The Tonka Report

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Tsunami Warnings Issued After Huge 8.8 Earthquake Strikes Chile

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February 27, 2010: Alexei Barrionuevo / The New York Times – February 27, 2010

RIO DE JANEIRO — A powerful 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck Chile early Saturday, shaking the capital of Santiago for 90 seconds and sending tsunami warnings along much of the Pacific basin.

Chile’s TVN cable news channel was reporting 122 deaths, with the toll expected to rise, as communications were still spotty around the center of quake, near the city of Concepción in the south. Chile President Michelle Bachelet declared a “state of catastrophe.”

The Associated Press quoted Mrs. Bachelet as saying that a huge wave had swept into a populated area in the Robinson Crusoe Islands, 410 miles off the Chilean coast, but there were no immediate reports of major damage there. Those reports bore out early fears that a major tsunami was on its way across the Pacific.

A Department of Homeland Security official said early Saturday that FEMA was monitoring the situation and was in contact with state emergency personnel in Hawaii, which is under a tsunami warning. But the decision to evacuate coastal areas and handling this evacuation is the responsibility of state and local officials in Hawaii, the Homeland Security official said.

The quake downed buildings and houses in Santiago and knocked out a major bridge connecting the northern and southern sections of the country.

It struck at 3:34 a.m. local time and was centered about 200 miles southwest of Santiago, at a depth of 22 miles, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. The epicenter was some 70 miles from Concepcion, Chile’s second-largest city, where more than 200,000 people live.

Phone lines were down in Concepcion as of 7:30 a.m. and no reports were coming out of that area. The quake in Chile was more powerful than the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that caused widespread damage in Haiti on Jan 12, killing at least 230,000, earthquake experts reported on CNN International. The U.S. Geological Survey and eyewitnesses reported more than two dozen aftershocks, including two measuring magnitude 6.2 and 6.9.

“We have had a huge earthquake,” Mrs. Bachelet said from an emergency response center in an appeal for Chileans to remain calm. “We’re doing everything we can with all the resources we have.” Mrs. Bachelet said that the government had dispatched three emergency response teams to coastal areas. “Without a doubt, with a quake of this kind, of this size, of this magnitude, we can’t rule out that there are other deaths and probably injuries,” Mrs. Bachelet told reporters.

Witnesses on Facebook and Twitter reported that the quake was felt from Japan to Argentina. The quake struck at the end of the Chilean summer vacation, with hundreds of thousands of people expected to be traveling back home this weekend.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a warning for Chile and Peru, and a less-urgent tsunami watch for Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica and Antarctica. The White House said Saturday morning that it was closely monitoring the situation, “including the potential for a tsunami,” said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. “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.”

Evacuation alarms sounded at 6 a.m. Saturday in vulnerable coastal areas in Hawaii, as the region prepares for what federal officials say could be a dangerous, but most likely not catastrophic tsunami to hit the islands in the aftermath of the earthquake in Chile.

Statewide television news was reporting that the southeast areas of all the islands would likely be the most impacted, which include the heavy tourist zones of Waikiki, and Poipu on Kauai. News reports said that a corridor to the airport on Oahu was being established, and that visitors should go to at least the third floor of their hotels

Brian R. Shiro, a geophysicist at NOAA Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Ewa Beach, Hawaii, said that computer models show that the impact will be greatest in spots such as Hilo Bay on Hawaii Island and Kahului Harbor in Maui. In those areas, the tsunami waves could reach as high as 6 to 10 feet, Mr. Shiro said. Elsewhere in Hawaii, the waves will likely be only about two to three feet.

Already, some boat owners were moving their boats away from the coast, to avoid damage when the waves arrive. Beaches will be closed and pre-determined evacuation zones in certain coastal areas will be cleared.

The Tonka Report Editor’s Note: (Ahem) Why doesn’t the U.S. have 10,000 troops on the ground in Chile within the first 24 hours like we did in Haiti? Hmmm? SJH

Link to original article below…

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/28/world/americas/28chile.html

Written by Steven John Hibbs

February 27, 2010 at 12:41 pm

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