Cable news networks scrambled Saturday to cover the magnitude-8.8 earthquake in Chile that killed at least 214 people and triggered potentially powerful tsunamis across the Pacific Ocean. CNN, Fox News and MSNBC struggled to get live updates from Chile, declared a "state of catastrophe" by President Michelle Bachelet.
CNN spent a large amount of time translating directly from CNN Chile. MSNBC, which usually broadcasts documentaries and newsmagazines rather than live news coverage on the weekends, struggled to find last-minute anchors. As of Saturday morning, CNN had sent anchor Soledad O'Brien to Chile to cover the aftermath of the earthquake and correspondent Dan Simon to Hawaii to cover possible tsunamis expected to hit the coast.
The earthquake, which struck at 3:34 a.m. off the Pacific coast, caused severe damage to airports, hospitals, bridges and buildings. Many hospitals were hit badly and the South American country's major airport in Santiago was closed at least until Sunday, MSNBC reports. Areas of nearby Argentina were also affected by the earthquake. The full extent of the damage is not yet known and the number of deaths is expected to rise.
Aftershocks and tsunami warnings immediately followed the quake. At least 33 aftershocks followed the quake, one registering as high as 6.9.
While tsunami warnings for the entire Pacific basin, including Hawaii and the American territories of American Samoa and Guam, were in effect as of midday Saturday, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center officialy canceled warnings for Hawaii late Saturday after the state was hit with smaller-than-expected waves, according to the New York Times. California and Alaska were also put under tsunami advisory. "We can't control nature, but we can and must be prepared for disaster when it strikes," President Obama said in a statement to reporters Saturday.
Among the millions hit by the quake was former American Idol finalist Elliott Yamin, who was in Chile to perform at a music festival. The Season 6 finalist escaped injury and tweeted from the disaster. "Huge earthquake just now in Chile!!....I swear I thought this was the end of my life," he wrote. He later tweeted about "complete and utter chaos" in the streets. Yamin was in the town of Vine del Mar, 1 mile inland, at the time of the quake.
This epicenter of the earthquake was only a few miles north of the world's largest recorded earthquake, a magnitude-9.5 earthquake in May 1960, which killed 1,655 and also sent tsunamis across the Pacific, according to CNN. Saturday's earthquake follows the 7.0 earthquake that hit Haiti on Jan. 12.