Breaking: Massive Chilean quake triggers Pacific tsunami warnings

Chile suffered an extremely strong earthquake earlier today, hitting 8.8 on the Richter scale.  Damage is thus far unknown, but what is known is that a tsunami has been triggered.  Hawaiians are warned to retreat to the interior of their islands, and Australia is on alert:

People in Hawaii were urgently told to protect lives and property from a tsunami crossing the Pacific as fast as a jetliner after a devastating earthquake in Chile.

Tsunami waves were likely to hit Asian, Australian and New Zealand shores within 24 hours of the earthquake, which struck early Saturday on Chile’s coast.

Though notoriously hard to predict, the tsunami was not expected to be as devastating as the waves generated after a magnitude-9.5 earthquake hit Chile in 1960. Most countries, awaiting further data, did not order evacuations Saturday but instead advised people in low-lying areas to watch for further updates.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii advised that a tsunami was possible in the northern Pacific, including the U.S. West Coast and Alaska.

I lived in California for more than 30 years, and I don’t ever recall a tsunami warning.  Obviously, this is a rare situation.  The 1960 tsunami killed 61 people in Hawaii and 140 in Japan, but its height was somewhere between three and thirteen feet.  This tsunami is estimated to be considerably smaller — but still dangerous.

In Chile, at least 76 people are reported dead, and MS-NBC has the video showing the extensive damage. That number will unfortunately rise as rescuers begin digging through the rubble. It won’t reach the kind of massive death as we have seen in Haiti despite being a stronger quake, thanks to stronger building codes, but it will almost certainly go into the hundreds. Chile needs our prayers — and let’s hope that the island nations remain safe.

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