US ready to help Chileans 'in this hour of need'

Published February 27, 2010 3:46PM (EST)

The White House is keeping close watch on the situation in Chile, where a powerful earthquake hit and sent waves across the Pacific Ocean. That's raised the possibility of a tsunami striking Hawaii.

Presidential press secretary Robert Gibbs says the White House is monitoring the situation, including the potential for a tsunami. Gibbs also says U.S. stands ready to help the Chilean people "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 is in effect for the coast of California and an Alaskan coastal area.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. has contacted government officials in Chile and offered help after a powerful earthquake struck the country.

State Department spokeswoman Megan Mattson says the U.S. sends its "heartfelt condolences and prayers for the residents of Chile."

Mattson says she has no immediate information about the welfare of Americans visiting or living in the country. She did say that all the 118 employees of the U.S. Embassy are accounted for.

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.

By Associated Press

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Chile Earthquake Latin America