8.8 Magnitude Earthquake in Chile; Tsunamis Predicted for Pacific Region

by Nancy Atkinson on February 27, 2010

Map showing regions likely to be hit by tsunamis following 8.8 earthquake in Chile. Credit: NOAA


A devastating magnitude-8.8 earthquake struck Chile early Saturday, shattering buildings and bridges, killing over 100 people and setting off a tsunami that threatens every nation around the Pacific Ocean — roughly a quarter of the globe. Experts warned that a tsunami could strike anywhere in the Pacific, and Hawaii could face its biggest tsunami since 1964. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center predicts a possible 2.5 meter (8.2-foot) wave to strike Hilo, Hawaii, at 11:05 a.m. local time (4:05 p.m. ET).

The National Weather Service has issued a tsunami warning for the entire West Coast of the US, and is advising everyone in coastal counties to stay away from beaches and shorelines this afternoon when a tsunami producing strong currents and a series of potentially dangerous waves is expected to hit the coast at around 1:20 p.m PST.

Alaska is also threatened, and tsunami waves could possibly hit Asian, Australian and New Zealand shores within 24 hours of the earth quake. See the map above of the tsunami predicted paths.

Map of Chile. Credit: USGS

The quake struck at 3:34 a.m. (1:34 a.m. EST, 0634 GMT) 200 miles (325 kilometers) southwest of Santiago.

Chilean TV showed devastating images of the most powerful quake to hit the country in a half-century: In the second city of Concepcion trucks plunged into the fractured earth, homes fell, bridges collapsed and buildings were engulfed in flames. Injured people lay in the streets or on stretchers.

Many roads were destroyed and electricity and water were cut to many areas.

Several astronomical observatories are located in Chile, and as of this writing, the word on Twitter is that Gemini South’s servers have come back online, but Cerro Tololo (CTIO) and SLOOH servers are down. No word on telescopes yet at Paranal, which is north of Santiago, Chile. From the ALMA crew at NRAO, “Reports from our people in Santiago are trickling in; so far everyone is ok, but quite rattled.”

Links of interest:
NOAA Pacific Tsunami Warning Center

Live streaming news from Hawaii

Estimated arrival times for tsunamis.

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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