets, more and more people concerned about their loved ones.

One thing I'm hoping to have for you guys in the next hour is i- Report as well. We're going to be sharing that with you. Also, coming up in the -- not too long at all, you're going to be hearing again my interview earlier this morning, unlikely guy.

If you're just joining us, you're not expecting to hear this name, but "American Idol" finalist Elliott Yamin joined us this morning because he's inside Chile. He describes how the hotel shakes, what he did, taking another man's hand running out of the hotel, finding safety. In his own words, running for his life and you'll hear more about what it was like for him and other people on the ground.

Betty and Rob, all of that taking place right here on this interactive site we have set up to follow everything about Chile for you throughout the day.

MARCIANO: Certainly using just about everybody to report during these early stages of our coverage. Thank you, Josh Levs ...

LEVS: You got it.

MARCIANO: ...with insight on what's going on on the internet. If you live in Hawaii, you saw that banner while Josh was speaking about a tsunami warning in for Hawaii, that is not a misprint. If you're just joining us, that 8.8 earthquake has generated a tsunami ...

And there is a tsunami warning pretty much for the entire Pacific basin with the exception of California, Oregon, Washington, and the British Columbian coastline. And the tsunami warning for Hawaii, they're thinking that this wave should get there around 11:00 a.m. local Time.

At 6:00 a.m. local Time they're going to sound the sirens and begin the evacuation in earnest and hopefully in a choreographed manner, but you have plenty of time and certainly the local authorities are on this. A 10-to 15-foot possible for the Hawaiian Islands around 11:00 Local Time.

We'll have more information on that when CNN's coverage continues in a moment.


MARCIANO: Welcome back to CNN's continuing coverage with breaking news out of Chile, an 8.8 earthquake rocking that area earlier today.

NGUYEN: Yes, it struck about 3:30 in the morning Local Time. We understand at this hour 78 people have been reported dead. Now, there are a lot of communications that are still down, especially as you get into those areas closer to the epicenter. So that death toll, unfortunately, could rise throughout the day.

But the problem is twofold, you're seeing now the effects of the earthquake and the damage there, but also the worry of not only a tsunami that we understand has struck there in Chile, but tsunami warnings that are going out to other countries, including Japan, Australia, and even, you know, Hawaii is being told to prepare and evacuate.

MARCIANO: That's right. Karen Maginnis in the CNN Weather Center has been tracking that aspect of this ongoing story.

Karen, what can you tell us about where this tsunami has already hit and where it's headed?

KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Robinson Caruso Island is a very isolated place, something you this is just a fantasy, but in fact it does exist about 400 miles off the Chile coast.

Now, they did have a huge wave. That's how they described it, a tsunami, in fact. They had a tsunami wave affect them probably about 45 minutes ago. Now they have sent two ships there to send supplies. There are generally about five or 600 people that live on Robinson Caruso Island, it's part of a very small archipelago island, but also on Easter Island.

It's one of the most remote places in the world, they get lots of visitors. They do have a few thousand full-time residents that live there. They also are saying that they are looking at the potential for tsunami, and they are going to evacuate some of the coastal areas there and put people towards the inland portions of the island.

Now, I know that these are very tiny places, but maybe this does give you an indication of what may ripple out as we go further towards the center of the Pacific.

So, even though we've already seen what essentially has been a tsunami and is being described as a large wave that struck the Robinson Crusoe Island, maybe we can interpolate that and bring it out maybe 15 hours, which we're saying that perhaps for Hawaii, which is under a tsunami warning will have to watch what happens there -- 4:00, 4:15 local time in the east, maybe about 11:00, 11:15 local time for Hawaii, what will happen there.

And we'll have to see what happens for the central portion of the Pacific basin, but also extending over towards Russia and for Japan, they also are under warnings. But remember, there are tsunami warnings, watches and advisories. The advisories go up the California coast to the Oregon border.

Back to you.

MARCIANO: All right, Karen Maginnis, thank you for that information on the tsunami. You know, earlier, Betty, we talked to one of our affiliate meteorologist in Hawaii, his name is Justin Fujioka, and this is what he had to say about how Hawaii is preparing for this oncoming wave.


MARCIANO: What can you tell us is the local state of mind right now? What's going on?

JUSTIN FUJIOKA, KITV, HONOLULU: Well, good morning, Rob. It is just after 2:40 a.m. here in the Hawaiian islands and we are gotten word from civil defense that they will be sire -- sounding the siren at 6:00 a.m. tomorrow morning, about three hours, 20 minutes from now. Those evacuation sirens, kind of give the word that the police, the civil defense, will be out and about evacuating people within an evacuation zone.

And I don't know if we're one of the only states that have this in front of a phone book, but we have maps here that actually show inundation zones in a possible tsunami event. Anyone within that shaded area will be evacuated, again at 6:00 a.m. Our Time and that's also when the civil defense sirens will go off.

And civil defense is urging everyone to here in the Hawaiian Islands to use phones sparingly. Only in emergency purposes because they will need all of those resources to get these evacuations underway at 6:00 a.m. with the possible threat of this tsunami striking just about 4-1/2 hours later, at 11:19 is when that first potentially destructive wave is expected to hit the Hawaiian Islands.

MARCIANO: Justin, what do you expect to see as far as the number of people that will evacuate the coastline? How far away from the coastline will they have to be? I assume there's some sort of drill, if not annuals, sometime of some frequency that are practiced in anticipation of these kinds of events.

FUJIOKO: That's correct, Rob. In fact, we have a monthly test of the sirens on the first working day of each month just make to sure these sirens are working. Civil defense does do these routines quite oftenly (SIC) to practice these type of evacuation orders.

I'm not sure if you can actually see these maps that I just showed up, but they actually includes many big hotels in the Waikiki area. So, that will be a big problem in a few hours from now when they try to evacuate hundreds or even thousands of people along the coastline there in Waikiki and the south shore of Oahu.

We did have two previous events like this that luckily did not result in a destructive earthquake and that was back in 1994 and again in 1986. The past two tsunami warnings did not generate a destructive tsunami here in the islands, but it did -- they both did cause some significant chaos here on the islands as far as traffic.

If there's any consolation to this event, we're waking up to a Saturday morning, here in the islands, rather than both of those prior events which were weekday events and many more people where on the road at that time.

Of course, this is the overnight time period. We're already getting reports from local markets, here, that people are starting to hoard up on food. And signs are going up, as well, that we are looking at possibility of people just putting up signs, they're saying that you can only take two or three items of this type of thing, canned goods, especially.

MARCIANO: You mentioned the sirens aren't going off for another three or four hours. I suspect that's one of the ways they're going to try to limit the chaos and potentially panic because the wave isn't supposed to arrive for another four or five hours after that.

Are they evacuating from -- everybody from all aspects of the coastline? This wave is going to be approaching from south and east. Would northern coastlines be a little bit safer or is this a situation where the islands, as small as they are, it's all encompassing?

FUJIOKO: It is all encompassing, Rob. This type of energy is not like an ocean-generated swell where we see most of the energy on the direction where that energy is coming from. This type of energy has, in the past, several times, wrapped around the islands and we actually see waves much larger on the back side of these islands.

It just, again, depends on the topography of the ocean floor, beneath, where the raves run into these shorelines here, that we could see a possible run-up, especially in harbors, maybe bays, places where this energy is amplified.

MARCIANO: And Justin, one other question. Speaking with a geophysicist at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, and he anticipates, at least right now with his data, a 10 to 15-foot wave in some the harbors and bays, including Hilo Bay. What would that mean for the number of people that are living there?

FUJIOKO: Well, Rob, our last destructive tsunami was in 1975, a local generated tsunami. Before that we had several in the 1950s and the 1960s. In 1960 we did have an earthquake off the coast of Chile. I think -- I believe it is the strongest one in recorded history, at 9.5. And that earthquake did generate a destructive tsunami in the Hilo Bay area at 30 feet.

So that would -- this situation would not be as bad as a destructive tsunami that did kill 61 people in Hilo Bay. But, Hilo is one of those topographical areas that tends to enhance this type of energy. And many, many events, regardless of what direction this energy comes from, Hilo tends to be the center of attention as far as devastation and problems in these types of events.


NGUYEN: All right. We are getting a statement now from the U.S. embassy in Santiago, Chile. I want to read it to you. It says, it's from the warden there. It says, "The earthquake shook central and southern Chile today for approximately three minutes." That's quite a long time for an earthquake. But, in fact, one of the people that we spoke with a little bit earlier, who lives in Santiago, also said the same thing, that it lasted around three minutes.

The statement goes on to say there have been no reports of American citizen fatalities or injuries. Chilean officials are asking that unless there is an emergency need to leave, private citizens should remain in their homes, if not damaged, and stay off the roads.

Now, it also suggests that Americans living or traveling in Chile register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Chile. But again, we're hearing this from the U.S. embassy, the first statement we're seeing so far today, repeating what we've learned, that the earthquake shook central and southern Chile, but also saying that it shook them for about three minutes. And so far there are no reports of any American fatalities or injuries.

Let me take you now on the ground to Cecilia Lagos. She is in Santiago and she is a journalist. She joins me via Skype.

And if you would Cecilia, give me an idea of the aftershocks. We've been talking about them all morning long. There's been a number of them, including one that was 6.9 in magnitude, which is pretty powerful.

CECILIA LAGOS, JOURNALIST: Well, yes. It was terrifying. The replicas have been, at least here in Santiago, few, just a few of them, one at 7:30 a.m., in the morning. Quite, not as small, quite strong. But the earthquake was absolutely terrifying. Probably...

NGUYEN: What was that like? Take us back to that moment. What did you experience?

LAGOS: Oh, well, I was sleeping, just like almost everybody. And all of a sudden I was, of course, I woke up. And this is so common here in Chile, because it's the land of earthquakes and tremors, so it was just one more. And, OK, I always stay in bed and I always say myself, this is -- it was good, OK, if it gets stronger, then I will get up and do something, otherwise, I just stay there.

But this time it stayed there all the time. And it got louder and stronger and more intense and faster. It was -- it was absolutely terrifying, terrifying. Frightening. I think I'm running short of words to -- trying to express what we felt and most of us felt last night because, because -- besides, I saw through my window, while I was still in bed, I saw the sky changing colors. It was absolutely surreal.

I really thought it was the end of the world. I don't know. I hope you understand me because I'm not exaggerating, but I saw it through my window like that. That was the most terrifying thing of all, seeing the sky changing colors, with that terribly, amazingly strong movement of the earth. I really thought, OK, this mother earth is speaking and we should pay attention. That is all.

NGUYEN: And you call it the land of earthquakes. That may be a pretty appropriate phrase because since 1973 there have been 13 earthquakes, magnitude 7.0 and higher there. So, we're not talking just some small earthquakes, these are very large earthquakes.

And we've learned from the U.S. embassy in Santiago, according to that statement that I just read shortly, that this quake lasted for about three minutes. Does that sound true to you? Did you feel it, the earth shake for about three minutes? That's quite a long time.

LAGOS: You know what? For me it was shorter.

NGUYEN: Was it? LAGOS: I mean, I know there's a beginning, which is really like slow and soft, and then it comes the real intense part in the middle, and then it calms down again, you see. But what I felt the most intense part, the most frightening part, the part that was really damaging, for me, it was only maybe half a minute or so.

Because I have experienced -- previous experience, 25 years ago, March 3, 1985, almost 25 years, you know, sharp, and that was longer for me. That lasted -- maybe it was lower intensity, but it was longer in the duration, you see. So this was, I think, for me, maybe shorter but much more intense. Probably this one was three minutes long considering the slow part and the soft part and the end, which was also quite soft, but the really strong and terrible part was, for me, was shorter than 25 years ago.

NGUYEN: Well, as a journalist I'm sure you're trying to get as much information from the areas closest to the epicenter where most of the damage will be. What have you heard about places like Concepcion? Have you heard anything more about just how extensive that damage might be?

LAGOS: Yes. Well, Concepcion is south of Santiago. It's like five hours driving. It's about 600 kilometers away from Santiago. And it was really devastating. I mean, what I'm seeing here in Santiago is really nothing compared to what I'm seeing on TV and the local stations covering there in Concepcion. The streets are totally destroyed.

The earth literally opened, opened up like "2012" movie, the same thing. buildings, entire building collapsed. It's really a nightmare. I mean, the best sci-fi picture, the best sci-fi movie wouldn't describe it better. I mean if you saw "2012," well, almost. That's in Concepcion. It's really -- it's really everything is falling apart.

NGUYEN: There is a lot of devastation. In fact, we're looking at video coming to us out of our affiliates there (INAUDIBLE) in Chile.


LAGOS: Especially on the roads, especially on the roads, the bridges and the buildings.

NGUYEN: Yes, a major bridge has been knocked down, we understand. Some buildings are on fire. But, have you heard any more information as to a possible tsunami that may have struck that area?

LAGOS: No. What I heard is something similar to a tsunami. The President Bachelet here didn't want to call it a tsunami, actually. And she just wanted to say that it was like a big, big wave. And Juan Fernandez Island, the Juan Fernandez archipelago, the whole or almost -- most of the territory there on the island was covered by a big huge wave. And they are sending ships and helicopters with help for the people there. We don't really know because Juan Fernandez is sort of isolated. It's really difficult to get communications live from there. We're just having information through the Chilean FEMA, it's called ONEMI. It serves with the same purpose as FEMA there in the U.S. And they are telling us that Juan Fernandez Island has been covered by this big, big wave.

As I say, they don't want to call it a tsunami. I don't know if it's just not to create panic among the population or if it's just not meeting the requirements to be called a tsunami. But the things, the closest sea phenomenon that we are experiencing here in Chile with real danger just happened in the Juan Fernandez Island closer to Easter Island.

NGUYEN: OK, Cecilia Lagos, journalist there in Santiago, joining us live via Skype and pretty much recapping her experiencing and giving us an update on what she has heard in country about some of the other areas that may have been affected. Cecilia, thanks so much for your time today. We appreciate.

LAGOS: Thank you.

MARCIANO: Those islands she's speaking of, just off the coast, there.

NGUYEN: Yeah, how close are they to the coastline?

MARCIANO: You know, 100 miles or so, so they would have been affected pretty quickly, a matter of, you know, 10 to 20 minutes.

NGUYEN: Shortly after the quake.

MARCIANO: Shortly after the quake. And it would be a tsunami in that area we just call it a Local Tsunami. And typically they happen very quickly just because they're that much closer and something traveling at that speed, 400 or 500 miles an hour, they're going to get it.

We have -- and there's Robinson Crusoe Islands. It's part of that archipelago that makes up the Juan Fernandez chain, there. And we've had different reports coming out of there, and that's the second time we heard they had a huge wave go over and over wash and the fact that they're sending ships and helicopters, you know, it's a little unnerving to say the least.

And it certainly is unnerving for folks who haven't seen the tsunami yet, and that's would be pretty much within the Pacific basin including Hawaii that expects to see some sort of tsunami at 11:00 a.m. their time. So plenty of time, local authorities are on it and their evacuations will be in place.

NGUYEN: Very shortly.

MARCIANO: Very shortly. The sirens are going to sound at 6:00 a.m. NGUYEN: All right, we are following this. There's much more coverage right on CNN as we gain additional information and video coming into the CNN newsroom. You're watching CNN SATURDAY MORNING.


NGUYEN: All right. We want to get you the latest now on the situation in Chile. The death toll still remains at 78 right now, but information is still coming in, and unfortunately, we do expect that to rise as we get new video coming out of -- or the new report coming out of the areas closest to the epicenter. This was very large earthquake, 8.8 in magnitude.

MARCIANO: Yeah, an 8.8 magnitude happening while most everybody slept, felt as far away as Argentina and will be felt probably as far away as Hawaii as we're dealing with tsunami warnings. The update on fatality number, unfortunately, 82 -- 82 now is the number that we're getting in.

And Josh Levs has more on this as far as pictures are concerned and how folks are beginning to prepare, because this wave is coming to Hawaii in one way, shape, or form later today.

LEVS: You know what, because you said that, the first thing I'm going to show you a brand-new photo we've gotten inside Hawaii where people are lining up to get gasoline in order to try to get away.

In fact, let's zoom right in to it, then we'll get to Tweets. I want you to see this from the "Associated Press," a photo that we have just gotten, here. It looks kind of blurry at first, what you're seeing is car lights here, but behind there's a huge row of cars, the "AP" telling us this is a lot of people lining up to get gasoline because everyone is trying to move into the area they're going to be most safe.

Now we're moving into some of the latest pictures that we're getting from Santiago and Talca, everything you're about to see from "AP" from Santiago and Talca.

This was an overhead highway, and now it has collapsed, it has turned into rubble. There's a police officer there trying to block off the area. This we're told was a home in Talca turned into pure rubble and you can see there's no sign of it having been a home. That's extent of the damage right there.

That's an overturned car. This one's in Santiago, this was again, one of these overturned highways we believe that ripped apart in the earthquake. This car right here, you can see the wheels sticking up, has been turned over and I believe we have one more of the latest photos for you, here, a car buried under rubble. That's the car in dark right there. The brown is the rubble that has just slammed on top of it -- all during that earthquake several hours ago, just this morning.

Let me get you the latest Tweets. Twitter is playing a major role, in general the Internet is. We've got this one which is about some U.S. students, and this is interesting. It says, "We heard from some of the American university students. They're fine." On Skype with her son right now. He is in an eastern Santiago suburb. And this is the kind of thing we're getting, today. Whether you're Tweeting me, this is my Twitter right there, JoshLevsCNN, or just Tweeting each other, we're following Chilean Tweets, in general.

Let me show another one, right here. This someone is saying that she's concerned about her brother serving in a mission in the BioBio region of Chile. Worried sick. How can we get info? Well, here is how you and many others can get info. Let's show that State Department image again, it has the phone number for you to call. This is for American citizens concerned about you loved one inside Chile. 1-888-407-4747 again, 1-888-407-4747. Keep those images, story, videos, photos coming if you can take them safely.

And Betty and Rob, we will be here throughout the next hour, pretty much camped out right here, all the interactive for you, on this huge story, today.

NGUYEN: Very good, a lot of resources in place and we're bringing you the latest information just as soon as we get it out of Chile, where an 8.8 magnitude quake has struck and so far the death toll is at 82 at this hour. You're watching CNN SATURDAY MORNING.