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CNN International Broadcast: Coverage of the Chilean Earthquake

Aired February 27, 2010 - 13:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everybody. Yes, we are going to continue our special coverage of the massive earthquake in Chile. I'm Isha Sesay.

JONATHAN MANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: And I'm Jonathan Mann. Welcome to our viewers from the United States as we follow the angles from the Americas to Asia.

SESAY: Indeed. The quake measured a powerful 8.8 magnitude, and it was centered just off the coast of Central Chile.

MANN: More than 100 people have been killed and buildings, roads and bridges have collapsed. Now, in fact, there are tsunami warnings across the entire Pacific region. CNN's senior Latin American affairs Rafael Romo is monitoring the disaster from our Chile desk and joins us now. Rafael, what can you tell us?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: John and Isha, we are here at the International desk which in fact has become the Chile desk. And let me show some of the video that we are following, we are receiving live signals from Chile, Channel 13 right now is talking about how singers, artists are participating in the music festival known as Vina. Then our very own CNN Chile is talking about how the traffic has become a nightmare in the capital of Santiago, and police have had to send people to alternative routes.

Now, let me show you a video that we received here at the international desk that will tell you a lot about the kind of devastation that we are seeing in Chile after this morning's earthquake. The video is going to show you destroyed buildings that -- and people on the streets just trying to get away from any danger, any zones, any buildings that may still collapse in case there is another aftershock. We've had multiple aftershocks, some as strong as 6.9 magnitude.

As you can imagine, a lot of people very scared right now. Now, about an hour-and-a-half ago, the president-elect Sebastian Pinera spoke in front of the cameras of the international media there in Chile and this is what he had to say about the situation and the way it is going on in Chile.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEBASTIAN PINERA, CHILE'S PRESIDENT ELECT (via translator): This earthquake, it is a big impact for the Chile lane society. In the first place, I would like to share the pain of the more than 122 people that have lost their lives because of this earthquake mostly in the region of Bio-Bio (ph).

This number will likely go up and we have many injured. I would like to say to everyone that we will put this position of the actual government, all the collaboration of the featured team, I have asked the new director that they have our entire cooperation after March 12.

Also, this is a big impact for the infrastructure of our country. There have been big losses in transportation and roads and airports, flights. Also in infrastructure of housing. I am committing in complete and total help of our administration with the current administration. We are asking for the cooperation of the local governments to continue collaborating past March 11th. We have to continue working together to help the victims.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMO: Now the president-elect Pinera is scheduled to take office on March 11th. Really John and Isha everyone is guessing if the ceremony will take place as planned. Now back to you.

SESAY: Appreciate that. We know you are on top of the story for us and monitoring all the images that are coming into us. Right now we want to take our viewers to Hawaii to our very own Thelma Gutierrez who is on the big island of Hawaii where sirens have been sounding there in Hawaii. I understand they are evacuating the hotel that you have been at. Thelma, can you tell us what's happening?

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Isha, right now I can tell you that people got a phone call this morning in this hotel that I am staying at, and we are right here on the water. A phone call went out to all the rooms, people were told to gather up their things quickly and they would be boarding buses and they would be moved to higher ground. I'm about 30 minutes north of Kailua. So anybody who is familiar with the area probably knows where this is.

The water is very calm. I'm right above this Dolphin Quest area, so I'm outside watching people actually move the dolphins out of here. And they are starting to prepare to evacuate the dolphins as well. So very interesting. I'm going to walk out into the hallway as I'm trying to prepare for the evacuation. My kids are getting on their sandals and their clothes. I'm going to my room, and you can hear the sirens.

SESAY: You can, indeed, hear those sirens.

GUTIERREZ: This is what the hotel sounds like right now. They are asking everyone to leave.

SESAY: Thelma, just tell us, would you say that these proceedings are unfolding in an organized manner? Things under control, give us a sense of the atmosphere.

GUTIERREZ: Yes, absolutely. I can tell you right now that I have a couple of security guards, they are watching me as I am doing this call, and they are telling me to go. They are telling me to get the kids ready and to get out of here, so they are taking this very, very seriously.

They are going to each room, knocking on doors, and they want people out of this hotel because we are right on the water. I got a call this morning, and I was told that they expected that tsunami to hit at 11:20. It is now 8:00. So they are trying to get people out of here. We have three hours to move out of the area.

SESAY: All right. Thelma Gutierrez, we are going to let you go and get on. As you point out, this is a tense time as things seem to be unfolding in a manageable way. We'll continue to check in with you to find out how things are going where you are there on the big island of Hawaii. Thelma, thank you.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

(SPEAKING SPANISH)

MICHELLE BACHELET, PRESIDENT OF CHILE (via translator): When I left Santiago, we had 76 dead. Now 84, now 85 deceased. We are evaluating all of the different services in terms of support to the family to be able to identify if there are any more deceased, also to provide medical assistance to all of those who are injured. The two largest hospitals for emergencies have both had structural damages, so we are transferring patients to different hospitals.

The hospital in Talca (ph) -- they are seeing patients in another institution. We are also looking into possibly using a school as a medical institution. The health center, they are looking for places where they can see patients. Again, the hospital -- also with structural damages.

The different hospitals in the areas, we need to check for damages so we can just move quickly and solve the situation. We are evaluating, not only the cities, the four provinces, we already looking into housing and public buildings. There's also the situation in Talca regarding air quality. And the historic areas have seen damage, and there's new construction that has seen damages.

We have sent out technical crews with engineers that are looking into what is the extent of the damage on roads and highways and bridges. We know here it is completely destroyed. We are looking into travelers in many places where there is structural damage in buildings, and we are evaluating what is the extent of the damage of the earthquake itself.

We are evaluating basic services, like in the city of Talca, there are some places that don't have running water and other places that do. There are some places where services are trying to be restored in the next several hours. There are several problems, we are looking for solutions.

All the electrical systems, the electrical grid has had extensive damage that we won't be able to repair overnight. So we are trying -- we are trying to solve these situations as we go. And specifically, for example, we are going to look specifically into running water. We are trying to ask the area that is do have water to support the ones that don't.

We are providing water trucks to go around. We are asking everyone to stay calm, to be patient. We assure everyone that emergency crews are working to resolve these issues. We -- we have identified five areas that have received catastrophic damage.

These are defined by the constitution. What we are defining is catastrophic zones, five, six, even, eight and nine metropolitan areas. The extent of the damages, it is an accurate description. So this label allows us to bypass all the bureaucratic steps so that we may be able to provide help in a timely fashion to everybody, to assign resources quickly.

As a government, we are looking at the extent of the damages so that we can work within the budget of 2010. Also, we'll be looking at whether we will assign additional funds to deal with this crisis. One of the concerns of many families, today we are looking at the emergency. We are looking at who needs help.

We are looking at the people that have died the people that are injured, the people that have lost their homes. A meeting will be taking place at 5:00 p.m. Of all the different governors so we can address the issue of housing for people that have been left homeless in the area. We are looking into shelters; we are looking into other people providing room in their homes.

On Monday we'll be looking at the schools to see if our children, can, in fact, return to school. We'll be looking -- there's the issue of children returning to class, the structure of schools and also the meals being provided to schools. If schoolchildren can return to the schools or can go to school, then we'll have to figure out a plan to provide these meals for these families.

There were reports of a riot at one of the jails. The jails have, of course, received significant damage. The Justice Department is looking into the situation evaluating the damage. We are looking into possibly moving some of these inmates. Some other regions have seen fires, some of the inmates have tried to escape, and we are looking into these situations. We are looking into the formula so we can not only watch it for the safety and security of the inmates, but also the population.

We have heard reports of looting in the central and southern areas of the country. I think this is unacceptable. People must have a moral responsibility. This is very important. Sometimes people stay in homes that are high risk just to protect their property. And I would like to make a call to a basic moral higher conscious because when we have such a catastrophe of this nature, we are all involved.

We are making a call not only to the public sector to move quickly, to regional sectors in the provinces, but we are asking all the professionals of the public sector, we are calling in everyone of the public and private sector and all the different areas so they can contribute and support so that we can face what's happening in this catastrophe. Our impression of what we have seen, it's very sad for some places here in Talca. It is about 120 houses on the floor. We have received reports of a large number of homes that have been destroyed. Until now, in some places, there's a large destruction of some homes. There had not been a large number of deaths here in this area, but here we have had 85 deaths. At least we are working and doing the best that we can. We are trying to get to everywhere as quickly as possible.

The governor here has been named as the coordinator or the area coordinator. We have several people supporting her. We are asking everybody to help and divvy out jobs. We are also asking the community to help. Some people are hurting more than others. We all need to work together so that we can move forward in this tragedy. We had previous experience of an earthquake. This is where we think system structure is working in some of the basic needs in place like electricity and water.

In Santiago it was strong. I arrived at 2:00 a.m. to Argentina and then at 3:30 I heard about the earthquake. After the first couple of minutes that I was with my daughters and my mother, then I called my children to see how they were doing. I spoke with Christina and at this point I'm sure many other dignitaries have called from Spain and from the United States, also different media have called to know about what is happening.

GUTIERREZ: That was the president of Chile Michelle Bachelet. She spoke for about 40 minutes talking about the different damages of the earthquake.

MANN: Our president taking stock of the terrible damage to her country on this day. Chile's president Michelle Bachelet speaking to reporters after seeing the damage firsthand. A disaster in her country the result of the 8.8 magnitude quake that struck in the middle of the night.

Already, she could speak about hundreds of homes that have been flattened, and historic buildings, schools, public buildings, hospitals, a state of damage that clearly is still beyond her ability to calculate. She called on her country to stay calm and to participate, to take part in the reconstruction effort.

An effort that is still beyond her government's calculation. At last word, we knew of 120 recorded deaths. Her estimate was in the 70s or 80s. They still do not know how many people have died in Chile. They still don't know the number of people who maybe trapped in the rubble or the extent of the emergency and recovery effort that is now upon them.

The story begins in Chile, but it extends much further because after the earthquake, shockwaves went out to the Pacific Ocean creating a tsunami that is hurdling across the ocean at the speed of a jet plane. Tsunami warnings are in effect in almost every Pacific nation right now, and in some places the water has already begun coming ashore. We turn to Jenifer Rhoades she is tsunami programming manager at the U.S. National Oceanic and Astomosphis Administration in Washington. Thank you so much for talking with us. Let me ask you first of all about what we know. The water has come ashore in parts of Chile and it has come ashore in parts of Mexico and in French Polynesia, what's the impact in those places?

JENIFER RHOADES, TSUNAMI PROGRAMMING MANAGER, NOAA: My understanding is that in Chile we have had the highest wave that's impacted there is almost 8 feet. We are preparing our warning center; the warning centers have issued a tsunami warning for the majority of the Pacific Basin, including Hawaii. It is a serious situation.

People in those areas need to move quickly to higher ground and away from the beach. For the west coast of the U.S., the west coast of Canada, and coastal Alaska, we have issued a tsunami advisory. We expect that we could have potentially damaging currents in those areas. And, again, people in those areas need to get out of the water away from marinas and harbors.

MANN: Now when we talk about tsunamis, so many of us have 2004 seared into our memories, the terrible tsunami in Asia that killed in excess of 200,000 people. I want to avoid any possible exaggeration and just soberly ask you, are we potentially looking at something of that magnitude now?

RHOADES: It is difficult to tell at this time. The events are unfolding as we speak. One of the things we highlight is that people listen to the National Weather Services information on this event and as well as their local authority and respond to it. They want people to get out of low-lying grounds to higher ground, off the beach and that will certainly reduce loss of life in this situation.

MANN: Well, authorities in Hawaii are asking their people to do just that. We have been looking at pictures of Hawaii. They are being incredibly careful, the sirens are going off, and the stores are full of shoppers picking up energy supplies. They are taking it seriously. Do you have any indication of what the people of Hawaii can expect? How much water are they going to see?

RHOADES: Yes. Right now what we are projecting is that after 11:00 a.m. tomorrow, the first wave will arrive in Hawaii. We are expecting anywhere from about a foot and a half to 7 1/2 feet in some locations. I want to point out that a tsunami is not a single wave. It is actually a series of waves, and the periods in between the two waves can be as little as five minutes to as much as an hour.

And it also will last; the series of waves will last for several hours. So, again, it is imperative that people pay attention to information from Noah's National Weather Service and listen to what their local authorities are telling them. They will be alerted as to when they can return to those areas that is are impacted right now in a safe manner.

MANN: Jenifer Rhoades, of the NOAA, thank you so much. As we say good-bye to you, just a word to everyone. The President Barack Obama, will be speaking to the United States coming up at the top of the hour. That's in 37 minutes from now, a statement from the White House. We'll bring it to you live -- Isha.

SESAY: Thank you John. Well as you heard Jenifer say, this tsunami is not going to be one single wave, but a series of waves. Really, we are continuing to work around the clock to get some sense of really what is likely to take place. As we get pictures, we are of course going to bring those to you.

The Coast Guard is asking all vessels and ground crews to evacuate state harbors. We want to bring you these live pictures coming to us from Hawaii at this point in time. We are going to get more information about what we are about to see, so we'll turn to Eboni Deon who is at the Weather Center with more information -- Eboni.

EBONI DEON, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Isha, I just want to update everyone on the advisories that have been placed, because this is a far-reaching situation because as the tsunami warning encompass just about everywhere in the Pacific Ocean and areas surrounding the Pacific Ocean basin.

Here around the Chile area, the threat has significantly diminished. But as we go a little bit further north, while there are no tsunami warnings in place for the U.S. west coastline, there are advisories in place. Oregon and Alaska, we're going to have to watch very closely. Then we head a little bit further west and we do have a tsunami warnings up for Australia and to parts of Asia. We are expecting to feel those waves within the next 24 hours. We are talking early Sunday morning here up towards Japan.

By the time it actually reaches this area, it will significantly be a lot less as far as some of the waves that will be felt a little closer to the epicenter. So now we are expecting to fill those waves around the Cook Islands area, probably already feeling the waves here. Then as we move out, we are expected to feel those waves a little further out into the Pago Pago area.

This is an area that is probably on high alert thanks to the very current situation in the area with a lot of damage from the last earthquake and the waves that have hit this area. So a high alert here, at least until why we still have a few hours before we are expected to feel the waves. Sirens have been going on for the last hour or so and they are continuing to do so here every 30 minutes. Definitely some time to prepare here around the Hawaiian Islands, which is great news.

We just want to show you exactly what we are talking about when we talk about tsunamis. Well, we first get the earthquake and the land is displaced. Once you get that plate lifting upwards, it then, unfortunately, lifts all of that water and pushes it up and then out. Those are all those wave that are felt, the series of waves that are felt. If you are a boater, well, you are going to feel that boat rise, but it is along the shoreline where that wave piles up and then crashes onshore and then we get all of the damage.

Isha, back to you.

SESAY: Eboni, thank you.

MANN: Well, the earthquake struck in the early hours of the morning. A lot of people were asleep in Chile, but some people were awake and out and watched it unfold. "Time" Magazine has a reporter Eben Harrell a wake at the time and he joins us now on the line from Santiago. You have written about your experiences online, you were awake when it happened. What did you see, what did you feel, what was going on around you?

EBEN HARRELL, REPORTER, "TIME" MAGAZINE (via telephone): Well, John, it was a busy Friday evening. Quite a popular area for bars and restaurants. And the evening was drawing to a close, it was late, and people were sort of settling up their tabs, et cetera. And then suddenly this sort of lazy atmosphere of closing time changed to something intense immediately.

And there were people scrambling to get out climbing through the windows of the bar that I was at as well as using the door. The sound track was a continuing stream of broken glass, which was quite frightening. Then we emerged onto a darkened street where the only lights were headlights, which also was quite unsettling as well.

MANN: Have you ever been in an earthquake before? Can you compare it to one you experienced or maybe something that people haven't lived through an earthquake that they could relate to?

HARRELL: Yes, I'm aware memories are unreliable in these kinds of situations, but I did live through a few earthquakes growing up in southern California. And I remember at the time they were accompanied by this kind of growl or rumble sound. The thing that struck me about the earthquake early this morning was silence. It just felt like the ground was shifting silently. It was very, very surreal to have that sort of violence companied by such silence.

I don't know how long it went on for, but that was also the other defining characteristic for me is the feeling of identifying that it was an earthquake and thinking to yourself, OK, we can handle this. It is an earthquake and then thinking to yourself, well, it is not stopping. And that was also something that I didn't remember from my youth, earthquakes lasting as long as this one.

MANN: This is a magnitude 8.8 quake. That would make it one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded. We spoke to one scientist who said it was more powerful than a nuclear weapon going off. We don't have a sense; at least I don't really of what Santiago is like around you, what Chile is like, how bad has the destruction been?

HARRELL: Well, it's interesting that you should mention that. People come to this part of the world specifically to see these grand geological formations that were brought into being by the forces that we only got a taste of this morning. So it is certainly believable that it is the most - it is one of the most powerful forces in the world. It trumps even a nuclear bomb. In this case, Santiago itself, I understand the situation is different elsewhere, but structurally it remains very sound. It seems that is the old churches have been the most hard hit. And I've been talking to people on the streets in a sense that these were really sort of islands of beauty in a lot of places that are now reduced in large portions to rubble.

You know, walking around downtown areas, both the sky rise office buildings, the shiny office buildings and the apartments, flat apartment complexes both seem to be structurally sound, which is a huge relief, I think, for everyone.

MANN: Amazing. Eben Harrell of "Time" Magazine. You can see his personal account online at Time.com. Thanks so much for talking to us.

SESAY: Really striking that Eben said when that earthquake struck it was silent. That's something we are going to dig into later on here to find out whether this is common place. We want to bring our viewers up to speed if you are just joining us here on CNN about this earthquake that struck Chile in the early hours of Saturday morning. Here's what we know at this point in time.

The earthquake struck in the early hours. Right now the word that we are getting is that some 122 people have died. Having said that, that number does vary from what we are getting from government authorities, but that's very much commonplace in a time like this where it is slow for information to come out. You are going to get different figures of those hurt or those killed. It still seems very unclear, those numbers, partly because the telecommunications system has been so badly hit.

We heard from the outgoing president of Chile Michelle Bachelet, she spoke a short time ago in a news conference and which she basically made it clear that they are still trying to piece together the extent of the damage, but she could safely say that schools, public buildings, hospitals have all been damaged.

They are appealing for another meeting there in Chile with different governors at about 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time to get a sense of the damage. But really at this point in time, we know that some old buildings have been destroyed as have newer buildings there in Chile and in Santiago.

This was a powerful earthquake. It was 8.8 to give you some kind of comparison. The earthquake that hit Haiti that was 7.0. We are working to get a full sense of the scale of the damage of the disaster. We want you to stay with us here at CNN. We'll bring you the images as we get them. We'll bring you the latest information on this story. Stay with us.

Well, at this point in time, let's bring in someone who knows what it takes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SESAY: Welcome back, everyone. We continue to follow breaking news out of Chile when the 8.8 magnitude earthquake struck in the early morning hours of Saturday morning. At this point in time, we want to get more insight, more perspective of what's playing out there in Chile.

We are joined now by someone who knows what it takes to respond to a disaster like the one playing out. He is a former assistant administrator for the U.S. Government's Emergency Response Department. Carlos Castillo joins us now from CNN Washington. Thank you so much for joining us. I want to start by getting your assessments from what you are hearing of the scale of this disaster.

CARLOS CASTILLO, FMR. FEMA ASST. ADMINISTRATION: Well, thank you. Thank you for having me. Prior to coming to Price Waterhouse Coopers, I was with the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency. And prior to that with Miami Dade County where I managed a program that primarily involved Latin America and the Caribbean and responding to disasters as well as working with emergency management agencies to help them be self-sufficient.

Some of what they are dealing with now is and you have to look at Chile as a very well prepared country when it comes to disaster preparedness compared to other countries perhaps. They have the urgency, they have the need. And now the priorities are determining what the extent of damage is as well as simultaneously working to free trapped victims and to save lives.

It is almost difficult not to compare this to some other recent earthquakes like Haiti, perhaps, and there are a lot of differences, but some of the things remain the same and throughout is following a major earthquake with a lot of structural collapse, the largest number of rescues are what we call self-rescue, people are able to get out on their own, or their friend and family, and neighbors that help and come to help them that might be trapped.

The difficulty comes in when you have high or mid-rise buildings that are collapsed or perhaps partially collapsed where there may be voids, and it is difficult to get people out. I think some of what you are seeing here are some of the buildings collapsed, there was mention of some of the older churches where you have unreinforced concrete that just basically turns to rubble. The chances of finding someone alive in there are minimal.

SESAY: Let me jump in there, Carlos, at that point in time because you talk about the structural collapse. We are showing pictures to our viewers of the devastation to the infrastructure. I know you say that Chile is a well-prepared country that has the urgency; do they have the know-how to deal with something on this scale in your view?

CASTILLO: They do as much as anyone can. Any one country can. This is a disaster, and by definition, it is going to overwhelm what they have locally, regionally and perhaps even nationally. The good thing is the world stands ready to help just like the U.S. does through the agency for International Development. Other countries as well have been monitoring this situation and are ready to help. And part of the issue now and the challenge is to determine what the extent and what is actually needed in terms of assistance.

SESAY: Carlos, at this point in time, I want to update our viewers. We are just getting some new statistics in to us about the numbers of dead after this earthquake. The latest number we are getting here at CNN is now 147 up from 122 a short time ago, 147 people are dead at this point in time. Again, we want to stress to our viewers that we are slowly trying to piece together the scale of this disaster, so in all likelihood, this number could indeed go up in the hours ahead.

Carlos, you mentioned that the world is ready to help Chile. Knowing Chile as you do, having been on the ground there, what kind of assistance would be needed should the International Committee step in? Where are the deficits so to speak?

CASTILLO: The key is life saving. The first and foremost priority is saving lives, people that may be trapped in collapsed or partially collapsed buildings. Or otherwise injured and getting them advanced medical care as soon as possible. Any trauma victims, to get them to advanced medical care as soon as they can. And that's going to be challenging. You know, the area most affected hasn't been able to get that information out yet, or that information hasn't gotten to most of the authorities yet.

And then some the roads that they take, a major bridge heading from the north to the south of Chile, I understand, is wiped out, has collapsed and is impassable. So those are just some of the priorities.

Some of the other things, I think what's important and we've seen it following every major disaster that requires international assistance, is for countries to help in ways that are actually needed, to work with the government of Chile, to identify what is actually needed at the time first and foremost and to continue that assistance to be and inform the assistance, because otherwise it ends up clogging up and creating logjams and perhaps not getting to the people that need it the most.

SESAY: Otherwise. Carlos Castillo, thank you for joining us on this day to give us your insight and perspective. Carlos Castillo is a former assistant administrator for the U.S. Government Emergency Response Department. Thank you so much.

CASTILLO: Thank you.

MANN: There's a lot of turmoil, there's a lot of chaos and there are a lot of people around the globe just trying to find their friends and loved ones in Chile. Governments are trying to help. I mentioned quickly before we move on that U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to make a statement shortly about the Chile earthquake. We are expecting it at the top of the hour.

But let's get back to the focus of just finding people. With more on that, we are joined by Kate Bolduan who is at the White House. Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there Jonathan. We are waiting for that statement from President Barack Obama that will be happening shortly. We are all keeping an eye on that as it is about to come, but we do know now that from White House press secretary Robert Gibbs that the president has been in the situation room today being briefed in both in person as well as on a conference call.

And I believe we do have a photograph that's been provided by the White House. The president being briefed on the situation in Chile as well as the tsunami warnings by many top federal officials, including the director of FEMA, Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano. The State Department secretary Hillary Clinton, Commerce secretary Locke, as well as USAID director Shaw, so they are watching this closely.

And in a statement, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said as much, this was released a little earlier today, he says, quote, we are closely monitoring the situation, including the potential for a tsunami. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Chile and we stand ready to help in this hour of need.

The State Department as well watching this very closely and in a statement they released a little earlier today, spokeswoman Megan Matteson saying, that we are committed to helping the people of Chile as well as looking after the welfare of the many Americans who live in and visit Chile every year. She goes on to say that we have reached out to and stand ready to assist the government of Chile as rapidly and effectively as we can.

So you can see, Jonathan, there's an all hands on deck, really, as we hear from the federal level here in Washington as both the White House and the State Department as well as many other agencies here are watching this closely. It is a very serious situation, not only in the aftermath of the earth quake and the rescue efforts, but also in the now potential fall out with the tsunami warnings that are really going up and down the west coast from the top and bottom of this planet.

MANN: Kate Bolduan at the White House thank you very much. We have been talking to representatives at the Chile government; they said that they don't really know what help they are going to need from around the world. That's one of the many questions they are trying to answer. First, what's going on in their country and then how do they reach out to accept the help from the American government that want to step in?

SESAY: Absolutely. We heard from Carlos Castillo, who was saying that the good thing in all of this, if you can talk about good, is that Chile is a well prepared country. Basically, it is ready to deal with this. I mean, they have not offered international assistance up until this point, so we continue to wait in the hours and minutes ahead what emerges. As John was just saying the president will be making a statement to you in a short time from now, and we'll of course bring that to you live here on CNN.

But let's move on and get you some more now, some perspective and really just trying to broaden out the picture of what took place and what is happening on the ground. This is not the first catastrophic event to strike Chile. MANN: No. The sad truth is, it is positioned on the ring of fire that geologists talk about that means it won't be the last, either. With more on the quake, we are joined by Kurt Frankel a professor of Georgia Tech's School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. Thank you for talking with us. We have seen this unfold with the earthquake and then the tsunami. You are a scientist. Scientists are capable of predicting some of this, but this is, off the shocks. 8.8 in magnitude.

KURT FRANKEL, EARTH AND ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCES: Let me clarify, we are not capable of predicting earthquakes at this time. There are a lot of people working soon and making great strides, but we cannot accurately predict earthquakes at this time. But of course we knew that this area has been susceptible to earthquakes and probably most well demononstrated by the event in 1922 and 1960 the magnitude 9 and magnitude 9.5. And of course those produced large tsunamis.

This region is susceptible to tsunamis because you have one plate stuck beneath another. When those plates break in the sea floor goes up a little bit and that water above that sea floor has to be moved out of the way. That's what produces the tsunami.

SESAY: Kurt, I want to jump in and bring to your attention a comment that was made by the "Times" journalist we just had on Eben Harrell. He said when this earthquake struck it was silent. What do we make of that?

FRANKEL: I don't think there's too much to make of that.

SESAY: Is that customary or just very much the case when these things strike, so to speak?

FRANKEL: I think most of the time you are caught unaware. You mentioned the grumbling that he experienced in southern California and sometimes people report that and other times not. I don't think there's anything to make of that or any sort of -- there's not necessarily that warning that occurs.

MANN: Now, you are far away from your computer as you are far away from your normal sources of information, but I'm curious the tsunami has been underway for some time. It has already come back to some extent on Chile. It has struck French Polynesia. The reports we are seeing are very scattered but so far the damage does not seem to be excessive, is that good news? Can we draw any conclusions from it?

FRANKEL: Well I think that's good news so far, but I'm not sure that you can necessarily draw conclusions of what the damage may or may be like in Hawaii. The woman from Noah who was on earlier says they are expecting 11/2-foot waves to 7 1/2-foot waves in Hawaii and that is very much depending on the coastline.

If you have a very shallow coastline where the water doesn't rise much above sea level for long distances in shore, those waves are going to move much further inshore than if you have a very steep coastline where the elevations rise way above sea level close to the shore and lock the waves from moving in a great distance.

MANN: So I guess the bottom line is be prepared and get out of the way. Kurt Frankel thank you very much.

SESAY: Thank you.

All right. Well, at this point in time we want to update you on the situation here in the U.S. where they are closely watching the situation unfold. The Pentagon is planning on how to respond to the potential tsunami hitting Hawaii. Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joins us on the line from Washington.

Barbara, what can you tell us?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well Isha we have the latest information. U.S. Navy officials say within the next three hours at least four navy warships will get underway, will leave the harbor in Hawaii.

They will put out to sea and try to get out of the way of any potential tsunami waves. Four warships are expected to be the first to go out to sea in the next three hours. More may come, navy officials tell us they are even looking at sending ships currently in San Diego, California, out to sea to get out of the way of all of this.

The military has been front and center really focused on this since overnight when the news came to life here. They have to make decisions very quickly to get out of the way because it takes hours to get a ship going, so that's what they are working on right now and they expect further developments in the coming hours.

SESAY: So, Barbara, as the ships are dispatched, when they get there what will be their focus when they get there? Remind our viewers again.

STARR: Well, the issue at hand here is, of course, first and foremost in Hawaii, the military is working with local civil defense officials to do anything they can to help get ready, to be prepared, we are told, to step in if heaven forbid a disaster unfolds.

For example, there is a significant U.S. Army contingent on Hawaii. They have helicopters if they are needed for search and rescue. Transporting people, Medivac, anything that is needed should the disaster emerge? They will be ready to go.

Command centers, army, navy, air force, we are told across the Pacific, they are on watch keeping an eye on the tsunami warnings, seeing how it all unfolds. At this hour, it appears the nearest military focus is, in fact, the U.S. Navy in Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Some low-level housing we know already evacuated as a precautionary effort.

SESAY: Barbara, let me jump in there. I'm sorry. The president of the United States is coming out to make a statement. So, we're going to leave it there -- Jon.

MANN: Let's listen in. President Obama speaking to reporters after the 8.8 magnitude quake that's wreaked such terrible destruction in Chile. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good morning, everybody.

Earlier today, a devastating earthquake struck the nation of Chile affecting millions of people. This catastrophic event was followed by multiple aftershocks and has prompted tsunami warnings across the Pacific Ocean.

Earlier today, I was briefed by my national security team on the steps that were taken to protect our own people and to stand with our Chilean friends.

Early indications are that hundreds of lives have been lost in Chile and the damage is severe. On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the Chilean people. The United States stands ready to assist in the rescue and recovery efforts, and we have resources that are positioned to deploy should the Chilean government ask for our help.

Chile is a close friend and partner of the United States and I've reached out to President Bachelet to let her know that we will be there for her should the Chilean people need assistance. And our hearts go out to the families who may have lost loved ones.

We're also preparing for a tsunami that could reach American shores later today, particularly in Hawaii, American Samoa and Guam. The tsunami warning is in place and people have been alerted to evacuate coastal areas. I urge citizens to listen closely to the instructions of local officials who will have the full support of the federal government as they prepare for a potential tsunami and recover from any damage that may be caused.

I also urge our citizens along the West Coast to be prepared as well as there may be dangerous waves and currents throughout the day. Again, the most important thing that you can do is to carefully heed the instructions of your state and local officials.

Once again, we've been reminded of the awful devastation that can come at a moment's notice. We can't control nature, but we can and must be prepared for disaster when it strikes. In the hours ahead, we'll continue to take every step possible to prepare our shores and to protect our citizens and we will stand with the people of Chile as they recover from this terrible tragedy.

Thank you very much, everybody.

MANN: A brief statement from President Barack Obama speaking to reporters outside the White House, basically making the point that it's time for Americans to take the steps that are appropriate if they are in harm's way.

"I urge citizens," he said, "to listen closely to local officials. The most important thing you can do," he said making the point again, is to "heed the instructions of local officials." Keep in mind the president was very personally involved in the U.S. effort after the terrible earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12th. Now once again he is coming forward to put his face on the U.S. response to the Chilean earthquake, saying something in fact we had not heard before that early indications in his words are that hundreds of lives have been lost in Chile. As he said, the damage is severe. No question about the damage, but we are all still waiting to see the casualty count that has been moving up and down.

The most confirmed numbers we have do not speak of hundreds. Maybe the president knows something we don't or maybe he misspoke. But once again Barack Obama putting his seal on all of this telling people in Hawaii and on the west coast of the United States to pay attention, be careful and do as you are told this is dangerous.

SESAY: Absolutely. We cannot stress that enough. Listen to your state and local officials at this time. Information coming out, you've I got to pay attention to what you are hearing and follow those instructions. As John said, we are still looking to piece together all of this. Social media sciences are a good way to find information from the ground especially the first hours after a disaster.

Errol Barnett has been tracking the signs and he joins me now with more. Errol what are you seeing?

ERROL BARNETT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well first, Isha I want to show you a global map. This is a massive event. We can plot where tweets are being sent by location. We see terms like tsunami, sirens; the fears of this impending Russia water persist.

The U.S. president saying be prepared and many people are. Here you can see trends map. This is the Pacific Ocean here. Hawaii sits in this region and there is a major fear of a tsunami. In fact we can actually bring up pictures that were tweeted moments ago from the island.

This picture was sent to us by Wayne. You see long lines at grocery stores. People there really stocking up with supplies. We had another similar image from Jason. He was in a Safeway Food Store on the island and people were stocking up on food, on water and those essential supplies.

What's left after that, many stores look like this? This was posted of an empty store shelf there. This web page popped up. People are taking efforts to help one another during this effort. This is Hitsunami.info; this is local news reports from the island. That's embedded in their tips how to prepare for the impending tsunami. Safety procedures as well as links too many of the major emergency agencies.

What we are seeing right now are two major efforts. One is to help those preparing for the tsunami, and the other still, let's not forget, to help those in Chile. A short while ago I reached out via web cam to one woman in D.C. from Chile. She has been using her technology and resources and connections to share information online.

Perhaps we don't have that for you at this moment. We have another group that is doing it on a bigger scale. You may remember a group called USEA Haiti. They were instrumental of crisis mapping. They took part in daily webcam conference calls. We just reached out to Patrick Myer via web cam; he tells me what similarities these two efforts share.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATRICK MYER: We are going to be mapping for the Chile platform basically using the same categories and indicators that we did for Haiti. These categories and indicators basically include emergency collapsed structures, aftershocks, medical emergencies, issues having to do with vital lines like power outages, blocked roads as well as issues having to do with food distribution as well as water distribution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BARNETT: So that's what's happening on the mass scale. Here now is the woman from Chile living in D.C. also trying to help in any way she can.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MONTSERRAT NOCOLAS, NEW MEDIA CONSULTANT: People start asking me questions because electricity went down in Chile so people could only have access to twitter through their cell phones, their smart phones, right? So they start asking me what I saw through the web because their wi-fi system, their internet went down also, especially in major cities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BARNETT: We are also using I-report to prove from Santiago and Chile; a woman heard a loud crashing, saw things fall in her home. This is her neighbor's home and said these are newly-built neighborhoods. You can head to I-report.com. We have a version in English and in Spanish, as well. We have a missing or looking for loved ones assignments that we used in Haiti as well, ireport.com is a place to show us the I witness accounts. Back to you guys.

SESAY: Errol, any thanks for that. Social media showing that it really is a very important tool at this point in time as we try and get this information. We want to bring you pictures just coming into us here at CNN. We want to bring them right to you. These are aerial shots just coming in to us from San Fernando, I believe, in Chile.

MANN: Yes. This is an island I believe that has already both been struck by the earthquake. And if my information was right, was hit by the tsunami waves, as well. No indication there of any profound damage. The beaches look relatively untouched; the buildings look untouched from this distance. An extraordinary thing if indeed it suffered any damage from the earthquake and from the water. Shaky pictures, but this seems to be ... SESAY: Bear in mind the magnitude of this thing that we are talking about. As you point out from this distance, you see cars on the road further inland, and the buildings there on the coastline seem untouched. Aerial pictures coming in to us from San Fernando. We have pictures from Hawaii to bring to our viewers.

MANN: No, we'll stay with these. These images have been unedited. This is raw video. This is the first video we've seen. We want to share it with you right away. From there you can see a better indication of damage. Even in Santiago we heard that there were some areas that were untouched.

Other buildings that went down. Older buildings seem to have a much worst time of it than more modern structures. We are sharing it with you. I'm trying my best to read it, Isha is as well. Not clear what we should read into these images except that you can see not many cars on the move. It's not clear how much damage we are actually seeing, to my eyes.

SESAY: Yes, indeed. If you are joining us on this story, the latest death toll figures we got a short time ago of 147 up from 122. Those are aerial shots we brought you there from the San Fernando Island of just how things appear to be from a distance, at least there on the ground. And as John just pointed out trying to read and get a sense of the impact of all of this wasn't immediately apparent from those images though.

MANN: That is the border coast area of the fifth region. Several regions have been identified as what the president calls disaster zones. A short time ago we heard from both the U.S. president and the Chilean president. Both of them expressing every intention to help the people of Chile, but neither really entirely informed about the situation on the ground there yet.

SESAY: Yes, indeed. We wait to see in the hours ahead what more comes out for us in the telecommunications system and what is severely impacted there. Hawaii dealing with a tsunami warning at this point in time. Stay with CNN as we continue to follow this story for you.

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