Saturday, February 27, 2010

Chilean Earthquake, tidal wave warnings

Huge quake hits Chile; tsunami threatens Pacific
TALCA, Chile – One of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded struck Chile on Saturday, toppling homes, collapsing bridges and plunging trucks into the fractured earth. A tsunami set off by the magnitude-8.8 quake threatened every nation around the Pacific Ocean — roughly a quarter of the globe.

Chileans near the epicenter were tossed about as if shaken by a giant.

It was the strongest earthquake to hit Chile in 50 years. President-elect Sebastian Pinera said more than 120 people died, a number that was rising quickly.

The quake shook buildings in Argentina's capital of Buenos Aires, and was felt as far away as Sao Paulo in Brazil — 1,800 miles (2,900 kilometers) to the east.

In Talca, just 65 miles (105 kilometers) from the epicenter, furniture toppled as the earth shook for more than a minute in something akin to major airplane turbulence. The historic center of town largely collapsed, but most of the buildings of adobe mud and straw were businesses that were not inhabited during the 3:34 a.m. (1:34 a.m. EST, 0634 GMT) quake.

Neighbors pulled at least five people from the rubble while emergency workers, themselves disoriented, asked for information from reporters.

Collapsed roads and bridges complicated north-south travel in the narrow Andean nation. Electricity, water and phone lines were cut to many areas — meaning there was no word of death or damage from many outlying areas.

In the Chilean capital of Santiago, 200 miles (325 kilometers) northeast of the epicenter, a car dangled from a collapsed overpass, the national Fine Arts Museum was badly damaged and an apartment building's two-story parking lot pancaked, smashing about 50 cars whose alarms rang incessantly.

The jolt set off a tsunami that raced across the Pacific, setting off alarm sirens in Hawaii, Polynesia and Tonga. Tahitian officials banned all traffic on roads less than 1,600 feet (500 meters) from the sea and people in several low-lying island nations were urged to find higher ground.

Hawaii could face its largest waves since 1964 starting at 11:19 a.m. (4:19 p.m. EST, 2119 GMT), according to Charles McCreery, director of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. Officials evacuated people and boats near the water and closed shore-side Hilo International Airport. [...]

The article goes on to say that on May 22nd, 1960, a magnitude 9.5 quake in the same area killed 1,655 people, and left two million people homeless. It also produced deadly tsunami waves.

Waves are supposed to reach us here at 14:02 PST. I doubt they will be very dangerous, because of the angle it's coming from. But places like Hawaii, that are in the direct path of the released forces, have real cause for concern.

The death toll is expected to rise. No doubt the architecture in Chile is better now than it was in 1960, but I suspect there is a lot more people living there now, too. We shall see as the situation unfolds.

The photo of the apartment building on it's side is quite unnerving. As are many of the photos coming from Chile now.

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