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Japan Slammed by 8.9 Magnitude Earthquake

Aired March 11, 2011 - 01:12   ET



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (on the phone): -- ground where a lot of people are standing because it's generally safer after a large earthquake to stay underground if you're already underground. They're just kind of waiting it out to see what's going to happen next. We haven't heard up above to say that you should get out. So people are just waiting here and just trying to get through with their family and friends.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Indeed and as you mentioned, people in Japan, of course, very used to these sort of earthquakes. I do want to just take this opportunity to welcome our viewers across the United States. They have joined us along with our global audience as we take you through this breaking news.

A 7.9 earthquake in Japan, a powerful quake and we know at this point a tsunami warning has been issued covering Japan, Papua New Guinea right across that region, very widespread warnings covering that whole area. We are keeping a very close an eye on that.

What that means at this point is that the tsunami could be heading in the next couple of hours. So we are keeping a close eye on this. This is why we are staying so very close on this story. Want to go back to Kyung Lah there who's telling us the situation. She is right in the middle of this.

Of course, and Kyung Lah, if you can repeat for our U.S. audience if you wouldn't mind where you were when this powerful earthquake struck?

KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): I was actually in Tokyo Station underground right above the platform. Tokyo station, if you're familiar with the station at all. It is a very large extensive train station. It is one of the busiest in Tokyo, a city that has many busy stations. This is one of the busiest.

So we were here shooting a different story and while we were shooting, we felt a very, very strong tremor. All of the signs started to shake back and forth. The lights were flickering and then people were standing and looking very, very alarmed.

The reason why it's notable to say that people were alarmed is because in Japan, this is a country that is one of the most earthquake-prone in the world. This is a place where people are used to feeling earthquakes. This was different. This was a sizable earthquake.

This was something for people who are used to feeling an earthquake perhaps once a week this was something they felt and they felt for many, many minutes. We saw the signs here shaking back and forth, quite strongly, for three, four, five minutes or so. I apologize for my inability to tell you exactly how long it was.

But it was a long period of time. You saw some women pause and clutched each other and looked very, very alarmed. All of the trains, I am looking down across the platform here and it is still stopped. People are on their mobile phones trying to get through.

You may be wondering why are people still sitting under ground because there hasn't been an announcement telling people to actually leave here. So people are waiting to see what is safe to happen next. I can also tell you that Tokyo is a city that is built to withstand earthquakes.

So even in an underground tunnel, even in a high-rise, you could feel significant shaking, but there may not be any damage. Especially because of the location of where this earthquake was. What Ivan is telling us because it was offshore it seems very unlikely that there will be any significant damage in one of the major cities here in Tokyo, but we have to wait for that. It's still early on.

CHURCH: You know, as you are talking to us and painting this extraordinary picture of what is happening, we are watching NHK TV pictures that are coming in. They're taped pictures and we're putting them to air now giving people an idea of when this strike and what happened exactly.

What you say is very, very important I think to get out to the audience's. Japan is used to earthquakes, but when you deal with this sort of magnitude, a 7.9, close to a great earthquake, which is a magnitude 8. This is different for people there. You also mentioned people on the ground.

Normally we have all been through various earthquakes and various magnitudes. The instinct and what we are told when they get is to get out from a building or if you are underground because that is where a lot of the problems will be. It is very dangerous for people. You say there because Tokyo particularly is built for the sort of --

LAH: We are actually going through another earthquake right now. This may be -- an aftershock of some sort.

CHURCH: Tell us what you are saying.

LAH: What we are seeing now, again, we're seeing the signs shaking back and forth. The area that I am in right now doesn't have a lot of people in it because everyone is kind of stuck in the underground area. Again, it doesn't appear to be as powerful as the one we experienced minutes ago, but yes, the signs are definitely shaking. We are definitely going through another -- it appears to be an aftershock of what we experienced. CHURCH: Of course, as we talk, we are looking, as I mentioned, at these pictures. We are not quite sure, but we are making the assumption here that this is the NHK newsroom.

In fact, we are looking at some of those studio lights, I'm assuming. Now we go back to the crowds of people outside and we are also looking at a plume of smoke at one point there. We can see it now on our televisions.

I don't suppose, Kyung Lah, that in the midst of all of this, you are able to tell us where that plume of smoke is. It's very, very black smoke coming from some part of Tokyo there. Are you able to give us any information on that?

LAH: I simply couldn't tell you because I am stuck underground where all these trains are stopped. You know, when you have earthquakes, especially that are powerful, if you think about how many infrastructure systems we have on the ground that could be impacted by earthquakes, I mean, it is really anyone's guess what that could be. It could be something completely random, but at this point I could gather a guess at this point.

CHURCH: Where are you heading at this point? What is your instinct? What was your reaction there too?

LAH: When the earthquake happened, what was my reaction?

CHURCH: No, just that moment. I just responded to some situation on the ground there. Is everything OK?

LAH: Yes, we are continuing to feel the earth shake underneath us. So it's a little alarming. But the train, I am actually looking at one stopped train and you can see it bobbing slightly up and down. So, you know, the earth is a little unstable down here.

CHURCH: Yes, totally. As we talk, we're still continuing to look at those pictures coming from NHK. What we are seeing now are a large number of cars in the water. Now, just wait for more information coming in from the control room on that. Not sure of the location exactly but in the harbor there, there are a lot of cars under water.

LAH: OK. I'm sorry. I can't talk about that, but we are now being evacuated out of the train station. I am not exactly sure why, but the train has not decided that everybody has got to get out of here.

CHURCH: Right, which makes perfect sense. I'm going to let you get evacuated from that area, Kyung Lah and we will come back to you in just a moment once you are safely out of that underground area where no one wants to be in the course of an earthquake or any aftershocks.

Let's go back to Ivan Cabrera now who's standing by. Ivan, have you been able to get more information on the depth of that quite? IVAN CABRERA, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: Well, I have information on the depths of the quake that those pictures there are dramatic. You do not get cars floating like that out along the shore unless you've had had a major event occurring along the seashore there and that is where we have had as of the last hour from the Japan meteorological agency.

They had posted a major tsunami warning. They forecasted wave heights of up to three meters. Now remember these tsunamis travel at 800 kilometers per hour. So it certainly conceivable that we have already had the arrival of the first because, remember, they arrive in waves, of the first initial wave. If you're watching this from the U.S. at about 500 miles an hour, that is how fast these things travel.

We do have an update if you will allow me here on the location. We have one red docked here to the east. We have actually updated the situation, which is not good because we've updated it further to the west.

So the epicenter has now been placed closer to Japan, not only that, but we finally have the depth and it is not good, 24 kilometers. That is very shallow so a 7.9 earthquake almost a great earthquake here with a 24-kilometer epicenter here as far as the depth. That has generated a tsunami.

I don't have the wave heights here, but I would be shocked and surprised if this thing had not generated, take a look at the pictures there, Rosemary. Again, you're watching it coming and that is --

CHURCH: Unbelievable. Look at that.

CABRERA: That is arriving on the coast. As you are watching these dramatic pictures from Japan, the earthquake occurring about 150 kilometers east of Sendai. I do want to mention that Japan is not the only place that is being affected, but my goodness, it is now taking the brunt of there, Rosemary. That is unbelievable.

CHURCH: Extraordinary. I mean, you can see the power lines going down as all of that water rolls through and of course, it is close to the coast. You can see the ships and the boats that are already in the harbor there, but all of the cars are being drawn into that. I mean, this is extraordinary thing. these pictures as this unfolds before our very eyes.

CABRERA: We have never seen this. We are watching a live tsunami hit Japan. If you are watching us from around the world here on CNN, that is what you're watching. Those are not taped pictures. This is a live picture of what appears to be a major tsunami arriving along the Japanese coast, just incredible scenes there.

CHURCH: Of course, Ivan, let's talk about those waves because you were saying like 500 miles per hour, U.S. audience 800 kilometers per hour for our global audience. I mean, it is just extraordinary strength involved in that and you say it comes presumably, that first one is the strongest. And then the ones that follow are weaker, is that correct or not?

CABRERA: Not necessarily. If you remember in the Abanda Ache tsunami, the initial one was bad enough and then we had essentially wave three and wave four in which were actually higher and worst. So the damage is ongoing right now. But may continue over the next several hours because we talk about these waves that come in each successively producing damage here.

So we will have to watch that closely and again, not just Japan, but we have a regional across the Pacific now, a tsunami watch in effect. And as you watch these dramatic pictures, that is telling me that since the tsunami was generated and it has now hit Japan, we are talking about other countries that are going to be in the path of it.

And of course, Japan didn't have that much time to warm their folks there along the seashore because they are 150 kilometers to the west of the epicenter. This thing is moving at 800 kilometers per hour. Do the math. It has certainly arrived, and arrived with quite a ferry on the coast of Japan.

CHURCH: And Ivan, you mentioned all those countries, hopefully I am not sure I am asking the control room here if we have a map of the area. If we could bring it up and sort of get a broader idea of all of the countries that could possibly be affected by this tsunami.

CABRERA: And as we do that, I want to share with you the warning for the tsunami not only obviously under way in Japan, but Russia is involved here. Tsunami warnings, the threat there is imminent because they are closer to the epicenter where the tsunami was generated.

Then we have a watch for Guam, Taiwan, Marshall Islands, Midway Islands, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Hawaii. For our U.S. viewers there, if you have interest in Hawaii, they are now under a tsunami watch paying very close attention to those specific buoys to indicate what kind of wave heights we're going to be talking about when and if this tsunami does arrive in those other countries.

CHURCH: Because, of course, you mentioned the buoys. In America, you call them buoys. Elsewhere, we refer to them as buoys that's just for our international audience to they were aware of that. What we're talking about there. Can we go back to this discussion about the depth of this earthquake? Only being 24 kilometers, tell us exactly why that causes so much concern?

CABRERA: It causes concern -- think about what we have been saying over the last couple of years now. If this had hit under (INAUDIBLE) anywhere in Japan, we would be watching a major catastrophic event ongoing as far as buildings.

There's going to be damage as you can see there, some buildings clearly on fire. We will have damaged, but a 7.9 underneath a population center, which would be catastrophic and the casualties would be quite high here. This did not happen under a city center. This happened in the water.

Sure, close to the shore, 150 kilometers is not that far, but thankfully one good thing here is that it was generated under water. All the while, my worry has been knocked from the damage as far as the earthquake, but as far as the tsunami threat because a 7.9 is just unbelievable kind of energy and so close to the shore here. So close to the surface, certainly could have generated a major tsunami as we're watching an unfolding here, Rosemary, in Japan.

CABRERA: Ivan, I want you to stand by and also, you know, go online and get some more information for us. We will come back to you in a moment.

But I do want to go back to Kyung Lah who's in Tokyo, who, of course, was there when this earthquake struck. This 7.9 powerful earthquake nearly considered and classified as a great earthquake.

Kyung Lah, I know you were being evacuated there from the train station. Where are you now exactly and what is the scene around you?

LAH: I am standing above the area, the underground area where people were told to stay until the train could figure out, the train company could figure out if the trains were going to start running again or what they were going to do as far as all the people.

Generally when there is an earthquake and there is a large population base underground, they try to keep that population base underground. But in this case, they decided to evacuate people out of the area. That told us a couple of things.

One, they are worried about more aftershocks. The other is that the trains will not be running for a while and they wanted to get these areas underground cleared and make sure that people aren't standing anywhere where anything can fall on them.

The area I'm in right now is kind of a holding area. It's an area right above the underground area. There were a couple of televisions that were on and people are watching --

CHURCH: Kyung Lah, I'm just going to interrupt you just for a moment because the earthquake has actually been upgraded to an 8.8. That is according to the U.S. Geological Survey. An 8.8 earthquake, that is most definitely a great earthquake.

We will go back to Ivan in just a moment. But I want to go back to you, Kyung Lah, now to what you are describing. I just thought it was important that we tell our U.S. viewers and of course, our global audience that is an incredible upgrade of an earthquake from a 7.9, which is what we initially thought this was to an 8.8 magnitude quake in Japan.

So, Kyung Lah, explaining to us this situation that you are in there now.

LAH: That doesn't surprise me that they have upgraded it because it really felt like a significant earthquake where we were. The ground was shaking. The signs are moving back and forth. The lights were flickering on and off. This is all occurring in a country that is used to earthquakes. That is built to withstand earthquakes.

When you feel something like this and you feel like this for minutes on end, you know this is a significant event. What I am looking at right now are people crowded around televisions, all of them with their mobile phones texting friends, family, trying to reach out.

CHURCH: All right, we have lost Kyung Lah who's there in Tokyo. But this is an opportunity while she gets back on the line to go back to our Ivan Cabrera who has got some more information. Of course, Ivan, we've learned this has been upgraded to an 8.8, that is just extraordinary.

CABRERA: And these are logs again where we're talking about the magnitude and the intensity and the energy that's released from these earthquakes. It is not from a 7.0 to a 7.1 that is an unbelievable increase.

When you are talking about an 8.8, Rosemary, we have to think back to the Indonesia earthquake and tsunami Abanda Ache that was 9.0. This is now a situation here we're going to be talking about for quite some time. A great earthquake has now occurred 150 kilometers east of Japan.

These do not occur often, and in fact, we don't get one every year. We get them every few years here, and the --


CABRERA: -- more time as they continue to watch the news here and, hopefully, evacuate their folks from the coasts here but, as far as Japan, it just wasn't enough time. 150 kilometers east, that was the epicenter, and these things travel at 800 kilometers per hour.

Here's my concern with Japan as we're watching those pictures is that not only are we going to have earthquake damage because of how close and how shallow this earthquake was but we could have subsequent tsunami waves arriving. This is not just -- not over but it could continue for quite some time over the next couple of hours so we'll have to watch that very closely.

Japan meteorological agency did not mince words here. They issued immediately upon the earthquake a major tsunami warning for the coast there east of Sendai and they forecasted wave heights upwards of 3 meters plus and that looks like it has materialized if not more than that has happened there when you see just the waves -- you watch these pictures, Rosemary, you have to think back to the Banda Aceh tsunami here when you just saw those waves of water just roaring on shore there.

And, there is a new video, of course, of what it looks like and felt like inside. We're not just talking a tsunami that occurred 1000 miles away and all you're going to get is the water when it comes. No, the epicenter was so close to Japan that they're going to get hit twice. They're going to get hit with the earthquake damage because of the intensity here, a great 8.8 magnitude quake, and also the tsunami wave and/or waves that are going to continue to come over the next several hours.

Let me know when you want to go over the watches here because, again, it's not just Japan that's in danger. Obviously, those are the pictures that are coming in.

CHURCH: You know -- you know, Ivan, what I do want to see up on the screen there and I think our audience would appreciate, was that classification of earthquakes, once you see -- once you move into the 8.0 and beyond category and you get into that great earthquake, I think it's important to see why we're covering this, why we're giving this so much attention. Have you got that information, that classification where you had the various numbers for all of the different earthquakes?

CABRERA: This is considered a great earthquake, as you mentioned and, basically, you can sum it up with two words, communities destroyed. This is the kind of quake, again, that happens every five to ten years at times and the Banda Aceh, Indonesia quake back in '04, that was a 9.0. That is the one that, I don't have to tell you, killed hundreds of thousands of people because of the proximity to the shore.

Now, we're not in Indonesia here, we're in Japan and I think that is going to be the worst hit areas, if we're going to see massive and major casualties, they're going to be occurring along Japan. Again, simple, because of the speed at which this travels and the fact that we just did not have enough time to get those folks out of the way.

What time is it in Japan? I think that's key too. You can see, it's daylight here. For some of our viewers around the world it is nighttime so there are going to be a lot of folks presumably right along the shore, certainly, attending to their business of the day and not having enough warning to get to safety and higher ground.

CHURCH: Indeed. Ivan, just stand by for a moment because we just want to bring those pictures up. What we were looking at there, those pictures -- that is the Japanese Parliament or Diet and they were, of course, in the middle of looking at various legislation and this is what happened. You can see as they are sort of sitting -- initially, because, as we know, Japan and the people in Japan are used to earthquakes. But, when you get into this realm they know that they are dealing with a very dangerous and high magnitude earthquake, an 8.8.

You can see the people on the ground there. You can see some of the authorities there. I'm sure, initially, what to do, whether this should be taken seriously enough to evacuate because Japan and Tokyo, particularly, is built to sustain these sorts of magnitude -- these high magnitude quakes. So, there are those moments where they're -- do we evacuate this area or do we continue working where we are? So, very important to sort of see there what was happening on the ground there in the Japanese Parliament or the National Diet of Japan.

Back to Ivan now because -- I mean, this -- this is the thing isn't it, there are moments here where the people across Japan, well, they might not initially be nervous but then, after the fact, when you know that a tsunami warning has been issued, that's the concern then. Where do people run? Where do they go? Because, you're talking about densely populated areas here. So, just walk us through that situation.

CABRERA: And it is 3:30 in the afternoon there on a bustling day, we're not on the weekend here, we're talking about Friday so a lot of folks right along the shore there, certainly not expecting like what is, again, happening. This is an ongoing threat. Usually, what we do, of course, is we explain all these things to you and we get into the graphics and I don't want to do that and I don't want to do that because this is an ongoing threat and I think it is important for folks and for us here at CNN to get the word out that this is an ongoing threat, not only to Japan, but to a dozen plus other countries in this region.

If you're watching us from the list I'm about to read to you, a tsunami is on the way so the scenes that you are watching in Japan could be repeated along your shore. So, I'm sure governments are busy evacuating folks from, well, coastal Russia, Marcus Islands, Northern Mariana as, again, that is where the tsunami warning is in effect. We have, just like a scale when you talk about hurricanes or typhoons approaching, we have tsunami advisories, we have tsunami watches, we have warnings and then we have the major tsunami warnings, which is what is in effect for Japan and nearby areas.

Briefly, I will tell you where the watch is in effect. Again, this is a watch because it takes longer -- these countries are further away from the epicenter so we have a little bit more time to watch this and get folks into a higher ground: Guam, Taiwan, Philippines, Marshall Islands, Midway Islands, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Hawaii is now under a tsunami watch as well. That means that, again, we know that a tsunami was generated. We know that it looks like it was a major tsunami.

Based on -- say I didn't have any of this information at all from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, I mean, you just look at the pictures that have been coming in from Japan and you can see that we have, indeed, had a major event occurring there along the shore and with an 8.8, we had a 7.9 and it has now been upgraded to an 8.8, and I believe the depth has been kept that shallow at 24, we are now talking about the potential here for the kind of tsunami that was generated back in '04. This is essentially the same thing, this time around happening just offshore of Japan as opposed to Indonesia, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Indeed, and for those people who may have just joined us, as we walk, you -- as you walk us through and, of course, Kyung Lah in Tokyo, walks us through the situation on the ground there, we're dealing with this 8.8 magnitude quake. Initially, it was thought it was a little weaker than that but now we have learned this is considered and classified a great earthquake. The tsunami warning, a major warning in place for Japan and of course this watch for other countries that will be affected, you said like a dozen plus countries, that's a lot of countries, a lot of people being affected, a lot of nations that are going to have to put in place evacuation measures this very moment. Now, let's talk about the shallowness of this earthquake and why this creates such a widespread warning for that region.

CABRERA: It certainly does. We're talking about an 8.8 now. Again, when you talk about the scale and this is very important, we had initially had the information that this was a 7.9. When you -- when you jump a magnitude, say from 7 to 8, it's not 10 times stronger here, it's essentially 1000 times stronger than the earlier magnitude that we have here. So, all of a sudden, we're talking about an earthquake that generated a tsunami that is 1000 times stronger than what we had here.

Again, the last time we had something like this was back in '04 in Indonesia where we had the 9.0. An 8.8 striking just offshore, again, when the USGS puts the region out here, this is what they're saying, "Near the east coast of Honshu, Japan," that is how close it is to the coast as a result of a secondary evaluation that was done. At first, we thought it was a little further to the east.

Doesn't matter now, 130 kilometers. That's the latest here. East of Sendai in Honshu, Japan. That is 80 miles, just 80 miles, to the east of Sendai, Japan, and, again, the depths here, Rosemary, which is the catastrophic part of it, is 24 kilometers. That's 15 miles. That is nothing when you're talking about earthquakes and the epicenter. That is extremely shallow here as we have been covering the situation that we had recently in Christchurch, New Zealand, because the damage there was great because of how shallow this was.

The one good thing here is that this didn't happen underneath Japan. I think an 8.8 underneath Japan would have certainly toppled buildings. We're not seeing that. I still think there is going to be damage. It was close enough to the shore here where that energy travels, of course, through the bedrock there and gets into those buildings there and we've been gathering reports of folks swaying about in the buildings there.

So, two things, again, damage from the earthquake and then what you're seeing there. That should not be happening, essentially, there. That water should not be there and we have seen boats, we have seen cars, we have seen everything in between arriving there on the coast of Japan and pushing onshore and into buildings and bridges as a result of that -- that first wave of -- of this potent tsunami that was likely generated as a result of now what we are -- certainly can say is a great earthquake here, 8.8.

CHURCH: No doubt about it. Our Ivan Cabrera. I'll let you get back and get some more information on this.

In the meantime, I have Shenza Chen on the line now, on the phone, from the U.S. Geological Survey. Thank you so much for talking to us on this. We have seen some extraordinary pictures and, of course, dealing with an 8.8 magnitude quake there in Japan, tell us what you know. Maybe the information we want to know first off is about this tsunami because we were pretty much watching that unfold on live TV.


CHURCH: You're -- you're on air now, so, if you could just speak to -- to that situation, the tsunami.

CHEN: Ok. Ok. The tsunami warning is actually -- the message is from Tsunami Warning Center. We at U.S. Geological Survey, looking at earthquake itself, so this earthquake magnitude 8.8, as you know has create -- created lots of energy at that shallow. So, of course, that caused tsunami, it's very naturally understandable. So, this tsunami has really covered quite a large (inaudible), a long distance from the Japanese earthquake epicenter. Example, like here from Japanese area through Taiwan, Philippines, Marshall Islands, through Indonesia to Hawaii. Almost around the Pacific Ocean Rim. So, really it is a huge area covered by the Tsunami Warning Center, this warning message.

CHURCH: Yes. The warning is very widespread. We're looking at these pictures now of the actually tsunami hitting the coast of Japan there. Can you tell us or do you have very much information about how high that wave was, whether there is another wave coming, another tsunami. What information do you have specifically about what has happened already.

CHEN: Actually, about a tsunami warning, we have the same information as you had because tsunami warning message is entirely from a different agency, which is Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. We at U.S. Geological Survey looking at earthquake itself so we gather the tsunami warning message that is the same as you get from the Tsunami Warning Center.

CHURCH: Yes. I'm actually asking you to address the actual tsunami that has hit and we're looking at pictures there. We've got all the information here, indeed, on the actual watch and the warning throughout that whole region but I'm just wondering if you have any additional information on what has happened so far regarding this tsunami that we watched unfold on television.

CHEN: Actually, at the moment, we don't have much more details about that information. But, you can imagine this one is great earthquake, created a huge energy, almost 33 or 32 times greater than the previous one on Wednesday, 7.2. So, this -- from these figures you can see the tsunami could be very stronger than the first one.

CHURCH: Indeed. Alright, Shenza Chen from the U.S. Geological Survey joining us there on the line and, just before we go to our Ivan Cabrera, who is standing by, I just wanted to look at these aerial shots. Of course, we're seeing a lot of smoke, various pools of smoke. It's very difficult to sort of pin down -- we don't have a location necessarily exactly where this is but you can see and we've saw some very black pools of smoke before coming out from a particular building there but as Kyung Lah pointed out, it's very difficult to necessarily say it's linked to the earthquake.

We don't want to go down the path of speculation here at all. It's not useful to anyone at this point but we're looking at some aerial shots there and we saw those very dramatic shots, if we can retract those, very dramatic shots of that tsunami actually unfolding, just unbelievable. There it is, where you see, it's very near the coastline, you've already go the boats and the ships there in the water, but then you've got this whole trail of cars that have been washed into the water as that tsunami actually pushes its way through the city there and you see those power lines going down at the same time.

So, very very dramatic shots. I want to go back to our Ivan Cabrera, our meteorologist who is at the International Weather Center, who has been keeping a very close eye on this and, of course, the very important information that we brought to us with that depth and what that means to us, Ivan, and, of course, how widespread this is. This is not just Japan that is affected by this. This goes as far as the United States with the state of Hawaii and then, right across that region, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan -- I mean a lot of countries affected by this.

CABRERA: The Pacific Rim essentially under a tsunami watch right now as a result of this great earthquake, this 8.8. Let's see if we can -- at some point, guys back in the control room reestablished -- I know we've lost Kyung Lah but I'd be curious to see what she is seeing and experiencing right now because as we had been talking to her, Rosemary, as you know, she had been reporting to us the continuous aftershocks. In fact, we just got another one here, pretty significant aftershock, a 6.4, something you would expect from an 8.8 magnitude quake and that in itself, certainly, could cause additional problems here. The scenes we're watching there, again, reminiscent -- it's just heartbreaking stuff, from the Indonesia quake in 2004. What you're seeing there, I don't know what's floating on the water but that shouldn't be happening, obviously.

There, we have some kind of debris that is moving in and sometimes when you look at these live pictures, Rosemary, the -- the water doesn't seem like it's flowing fast but it is fast and furious here and the force can certainly lift you off your feet, it can easily lift cars as we have been seeing there along the coast and everything in its path.

Again, my concern here as we watch these pictures, we have the experience and we have the history that tells us that these tsunamis sometimes come in different waves so, the first wave has hit Japan. We could have additional waves that are certainly on the way so we have to watch for that.

And then the initial surge, that initial wave that was generated from the 8.8 150 kilometers east of Japan, that is on the way to other countries as well. If you're watching this from the Philippines, you're going to be involved as well. Take a look at that. I mean that is just an unbelievable scene. There are pictures and one vehicle there trying to get through there, everything washing up on shore and, Rosemary, taking power lines and everything with it there.

CHURCH: Indeed, and, of course, you know, Ivan, I think we need to point out to our audience, we keep making these comparisons with the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami back in 2004. That was a 9, magnitude 9 quake. This is very close to that but, of course, the big difference is Indonesia was the country most affected by that and it's not built to withstand this sort of impact. Japan is. So, talk us through that difference.

CABRERA: Well, I think Japan is certainly built and equipped and has the buildings to better withstand an earthquake but no one can build anything that's going to protect you from a tsunami. If a tsunami comes on shore, I don't care if it's in the United States or Europe or here in Asia, we are going to have significant damage because, how do you protect your shoreline from this massive wave and waves coming in and essentially hitting you with that force? You can't protect from that. Sure, there're ...

CHURCH: No, it isn't -- that's right, but, I guess the structures being so much better and so much more solid in Japan means that there would be less damage because it's -- of course, all the debris and all of the structures that hit people and slam into people when they're in those waters that cause all the damage and the fatalities, isn't it? So, I mean that's -- that's one thing that, in this situation with Japan built so sturdy that, presumably and, of course, we don't know at this point, what sort of damage and what sort of casualties are being involved. But it is -- it's the tsunami more than the earthquake that causes all of the deaths and the problems.

CABRERA: Absolutely, and I think it's going to be a time before we know exactly the scope of what is happening here in Japan. We'll certainly have plenty of time to look at that but my concern, again, and I keep repeating this, is because we have an ongoing threat here. It's kind of one of those things where you have a tornado that hits an area. It's not done, it's continuing to move. The damage has been done in one area but it continues to head off and that is what -- I mean, right now, there is a tsunami in the Pacific that is continuing to move closer and closer and closer to other shorelines in other countries where tsunami warnings have been issued and tsunami watches as well which include, again, as a I mentioned, the state, the U.S. state of Hawaii there as we are continuing to monitor things very closely.

As Rosemary mentioned here, we can't speak for what you're seeing on screen there. Certainly, plausible that that could be earthquake related. When you talk about an 8.8 magnitude quake happening 150 miles or 130 miles just to the east of a city center here, even it it's underwater, is going to cause some significant damage along the coast there as a result of earthquake damage and then, again, you get hit with the tsunami, which is an ongoing threat there in Japan as well.

CHURCH: And Ivan, as you mentioned, that tsunami -- this is still ongoing as we cover this breaking news. It is exactly that, this is not over by any means and, of course, you talk about the track of that tsunami, how do you track that, where it's hit, where it is in that particular part of the world?

CABRERA: That is actually the easiest part to do. It's just a simple math here. We know that it travels at 800 kilometers per hour. You determine the epicenter time, when it occurred, and then you just take over from there. When I was here in the earthquake that we had across Chile here that generated a Pacific warning, we were here 24 hours later and there were still countries under a tsunami watch. So, it's going to take some time. That threat is just going to continue to expand.

Obviously, the closer you are the worse it's going to be. My rule is the 100 kilometer rule. If you are within the epicenter, within 100 kilometers of the epicenter of a great earthquake like this, you're not going to have any time. That is the area that is going to be hit, that is going to be hit without warning and that is going to receive the worst kind of damage here because of the proximity to the earthquake.

Japan was included in there pretty much within that 100 kilometer range. There was just very little time. In fact, we were able to get on and show you the pictures that you are seeing there as we watched here live a tsunami hitting the coast of Japan.

CHURCH: Indeed. Ivan, I'm going to let you get some more information and track that tsunami in the Pacific and when we come back to you we can talk some more about that but, in the meantime, for our global audience and, of course, the audience who joined us a short time ago across the United States, I want to go over what we know at this point. And, this is a major earthquake in Japan. It's classified as a great earthquake, in fact, and the 8.8 magnitude quake struck off the coast just over an hour ago and Japan's Kyodo News Agency reports that there are numerous injuries.

Now, it was centered 150 kilometers off the main island and a tsunami washed ashore shortly after the quake hit, washing away cars and boats and, in fact, we had those live pictures of that tsunami unfolding, if we can get that re-racked and on the air for you again for those viewers who, perhaps, have just joined us because they were extraordinary shots and, before that, even before we actually got that, we saw all of those cars bobbing around in the water.

So, it's not just Japan that's under a tsunami warning. Watches and warnings have been issued for the entire region. Now, that includes Russia, Guam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea just among a number of them but, of course, we're talking about more than a dozen or so. Back on land, the quake rattled Tokyo residents who are used to these kinds of events but they know when this is an unusual earthquake, when this is far greater than they experience on a fairly regular basis.

Smoke -- we saw that rising from a port building there and people pulled out onto the streets from the office buildings. There has been at least one major aftershock since the original 8.8 quake strike.

Okay, just getting word in my ear now from the control room, that earthquake has now been upgraded to an 8.9 quake. So, I mean -- this often happens. Initially, we were reporting it was a 7.9, then an 8.8, now the word is the initial quake was an 8.9. There has been an aftershock in the area of 6.4 magnitude. There have been a number of them in actuality. We had Kyung Lah on the line when she told us exactly what had happened to her. Let's just have a listen to what she had to say just a short time ago when I spoke with her.

LAH: I'm actually in a subway and just a few minutes ago we experienced, you know, the -- somewhere -- the epicenter, clearly, was offshore. This is not a direct hit on the island of Honshu, which is the island that Tokyo is on but we felt a very significant earthquake. Everything was shaking. The signs were moving. People became very alarmed and there was a similar earthquake but not quite as strong as this just a couple of days ago. So, what we see now is that the warning alerts are on, many of the lights are off, trains have been stopped and people are just basically waiting here, waiting to see what's going to happen next.

CHURCH: Yes, and because we're getting word it was a 7.9 quake, that's a big quake that hit and, as you mentioned, I mean, you and I were talking a couple of days ago when that other one hit and one remark you made, which was very important I thought, I took note of that, was that you said the quake lasted or it felt like it lasted for about three minutes.

LAH: Similar. Similar today is that we -- we're feeling it. I would actually say...

CHURCH: Alright, I was talking -- that was Kyung Lau, I was talking to her a short time ago. Of course, since that discussion, that earthquake has now been upgraded to an 8.9. Now, I want you to look at these pictures. Unbelievable. Look at that debris, the mud. This is a tsunami in the -- we are watching it unfold before our very eyes, a tsunami of mud and debris and water rushing across the land there in Tokyo, just extraordinary, these live pictures as we bring them to you. And, of course, I wonder if our Ivan Cabrera is there standing by. He's back? Yes, Ivan, can you see these pictures? Unbelievable. This is -- this is mud and debris, we can see cars in there, we see buildings -- incredible.

CABRERA: That is incredible and that is what you would expect with an 8.9 here. These waves can travel for several kilometers well inland. The topography there and the shoreline also very important when we talk about tsunamis here, the shallower we're talking the worse it's going to be, the higher the wave heights are going to be. We are now upgraded to an 8.9. That is a great earthquake here.

Again, this is on par with the 2004 of Banda Aceh that generated that major tsunami. Here's what I want to do if you'll allow me. The tsunami warning is still in effect for Japan, Russia, Northern Marianas, Guam has now been added as well and Taiwan. Those are now in tsunami warning mode. Taiwan was upgraded as well. We have wave heights reported at 3-1/2 feet. That's a meter. Again, that's just offshore here. So, what happens, as that wave continues to build, you run out of ground here and because of the bathymetry of the shore there, very shallow there, what we're seeing, you continue to get that wave height becoming higher and higher.

Rosemary, a 6.8 in just the last few minutes has hit offshore of Honshu. That in itself would be a major earthquake here. That in itself could actually generate another tsunami here so we'll have to watch things closely. Again, threat for Japan is not over as we know. The initial tsunami wave is not the only one that hits. Sometimes the secondary or even the third one that comes in is actually higher and is worse here so the threat is going to be ongoing here across Japan. And then we have the watches, of course, for the Philippines, Marshall Islands. We have watches for Johnston Island, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, and Hawaii as well. Let me know what you guys want to do but what I eventually want to do, if you will allow me, is actually get into the arrival times because we're not just telling a story that happened ago, right, this is ...

CHURCH: Yes. Do.

CABRERA: Let's do it because, I mean, this is ...

CHURCH: Go with that because there's people watching right across the globe who will want to know all of that.

CABRERA: This is what people want to know and I tell you -- I'm going to do it in GMT time because that is what I have here. I'm not going to be able to convert that on the fly for you if you are local but if you're watching us from Taiwan the tsunami arrives at 9:30 GMT, that is not much time for folks to get offshore here and get into higher ground.

Philippines, tsunami arrives at 9:55 GMT. Marshall Islands, tsunami arrives at 10:13 GMT. Indonesia, tsunami arrives at 10:49 GMT. Papua New Guinea at 11:24 GMT. And, when we talk about Kiribati, it arrives at 12:28 GMT.