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Live tsunami viewing? Ustream's the place

It's an unprecedented event for the Web as a tsunami caused by a massive earthquake in Chile races toward Hawaii. The threat, however, proves minimal.

A Twitter user in Hawaii snaps a picture of the empty beaches leading up to the projected tsunami landing.
Twitter user @rickawho

Typically, natural disasters come with little advance notice. But after a massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck Chile early Saturday, much of the Pacific coast, including Hawaii, came under tsunami watch over the course of the day. That makes this was one time when the news media is poised to catch it all on film.

It may, in fact, be the first time that the developments leading to a potential natural disaster has been broadcast live in this way.

Of course, these days that means streaming on the Web, too; searching live-streaming site Ustream for "tsunami" will bring up a healthy handful of options for viewing. Most, however, don't come from established news outlets, and some aren't technically legal: take this camera pointed at a TV screen that's broadcasting a local TV station--like this one called HITsunami.

Others are directing attention to existing live streams: The Kailua, Hawaii-based Twitter user OnOahu has pointed viewers to the live beachfront webcam used as a surf-conditions promotion by local restaurant Tiki's Grill & Bar. There were well over 2,500 viewers--with more joining by the minute--in the hour leading up to the expected tsunami arrival.

You can also use a third-party Twitter aggregator called Twitcaps to pull in photo and video links that are associated with related tags on Twitter.

Update 1:20 p.m. PDT: The local NBC affiliate is live-streaming at the Hawaii News Now site. Also live-streaming is the CBS affiliate (Disclosure: CNET is published by CBS Interactive).

Update 5:02 p.m. PDT: The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center canceled its warning early afternoon Hawaii time. "Based on all available data there is no longer a destructive tsunami threat to the state of Hawaii," it said in a bulletin. "However some coastal areas in Hawaii may continue to experience small sea level changes and strong or unusual currents lasting for several more hours."