Rising Death Toll, Tsunami Watch After 8.8-Magnitude Quake Rocks Chile
Dozens Dead, Buildings Toppled, Officials Say, in Quake Dozens of Times More Intense Than Haiti’s
By EMILY FRIEDMAN
Feb. 27, 2010
The earthquake, which hit just after 3 a.m. local time, was 64 times stronger than the one that devastated Haiti last month but was much deeper, likely making the number of casualties far fewer than those in the Caribbean nation.
The minute-and-a-half-long quake was less than 100 miles north from the southwest coastal city of Concepcion, the second-largest city in Chile, but caused damage as far away as the capital Santiago nearly 200 miles away.
Hospitals in the area have been evacuated and the airport in Santiago has been shut down as the country braces to cope with at least 13 aftershocks measuring 5.0 magnitude or stronger. Phone lines and power also are out of service.
Carol Urban, an official at the U.S. Embassy in Santiago who has been stationed there for three years, described the earthquake as “long and scary.”
“But Chile is in a seismic zone, so the Chileans as well as the Americans at the Embassy are always somewhat prepared but this was certainly a surprise to us,” she said.
The U.S. Embassy in Chile is reaching out to any American residents or tourist to make sure they are accounted for, and has announced no American casualties thus so far.
For those concerned about family and friends in Chile, visit the State Department Web site at http://www.state.gov. U.S. citizens can also can call the U.S. State Department number 1-888-407-4747 to register a name of a loved one.
“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,” U.S. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement.
In Hawaii, officials are warning residents about the possibility of a Tsunami, with the first waves scheduled to arrive at 11:19 a.m. local time.
For the first time in 16 years, Hawaii will sound evacuation sirens indicating the possibility of danger to those in the coastal regions.
Eyewitnesses Recount Horror of Chile Earthquake
Ronald Scott, an American who was staying at a hostel in Santiago when the earthquake hit, told ABC News that while he was terrified, the damage he has witnessed was far less extensive than what he saw reported from Haiti. “It was very scary,” Scott said. “The first thing I did was jump underneath the first table I could find and even that was about to collapse on me.”
“I also grabbed a bottle of water just in case I was going to be there for awhile,” he said. “The first thought I had was what was going on in Haiti and what they must have gone through.”
“Everything just started jumping up and down, the lights went out and everything sounded like a railroad train,” he said. “The buildings were shaking, but they’re still standing because of the construction.”
The buildings in Chile are constructed to earthquake standards and therefore can sustain more of a jolt than those in other places.
“Everything is still standing,” said Scott. “The only things that are not broken were not nailed down in the house.”
Elliot Yamin, a former contestant on “American Idol,” had just finished performing at a music festival in Vina Del Mar, Chile, when he said the “rumbling started.”
“At first, it was more of a kind of swaying back and forth and then it was a really fast kind of shaking,” said Yamin.
In a sixth-floor hotel room, Yamin said he quickly moved to a doorway and then the hallway, and eventually got out of the building safely. Still, Yamin said he feared for his life.