UPDATE: Chile death toll passes 700 mark - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Chile death toll passes 700 mark

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UPDATE (AP) -- As Chile tries to cope with the devastation caused by Saturday's earthquake, its outgoing president is taking steps to eliminate looting. 

Michelle Bachelet says essentials on the shelves of major supermarkets will be given away for free, under the supervision of authorities. She says troops and police will also distribute food and water. 

On Sunday, police in the hard-hit city of Concepcion fired tear gas to stop looters, who were wheeling off everything from microwave ovens to canned milk at a damaged supermarket. The tear gas in the air forced firefighters to pause from their work pulling survivors from the rubble.

The president says the number of dead has passed 700, and the number listed as missing is also climbing.

She says her country will accept offers of aid that have poured in from around the world.

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SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) -- President Michelle Bachelet says that Chile's earthquake killed at least 708 people -- sharply increasing the known death toll.

The president tells a news conference that the country faces "a catastrophe of such unthinkable magnitude that it will require a giant effort" for Chile to recover.

She spoke at a news conference Sunday after a six-hour meeting with aides and emergency officials coping with Saturday's magnitude-8.8 quake.

Officials earlier said about 300 were known dead.

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10:30 p.m. UPDATE (WKOW) -- The head of Chile's emergency agency says authorities believe at least 300 people are dead after one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded tore apart houses, bridges and highways in the central part of the country on Saturday.

The magnitude-8.8 quake was felt as far away as Sao Paulo in Brazil, 1,800 miles to the east. The full extent of damage remains unclear as dozens of aftershocks shudder across the disaster-prone Andean nation.

President Michelle Bachelet has declared a "state of catastrophe" in central Chile.

Although the official estimate says at least 214 people are dead, Carmen Fernandez, head of the National Emergency Agency, says: "We think the real figure tops 300. And we believe this will continue to grow."

Chile's president says 1.5 million people have been affected by the quake, and officials in her administration say 500,000 homes were severely damaged.

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7:00 p.m. UPDATE (WKOW) -- The strongest earthquake to hit Chile in 50 years has left more than 120 dead and set off a tsunami that threatens the entire Pacific Rim.

The magnitude-8.8 quake collapsed bridges, blocked roads and damaged buildings including hospitals in the capital, Santiago. Electricity, water and phone lines have been cut to many areas.

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

The quake was followed by dozens of powerful aftershocks. Six were magnitude 6 or greater, and 41 were at least magnitude 5.

The largest earthquake ever recorded struck the same area of Chile in May of 1960. The magnitude-9.5 quake killed 1,655 people and left 2 million homeless. The tsunami that it caused killed people in Hawaii, Japan and the Philippines and caused damage to the west coast of the United States.  

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6:45 p.m. UPDATE (WKOW) -- The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has canceled its tsunami warning for Hawaii, with the state apparently escaping the roiling waves unscathed.

Governor Linda Lingle says no damage has been reported in any county. Tidal surges were observed Saturday along the coasts but did not roar ashore. She's calling it "a great day now that it's over."

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4:05 p.m. UPDATE (WKOW) -- Scientists have confirmed that the tsunami triggered by the earthquake in Chile has reached Hawaii.

The extent of the damage was not immediately clear, but the effects of the tsunami were obvious.

Water began pulling away from shore off Hilo Bay on the Big Island just before noon, exposing reefs and sending dark streaks of muddy, sandy water offshore. Water later washed over Coconut Island, a small park off the coast of Hilo.

The tsunami raced across the Pacific Ocean in terrifying force after the magnitude-8.8 quake hit Chile. Officials in Hawaii had ample time to get people out of the potential disaster area, and thousands were evacuated.

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4:00 p.m. UPDATE (WKOW) --Waters have begun receding off the shores of Hawaii in what appears to be the first sign of a tsunami.

The tsunami began affecting Hilo Bay on the Big Island just before noon local time. Water began pulling away from shore, exposing reefs and sending dark streaks of muddy, sandy water offshore. That is usually an indication of the wave building strength before coming ashore.

The tsunami raced across the Pacific Ocean in terrifying force after the magnitude-8.8 quake hit Chile. Officials in Hawaii had ample time to get people out of the potential disaster area, and thousands were evacuated.

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3:30 p.m. UPDATE: (WKOW) -- A tsunami triggered by the Chilean earthquake is racing across the Pacific Ocean, threatening hundreds of islands including Hawaii.

Most governments haven't ordered evacuations, but are advising people in low-lying areas to be on the lookout. But on several South Pacific islands hit by a tsunami last fall, police are evacuating tens of thousands of coastal residents.

In Hawaii, sirens blared to alert residents to the potential waves. Small planes equipped with loudspeakers flew along the shoreline, warning beach goers.

On Hawaii's Big Island, officials have cordoned off the first three blocks next to the beach in Hilo (HEE'-loh). Streets were mostly empty as tsunami sirens blared. Gas stations had long lines, some 10 cars deep. Hilo's airport is closed.

The tsunami has already done some damage. In French Polynesia, waves up to 6 feet high swept ashore, damaging parts of the coast.

On the island of Robinson Crusoe off Chile's coast, a huge wave covered half the village of San Juan Batista. An official says three people are missing.

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2:30 p.m. UPDATE (WKOW) -- President Barack Obama says the U.S. is preparing for a tsunami that could reach American shores.

Mr. Obama wants people in Hawaii, American Samoa and Guam to follow the instructions of local authorities.

A tsunami warning, the highest alert level, is in effect for those Pacific Ocean locations after a powerful earthquake struck Chile.

Obama also is encouraging people along the West Coast to be prepared for the possibility of dangerous waves and currents.

The president says the U.S. is ready Chile with rescue and recovery efforts. He says the U.S. has resources that are in position to deploy should the Chilean government ask for U.S. assistance.

Obama spoke at the White House on Saturday afternoon after a conference call with Cabinet officials and White House staff.

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HONOLULU, HI (AP) -- A geophysicist at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii says the tsunami was approaching Hawaii a bit faster than originally predicted.

Victor Sardina says data coming in from buoys and tide gauges across the Pacific indicated the tsunami should arrive in Hawaii at 11:05 a.m. (4:05 p.m. EST), instead of 11:19 a.m.

He predicts the tsunami would be a series of big waves, rather than a wall of water.

Charles McCreery, director of the center, says the tsunami will be "a lot like a fast high tide" and could pose dangers for several hours after the initial waves hit.

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EWA BEACH, HI (AP) -- A tsunami warning has been issued for Hawaii, and the California coast and parts of Alaska are under a tsunami advisory.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center says the earthquake in Chile has generated a tsunami that could cause damage along coastlines of all islands in Hawaii. The first waves are expected to reach Hawaii at 11:19 a.m. Hawaii time (4:19 p.m. EST).

The center's director is calling for "urgent action to protect lives and property" in Hawaii. He says he doesn't know how big the waves will be, but he expects them to be the largest to hit Hawaii since 1964.

But he says there should be enough time to alert everyone in harm's way to get to safety.

The advisory for California and Alaska is the agency's lowest-level alert.

Tsunami warnings are in effect over a wide area, including South America, Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand, Japan, the Philippines, Russia and many Pacific islands.

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SANTIAGO, CHILE (AP) -- Chile's government says 76 people are confirmed dead in a giant earthquake that has collapsed buildings and set off a tsunami.

The death toll comes from the deputy interior minister, Patricio Rosende. His boss, Edmundo Perez Yoma says: "the death toll will continue rising."

The magnitude-8.8 earthquake has caused a huge wave that reached a populated area in the Robinson Crusoe Islands off the Chilean coast. Tsunami warnings have been issued over a wide area, including South America, Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand, Japan, the Philippines, Russia and many Pacific islands.

The earthquake struck early Saturday.

 

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