US offers help to Chile
Washington (AP) — The U.S. pledged to help Chile after a powerful earthquake struck Saturday and kept watch on a tsunami heading for Hawaii.
All 118 employees of the U.S. Embassy in Chile were accounted for, State Department spokeswoman Megan Mattson said. She had no immediate information on the status of other Americans who may be living in or visiting the South American nation. The U.S. military said it had no reports that any of its forces had been affected either on land or at sea.
"We are closely monitoring the situation, including the potential for a tsunami," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Chile, and we stand ready to help in this hour of need."
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami warning -- its highest alert -- for Hawaii. The first waves were expected to arrive in Hawaii at 4:19 p.m. EST. A lower-grade tsunami advisory was in effect for the coast of California and an Alaskan coastal area.
Mattson said the U.S. had reached out to the Chilean government. In cases of natural disasters, the affected country usually accepts an offer of help made by the State Department, which then could ask the Defense Department to help with any relief mission. The U.S. Southern Command, which overseas the U.S. military presence in South and Central America had not yet received any request, Sgt. Santita Mitchell of the command's public affairs office in Miami said.
The State Department advises Americans seeking information on family and friends in Chile to contact the Bureau of Consular Affairs at 1-888-407-4747.