After Chile Earthquake, President Obama Warns Residents to Brace for Tsunami in Home State of Hawaii

Feb 27, 2010 1:49pm

ABC News' Kristina Wong reports: As his home state of Hawaii braced for a tsunami triggered by the 8.8-magnitude earthquake that hit Chile early Saturday, President Obama huddled in the White House Situation Room this morning with top advisers and officials, including chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, deputy national security advisor Tom Donilon and USAID administrator Rajiv Shah. FEMA Director Craig Fugate, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke also participated in the meeting. Photo credit: White HouseThe president delivered a statement just before 2 p.m. ET from the White House, warning residents in the Hawaiian Island region to heed the instructions of state and local officials."Earlier today I was briefed by national security team on the steps that we are taking to protect our own people and to stand with our Chilean friends," the president said. "We’re also preparing for a tsunami that could reach American shores later today – particularly in Hawaii, American Samoa, and Guam." "A tsunami warning is in place, and people have been alerted to evacuate coastal areas.  I urge citizens to listen closely to the instructions of local officials who will have the full support of the federal government as they prepare for a potential tsunami and recover from any damage that may be caused.  "I also urge our citizens along west cost to be prepared as well, as there may be dangers waves and currents throughout the day. Again, the most important thing you can do is to carefully heed the instructions of your state and local officials," he said.   Waves are expected to hit Hawaii's shores at approximately 11:19 a.m. local, and 4:19 p.m. ET, according to Hawaii state government officials. Following a 9.5-magnitude quake that struck Chile in 1960, the ensuing tsunami killed more than 200 people, including 61 in Hawaii. President Obama was born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961. Experts say any tsunami to hit Hawaii this time will likely be much smaller since the quake itself was not as strong. The president also offered his condolences to the Chilean people, and offered U.S. assistance in rescue and recovery efforts. He said the U.S. had resources that were positioned to deploy should the Chilean government ask for help. "Early indications are that hundreds of lives have been lost in Chile and the damage is severe.  On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the Chilean people," he said. "Chile is a close friend and partner of the United States and I’ve reached out to President Bachelet to let her know that we will be there for her should the Chilean people need assistance and our hearts go out to the families who may have lost loved ones." ABC News' Jake Tapper, David Herndon and Devin Dwyer contributed to this report.

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