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Special Coverage: Quake Tsunami Disaster; Japan: The Day After; Scenes From the Quake in Moments After the Disaster; Relief Efforts Underway Across Japan; Japan's Nuclear Concerns Over Damaged Plant; Numerous Nations Pledging Quake Aid
Aired March 12, 2011 - 02:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers from the United States and around the world. I'm Natalie Allen at CNN Center.
ANJALI RAO, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: And I'm Anjali Rao in Hong Kong. You're watching WORLD REPORT on CNN.
New day in Japan with new scenes of the devastation caused by massive earthquake and huge tsunami. This is the scene in the town of Miyako.
Just have a look at those pictures there of extreme destruction following that tsunami that took place about 25 hours ago now, just water absolutely everywhere and all manner of debris floating on the top of it.
You can see cars, even small houses there it looks like just a complete and total mass off of the massive 8.9 earthquake and the ensuing tsunami.
ALLEN: We didn't have the pictures it would be hard to believe, Anjali, so much destruction. Japanese news agencies saying 433 people are confirmed dead and almost 800 others still missing and rescuers are, of course, searching for survivors.
RAO: We know the scores of buildings are collapses or damaged, at least 4 million homes around Tokyo are presently without power.
ALLEN: Of critical concerns are two of Japan's nuclear power plants. This is a story we are watching closely. Officials say cooling systems in some reactors have failed and some radiation has leaked. We'll have more on that angle to the story in just a few moments.
RAO: Now our correspondent Kyung Lah has spent hours trying to make her way to the northern quake zone. She joins us now from near Sendai, the city heavily damaged by the quake and tsunami. First off, describe the challenge of us of just trying to get to the disaster zone.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the roads are completely blocked so, Anjali, one of the things that we've been looking for are the stories along the way as we try to make it up to the area that is hardest hit, that area hit by the tsunami, and we found one.
This is a city called Sirakawa and in this city there is a neighborhood where you can see some of the houses, it really does look like a small little community. You can see the three houses right here. What you can't see behind the three houses are eight houses.
Those eight houses, more than 24 hours ago, 25 hours ago when that earthquake struck, were completely buried by heavy land. There was a huge landslide, according to the people who live here. Earth came sliding down and now 25 hours later take a look over my right shoulder as we zoom in on what you're looking right there, heavy machinery digging.
There are 13 people buried alive. There are children among the missing. The hope is from these rescuers is that they may be in their houses, maybe trapped in a void, but as you can see there, that mud and dirt is heavy. It is wet. This is a massive challenge, and 25 hours later, the people in this community say they haven't found a single person.
So this is a multi-layered disaster. This is not just a tsunami to the north of us. This is also an earthquake, an earthquake that depicts the devastated area from the earthquake. And take a look over this seeing some of the people who have been impacted by this and we'll swing around.
Forgive the movement of the cameras, but people, you're looking at over here, these are the family members. They have been waiting 25 hours standing and looking through binoculars hoping that they are going to find their family members. We spoke to a man. His niece is among the missing. She has not been found.
They are hoping but with every minute that passes that hope dims. So if you can, forgive me again as we swing back around and look back at the rescuers over here, what you can't quite see is that the rescuers are using shovels.
They are using their hands and trying to get to them as quickly as possible, but it is a tremendous task. There are dozens of crews back there, Anjali, trying to get to any of the victims if they are indeed alive.
Just one of the many stories all across this northern region, heavily impacted area not just by the tsunami, but also by the earthquake. Anjali --
RAO: Looking at the expressions on those poor people's faces, Kyung and, you know, as they try to wait for anything that might come in terms of information of people that they know and love. Just makes the stomach lurch thinking about what they are going through right now. Give us an idea of what you anticipate you will find when you finally do get to Sendai.
LAH: We're expecting to find many more of these stories, but on a larger scale. This is one snapshot. This is one neighborhood and you are talking eight houses and 13 lives. We are expecting this up north at a far greater magnitude with much more fury, much more force, and it was such a surprise. So as sad as this one story, is we're expecting this on a much larger scale as we travel up north.
RAO: We were talking to one of our I-Reporters by Skype in the last hour, and he held up an empty noodle cup, and he said this is what I last ate. It was 12 hours ago.
There's simply nothing there. There's no food, water, everything is in extremely short supply. What's the situation as far as getting supplies into the area and to those people?
LAH: Well, a lot of people are leaving the area, if they can. That's part of the reason why the roads are so jammed. There is a very small artery. Because the highways are shut down, there are only two-lane roads, and there's only one two-lane road, I can tell you. That is leading in and out of Sendai to the south where Tokyo is connected to Sendai and that road is completely jammed.
People are trying to get in and out supplies, either they are trying to leave or trying to get water, gasoline, kerosene, whatever they can and then bring it back to their families, if they decide to stay, or they are simply trying to evacuate out.
So we have a tremendous population movement on a very small artery so that's why we're seeing so much system paralysis and we saw it in Tokyo and seeing it up here repeated again. And that's why we're seeing rescuers. We're hearing poverty military choppers as it starts to get dark here.
We're still hearing the military choppers above us trying to get rescue crews in that area because choppers are really the way to go in this effort.
RAO: Kyung, I know we'll be checking in with you many, many more times and we wish you the best, and the team, of course, as you attempt to get to Sendai. Thanks very much. Kyung Lah there.
ALLEN: And another story that we continue to watch, the devastation going beyond the immediate destruction, caused by the earthquake that she pointed out.
A potential nuclear crisis looms. Japan has declared a state of emergency at two nuclear plants in Fukushima Prefecture about 260 kilometers north of Tokyo. Residents living within ten kilometers of the facilities about six miles have been told to evacuate.
A leak has already been detected at one of the plants. The earthquake damaged the plants' reactors, which are critical for keeping the radioactive material cool. The damage also means more than 1 million households don't have power.
So we'll continue to watch that story. Ivan Cabrera over at the International Weather Center has been watching this tsunami warning, but he has some updates on that. Ivan -- IVAN CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Almost 24 hours after we brought you the first warnings here on CNN, we can now finally say and I can tell you that the Pacific wide tsunami warnings have all been cancelled.
We had still seven countries, including Japan, under a tsunami warning. That threat has now passed. Now there could be additional earthquakes that are aftershocks offshore that would be significant enough to cause a tsunami. My goodness, let us hope that that does not happen, and I don't see anything in that kind of a magnitude here.
Now the aftershocks have been significant. We're up to 164, Natalie, and when we last spoke a few minutes ago, last half hour, we were at 160 and 155 before that, so we're averaging about four to five aftershocks in an hour, and those are moderate aftershocks.
We're not talking major earthquakes here between 7 and 7.9, but they're ranging anywhere from a 5 to a 5.9 and that concerns me because of the structures that have been compromised already and have been weakened significantly could fall if we get these additional aftershocks in the right place here.
And also my concern is for the rescue crews that are out there trying to save people with these additional aftershocks. We could have the structures certainly pose a significant threat to the rescue workers out there. This is what's been happening.
This is the map from NOAA here. There's the epicenter and there's the earthquake. Folks have been asking how come the wave heights weren't as significant in Hawaii or the U.S.? Well, this was the initial shock, and because of the orientation of where that rupture occurred, we had a push of water coming in essentially from southeast, and, of course, out towards Japan, and then all that water continued.
The wave continued to move off towards the southeast and travel the Pacific. As that happened, the amplitude of the waves continued to get smaller and smaller, and so they were not significant when they arrived on the shores of Hawaii. Of course, we had the fatality with the gentleman in California here, but at this point for the rest of the Pacific, that is the latest on the hour, that the warnings have indeed been cancelled.
When I see you in a few minutes, we're going to talk about the weather now that's going to be crucial in Japan. It was snowing yesterday. It is going to be mighty cold there. I'll have the forecast for new just a few minutes. Natalie --
ALLEN: Right, Kyung Lah looked pretty cold while she was doing that live report. Thanks so much. Now to you, Anjali.
RAO: Yes, from the debris, we have some images of some rescues in Japan and the race to find those trapped in the earthquake rubble. You're watching WORLD REPORT.
ALLEN: Countries around the globe are offering assistance and coming up, we will tell you how you can make a difference.
RAO: Deserted and destroyed, just look at these scenes from Miyagi Prefecture in northern Japan. That's close to the epicenter of Friday's earthquake.
In Sendai, cars and debris litter the street and no wonder that Kyung Lah just can't get to the area at the moment. Making her way through is so difficult with everything that is going on. Soldiers have been called in across the area to help evacuate residents whose homes and livelihoods have been just decimated.
Let's take a look at what's going on right now in Japan and what the next few hours may hold after scenes like this yesterday. It's no surprise that Japan's Kyoto news is reporting that at least 433 people are confirmed dead and a further 784 are missing.
But it is worth emphasizing that this is still an early estimate and the agency earlier said the death toll was likely to exceed 1,000. Electricity is likely to be in scarce supply across Japan, not just in quake hit areas.
Electricity provided Tetco warn to save supplies. It is considering of suspending power to areas on a turn by turn basis and as we mentioned earlier, all eyes are focused on this nuclear plant in Fukushima Prefecture where staff are struggling to cool the reactors.
ALLEN: Well, the search and rescue process is getting into full swing now with crews heading to Japan from around the world. Helicopters have been scouring the worst hit areas looking for survivors.
This person you see this toward the bottom of your screen was rescued from the roof of a building by a helicopter crew and now we have another survivor, which was winched from the rooftop of yet another building engulfed by water and sludge.
Japan still being rattled by aftershocks as Ivan told us a few moments ago more than 24 hours after the massive 8.9 magnitude quake struck just off the coast, and can you imagine there will be many more rescues throughout the day and few days hopefully as they continue to find people.
As we mentioned, nations around the world are already offering their assistance to Japan, be it in the form of money, rescue teams or simply condolences. Many are help to ease the burden on the Japanese government and the people and Brian Todd caught up with one such group in the U.S.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're here in Fairfax, Virginia, where the Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue Team is preparing to deploy to Japan. They've gotten the call to go. They're here preparing and they're unloading some communications equipment right there. Some other equipment has been prepared over here with their backpacks and other supplies. They are sending 72 people to Japan, six canines and 31 tons of equipment and supplies. They have done this before. They have been to Haiti and other places of devastation after earthquakes and other disasters like that.
They are going to bring jackhammers, cameras, and listening devices. They're getting all of that ready to go, and they have to be ready to go at a moment's notice. We're going to walk over here and talk to Lieutenant Rodney Vaughan.
He is with the Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue Team. He also has been on these missions before. Rodney, you've been to Haiti last year. How have they told you to prepare differently for this because there's a tsunami involved right now?
LT. RODNEY VAUGHAN, FAIRFAX COUNTY URBAN SEARCH AND RESCUE TEAM: Well, the biggest thing is obviously it's a huge water event, much like the tsunamis that occurred in Indonesia years ago. And what we're doing is we're compiling a swift water complement to go with our team such as the water equipment, boating, motors, personal devices that we're going to take with us that would help us in scenarios or situations with swift water.
TODD: That's your specialty, swift water rescue, I know. What are you preparing to do specifically on a given mission and just go up to buildings, houses, anything like that, go in and out of them if it's flooded?
VAUGHAN: Yes. Our biggest concern is the additional -- once we get there, it's additional tsunamis. There's been tremendous amount of aftershocks with this. If they generate another tsunami while we're searching in that area, we've got to have the equipment with us to be able to manage that and to be able to get ourselves out safely while we're trying to search those areas.
TODD: And if that happens how do you get out safely if another tsunami comes on you so quickly?
VAUGHAN: Well, we hopefully we won't be in those situations. We'll get some safety measures we'll put in place and like everybody there knows we'll run for the hills so to speak.
Yes, we're going to look for higher ground and so forth, but we're going to rely on our training and expertise. Most of the guys on the team are swift water trained, and they will be the ones in those situations if the need arises.
TODD: How long did they tell you to prepare to be there?
VAUGHAN: It's -- it's -- it could -- we could go up to two weeks. It could be longer. Haiti exceeded the two-week limit last year. It all depends. Roughly though, it will be two weeks. With the amount of devastation I would say it's probably likely we'll be there that amount of time.
TODD: Thanks very much. Best of luck, do some good and help the people over there.
VAUGHAN: OK, thank you very much.
TODD: All right, this team preparing to leave at any moment. This is all being coordinated by the State Department. They are getting ready to go and could literally get the call at any moment to hop a plane over to Japan. Brian Todd, CNN, Fairfax, Virginia.
RAO: Well, here is the latest on the two nuclear plants that are currently in trouble. A spokesman for Japan's nuclear and industrial agency who did not wish to be named has told CNN the small amount of active material have escaped into the air surrounded the Fukushima plant.
That there was a strong possibility that this was caused by the melting of a fuel rod. He said plant engineers were continuing to cool the fuel rods by pumping water around them. Of course, we are right on top of that aspect of this story. It could be an incredibly dangerous situation. Indeed, we'll keep you right abreast of any developments that come out of it.
Let's get back to the aid agencies at the moment, what they are doing and the challenges that they are facing as they try to get to those who desperately need their help.
Allen Clark is a senior fellow at the East-West Center and an expert on disaster relief in the region. He joins us via Skype from Hanoi in Vietnam.
Good to have you with us, Allen. So Japan is a wealthy country. How well do you expect them to do in so far as catering to the needs of the people?
ALLEN CLARK, SENIOR FELLOW, EAST-WEST CENTER: Well, I think that Japan certainly is a wealthy country and it has expanded an enormous amount of money on various parts of their disaster management system,
And I think probably the relatively low but unfortunate death toll and the level of impact is only a portion of what it could have been, had it not been for Japan being a wealthy country that has applied a lot of resources to disaster management.
RAO: Let's get straight on to the nuclear side of this story. Of course, it is of enormous concern right now. That can't be overstated. What does Japan have to do in order to secure these facilities?
CLARK: I'm sorry, I didn't hear.
RAO: I'm just wondering what Japan how has to do in order to make these nuclear facilities stable.
CLARK: Japan has to do a great number of things right now. First of all, they have to deal with the immediate situation at hand, but ultimately they will have to go back and do an assessment of what went right and what went wrong and make corrections to that. Similar to what they did with the Kobe earthquake in 1995, which led to a lot of the advances that we saw this time, but there were also lots of lessons that they are going to learn, and they are going to have to go back and -- and rethink how they do some of the things that they are looking at now.
One of the most important things is, I think, no one would have expected that the tsunami would have gone six to seven miles inland, which means that the shore line defenses were breached and the -- the actual tsunami ended up at areas that no one thought it was going to be, and that's one of the reasons why in those inland areas that the damage is so extensive.
RAO: I'm very glad we were able to get your contribution on that. Thank you very much. Allen Clark speaking to us from Hanoi via Skype.
Our coverage of this breaking situation out of Japan continuous in just a couple of minutes. You're watching WORLD REPORT on CNN.
ALLEN: And the pictures just keep coming, and now a reminder of a development that we had into CNN in the last few minutes regarding two damaged nuclear plants in northern Japan and here's the news.
A spokesman for Japan's nuclear and industrial agency tells CNN that a small amount of radioactive cesium has escaped into the air surrounding the Fukushima plant and that there was a strong possibility that this was caused by the melting of a fuel rod.
He said plant engineers were continuing to cool the fuel rods but pumping water around the rods. We will continue to try to stay on top of the situation. Again, people were evacuated some six miles from these plants. Now to Anjali.
RAO: Yes, Natalie, our Stan Grant is in Japan right now. He joins us from Tokyo and has more on exactly that point, the nuclear power plant situation. What else are you able to answer to this, Stan?
STAN GRANT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Yes, Anjali, what we're talking about here are two reactors at two power plants where they can no longer cool the radioactive substances there. They were affected by power cuts after the quake just yesterday.
Now the Tokyo Electric Power says that radioactive substances may, underline may, have seeped out from reactors at Fukushima. Fukushima is about 160 miles, about 250, 260 kilometers from Tokyo. Now, the coolant water had heated to about 100 degrees Celsius, as you just heard mention there.
Residents surrounding the area were evacuated. Initially it was about a three-kilometer safety zone, but now the prime minister has extended that to ten kilometers. Now the Nuclear Safety Agency says that the radiation did not pose immediate threats.
Supply, as I say, was shut down by these plants by the quake that's affected more than a million people being affected by power shortages as a result of that because nuclear power reactors supply about a third of the electricity for Japan.
So this is the situation at the moment in of course, they are working to try to be able to cool those reactors, and the problem is Fukushima, two reactors and radioactive substances may have seeped out, at this point not thought to pose a threat to people.
RAO: What are authorities advising residents to do right now?
GRANT: Well, basically they have moved people away from there. They have evacuated people from say a ten-kilometer radius. This, of course, is a highly sensitive situation. They are obviously very concerned about any impact of this. You may have heard cesium mentioned there.
Now that's a metallic chemical element, it's a soft silvery white that's considered to be highly active. There have been reports of that seeping out after a melting of reactor, that, again, very, very cautious about exactly what is involved here.
Now, used in many things and nuclear medicine for instance have used to help fight cancer. Now the isotopes can enter the environment and get into the water supply and so on and can cause health problems.
But at this stage all of this is very premature. They are expecting that there is a problem at the power plants and difficulty in cooling radioactive substances and a potential that radioactive substances may have seeped out as they released some of the steam, some of the pressure from those reactors, Anjali.
RAO: The U.S. is sending coolants to the area, I understand, Stan. Are authorities saying what happens if they can't cool the reactor down?
GRANT: Well, I think they are not going there at the moment. They are working -- they are very sophisticated here, as you know, and I mean, they rely on nuclear energy for a third of their electricity supply. They are very used to being able to use this. They have some of the best scientists and best safeguards in place to be able to use this.
This was an extraordinary quake the other day and cutting off the outside power supply has led to this problem in not being able to cool radioactive substances there. So at this stage they are dealing precisely with this situation without trying to get too far ahead of themselves obviously and get into the whole area of speculation.
They have taken precautions and moved people away from a ten- kilometer radius surrounding the area to make sure that they are working to be able to cool this. They've been in constant contact with the international atomic energy agency and of course, relying on their auspices as well to really have to drill down and try to deal with this situation.
I can also mention, too, Anjali that the prime minister has toured a lot of the quake zone today by helicopter and describing, of course, it as a place of enormous devastation. He said that today is a day to think about the people and how to rescue people. He said to his cabinet, again, a day of thinking about Japanese people and how they need to protect the people who have been affected by this quake, and obviously that also involves the people now surrounding these nuclear reactors.
RAO: Of course, you're absolutely right. We have to remember what the people there are going through right now some 25, 26 hours after that quake and tsunami. Stan Grant there on the phone from Tokyo.
ALLEN: And let's get more from one of the worst hit areas right now. Our correspondent Paula Hancocks joins us now from Sendai.
Paula, what are you seeing there?
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, Natalie, we just got through the port area itself and it's pretty widespread damage and devastation. There are cars smashed up pretty much everywhere you look. There a number of trucks as well that have been smashed against buildings.
The buildings themselves still seem to be standing, but cars have just been mangled into a twisted mess in the middle of the road. Just about 10 minutes ago or about 15 minutes ago, another tsunami warning in this particular area. The alerts rose so you can hear the helicopters overhead and the police told everybody to get out of the evacuation zone.
Now this is a zone very close to the coastal area, which has been hit pretty hard. Now we did drive down there just as the warning was taking place and you can see down there also the building for the most part were still standing, but the full-sizes cars and trucks had just been smashed against different buildings, and it's a very surreal feeling when you actually drive through the city itself.
This is just the port area. The city itself almost looks untouched obviously, it's a little higher than sea level, and you wouldn't think anything was wrong with the city until you turn a corner and you see 100 cars fueling for gas. There is a gas shortage here.
And then you turn another corner and you see a hundred people filling for the one drug store that's open in the whole of the city and the one grocery store that was open in the whole city. There was a hundred people queuing for that as well. There's no electricity or very little electricity in this city at this point.
I'm looking over to the port. We have to move away because of the tsunami warning, but there is a plume of very thick black smoke coming from that area. We haven't pinpointed what that is exactly yet as we have to move away. But certainly there will be an extensive cleanup in this area and it's not over yet. The warnings are still coming, and can you see the cars driving away. They are heeding these tsunami warnings now.
ALLEN: And I would imagine the people lining up to buy gasoline are waiting to get out of that area and getting to a place that's more livable. Is there any idea when supplies, food and water might reach this area from the government and others?
HANCOCKS: Well, certainly they have been bringing more gasoline in, for example. There's been for some people about an hour-long queue and once they get to the front of the queue, they are given just ten liters so there's rationing going on with the gasoline.
But they are making sure that they are trying to get extra supplies in. It was interesting as we drove into the city itself. There was a tremendously long queue of cars streaming out of the city, so an awful lot of people if they are in the evacuation zone, the affected zone.
And this is just the port area at this point, it could get worse, but it does appear that many people are just trying to get out of the city. As I say, it's a difficult place to live as well. There is no electricity at this point and the grocery stores and the drug stores are just inundated.
ALLEN: And you talked about, Paula that, you know, a scene of normalcy and then you turn a corner and you see all of these cars piled up.
I'm just curious as you made your way into Sendai, I know it was very hard because there's only one small road in there, what are the type things that you saw us a made your way into the city?
HANCOCKS: Well, we actually came from the west so we headed east into the city, and the journey in was very clear. It looked like there was absolutely nothing -- with the city itself. People were driving around normally, but then when you turn the corner you did see the long queue of people up along one drug store that didn't have electricity, but did have a couple of things left on the shelf.
Barely anything to sell, but down by the port area, which is where I am at the moment, what I'm looking at right now, there's a car, a Renault and another car, just crumpled on top of each other. And there's another one that just been slammed against an electricity pylon and a number of really large trucks, like serious trucks that have just slammed into buildings.
So the force of this water must have been tremendous, and you can see the damage. There's debris everywhere you look at the moment. The buildings are still standing, so that is one thing, but every single car has just been smashed.
ALLEN: And as you talked earlier we did hear helicopters overhead. How much presence can you tell is there to try and help these people? HANCOCKS: We're looking at right now I can see two different helicopters. It looks like one is a military helicopter and another one is smaller and that could very well be a search-and-rescue helicopter, and I think it might be.
The search-and-rescue operation obviously is still ongoing. We've heard from local media just a little earlier today that the search-and-rescue teams had identified 300 bodies on the beach of Sendai.
Now we haven't been able to independently confirm this because you can't get close enough at this point, but that's also what the search-and-rescue teams are saying. They can't retrieve these bodies according to local media because they can't access these areas.
The port itself is badly hit. We do understand from some of the locals we've been talking to that further north and even worse areas.
ALLEN: And all the while it's pretty cold where you are as well, right? It was snowing earlier?
HANCOCKS: It's certainly very cold here, yes. It's probably about 4, 5 degrees Celsius, and -- and so that's really not going to help people who have either lost homes or lost their cars or lost their ability to be able to leave the area quickly.
And, of course, without electricity, it makes the situation even more miserable for people. Now the search and rescue is obviously ongoing. I mean, the one interesting thing is I'm still seeing a tremendous plume of thick, black and white smoke rising into the blue sky.
It is just taking over the sky. As we drove over the city and drove for half an hour we were aware of the smoke and the tsunami warnings have gone maybe 20, 25 minutes ago so we may be able to head down to the port and see what that is. It does appear that something is burning offshore but we can't confirm at this point.
ALLEN: Paula Hancocks, we thank you for giving us a sense of what you're seeing and experiencing there in Sendai in Japan.
Now, over to Anjali.
RAO: Natalie, let me tell our viewers if you would like to help the victims of the Japan earthquake that you can find more information at cnn.com/impact.
Our teams are collecting links to organizations that are organizing relief efforts in Japan. On that page, you'll also find a link to Google's people find, the database. That aims to reunite those who were separated in the chaos, and as the earthquake response ramps up, we shall continue to add information to that page. It is cnn.com/impact.
ALLEN: And we'll continue to bring you any developments as we get them from Japan. That is WORLD REPORT for this hour. I'm Natalie Allen at CNN Center.
RAO: And I'm Anjali Rao in Hong Kong. We'll continue to keep you updated as Natalie says on the very latest from Japan.
Our viewers in the United States will now join Anderson Cooper in progress. For our international viewers, stay tuned for "OPEN COURT."
ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: The devastation in Japan is certain to take some of the world's attention off the civil war in Libya, but this program is committed to continue reporting on what's happening there.
Tonight, opposition fighters in Libya are retreating to the eastern part of the country that they still hold, and it appears that Colonel Moammar Gadhafi's well-armed forces are on the move after them.
Gadhafi's son, Saif vowed to crush the opposition and today Gadhafi's troops pounded the key oil port city of Ras Lanuf routing the opposition that controlled it.
CNN's Ben Wedeman reports that Gadhafi's forces bombarded the city and set part of an oil refinery on fire. Despite mounting international pressure against the regime, the Gadhafis are vowing to retake all territory held by the opposition.
Yesterday they launched a violent assault to oust opposition fighters from Zawiya. Today our Nic Robertson was there as Gadhafi supporters celebrated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is completely the reverse of what we saw here about two weeks ago. This square was full of government opposition. And now it's filled with gunfire, blaring horns and the government celebrating victory. More gunfire going off. Here's the truth and what happened here.
Look at the trees over here and look at the devastation. Look at the destruction here. This is what the government wants us to see, these people celebrating their victory here. This is the truth about what happened in Zawiya. Tank dragged through the park in the middle of the city.
This has been turned into an impromptu graveyard by the government opposition, and over here you can see the scale of the disruption, and can you see as well more green flag-waving supporters of Moammar Gadhafi being trucked in so they can show us they have got control.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Earlier tonight, Anderson spoke to Nic Robertson and our own Ben Wedeman.
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": Ben, what's the latest from Ras Lanuf?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What we've seen, Anderson, is that the opposition forces are really beginning to fall apart and fall away from Ras Lanuf. We were on the outskirts of the city because they no longer allowed the media inside the town, but we saw the town getting pummeled for hours by artillery, by what appeared to be mortar or rocket fire.
We saw airplanes were flying overhead, and one flew over the refinery and just minutes later, the refinery, there was a huge plume of black smoke coming out of it. You definitely get the sense that they are losing confidence in their ability to stand up against the forces of Moammar Gadhafi who obviously outgunned them by several factors.
They are moving further back towards the east, and there's a sense that there's a possibility that this offensive that's been begun by the forces of Tripoli could start moving steadily eastward in the direction of Benghazi.
COOPER: Nic, I understand you and your team got roughed up today by government thugs. What happened?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This was a pretty organized campaign by the government. As you know they don't let us go to some places even though we're here. There were no government officials who could go out with us when we went to Friday prayers today, which was a week ago today, when protesters were fired upon by the police with tear gas and bullets.
We wanted to go out there today. A lot of journalists headed east of the city and we got out there. We were barely on the street and talking to a couple of guys at the side of the road and the entrance to the building and two cars pulled up. A couple of guys got out with AK-47s and just motions us to get into the car.
Producer Tommy Evans was kicked as he was dragged out of a car on the other side of the road and another who was with me as well, same as me, just pushed into the car, our phones taken away from this, and this was so well planned and coordinated. They knew exactly who to call because they knew they were after journalists president wasn't random, didn't happen upon us, planning to get us off the streets.
And by the time we got back to the hotel, close to several dozen journalists had all been picked in the same area. This was the government stopping the protesters from getting out, but making a controlled assertive effort with government I guess security forces, plain clothes guys with AK-47s, making sure that we didn't get the story.
What they say is that if we're there people will protest. The protesters feel what we've talked to them that they feel safer when we're around there, Anderson.
COOPER: And even though journalists were there present last Friday after prayers and people did incredibly go back and protest, nonetheless government forces shot at them even though journalists were present.
The regime, Nic, also took you to Zawiya today, which is the city that is now fallen, and the last report from another journalist who is there that they were desperately trying to clean up the evidence of what other journalists had called a massacre. What did you see?
ROBERTSON: Well, Bill Neely from ITM who you talked to yesterday described it as a mix between a massive IRA bomb bell and tank battle and artillery barrage. He's analysis and description couldn't have been better. That's exactly what it looked like and the destruction was so bad there's no way the government could clear all this up.
They've managed to take away some of the destroyed vehicles. You know what they've to cover up this tank fire that had gone on blasting at rebels in the building. We know that happened because they told to a soldier and he told me that they used explosions to blast the buildings where the rebels were.
They hanged these big white and green drapes down the side of the buildings, seven stories of them anchored by rocks on the ground. The plan, sort of cover up the destruction, but of course, you can't cover up destruction like that.
But, you know, we found one very sign that protesters had out there on the square a couple of weeks before that said "we will overcome." They were wrong. They were overcome by the government forces.
The other thing we've heard from the government tonight, Anderson, is that they are going to take us, they say they now feel confident as the rebels lose confidence in the east as Ben is telling us here.
The government says it's going to take us to Ras Lanuf tomorrow. That's how confident they feel. Of course, if we do, we'll believe it when they see it, but this is how confident they are saying in the east.
COOPER: Ben, Saif Gadhafi told "Time" magazine and I quote, "the big war is over. That the main opposition has basically been broken." What's to stop them now, the government forces, from getting to Benghazi, which is the second largest city?
WEDEMAN: Anderson, they did suffer defeat in Ras Lanuf, but they haven't been defeated. A lot of the rebel forces have simply pulled back and they are being reinforced. So I think it's by no means over and certainly the hope is that they will be able to reinforce their defenses around the town of Borrego, which is about an hour's drive to the east of Ras Lanuf, and you need to keep in mind something.
This is not a situation where one side can basically lose and live. If -- if the Gadhafi forces come to eastern Libya, come to the city of Benghazi, which has been so openly in revolt against his rule, there will be a massacre. There will be another massacre. There will be a bloodbath.
And so I think even though the opposition forces may have overextended themselves in pushing toward Ras Lanuf, if they are pushed back further towards Benghazi, they will put up an even bigger fight. They have problems though.
They are clearly apparently running out of ammunition. A lot of it has been wasted firing in the air, but they don't have the sort of supplies that the arsenals, armaments that the government in Tripoli has so they have been pushed to the wall, but the closer they get pushed to that wall I suspect the harder they are going to fight. This fight is not over in so sense, Anderson.
COOPER: Do opposition leaders worry that the outside world may have given up on them and one of the first thoughts I had when I saw the tsunami hitting Japan and the earthquake there thinking this is the best thing that could have happened to Moammar Gadhafi if the world stops paying attention to what's going on in Libya.
WEDEMAN: There's a real different atmosphere at the front line whereas before until basically today, we were always welcomed by the fighters. They were happy to see us. They are - us toward the frontlines. Now they are very hesitant. They're even a bit suspicious and there's an element of resentment. They were hoping that there would be some sort of foreign support, no-fly zone.
Many of them are hesitant to the idea of foreign forces in Libya, but they feel like they have been let down. They fell like, you know, they revolted against Moammar Gadhafi, a dictator of 42 years. They talk about their desire for democracy, for freedom.
And they thought, they we were expecting and we've seen this from almost from the moment we entered Libya that the so-called free world would come to their defense and now they have gone as far as they can militarily, starting to be pushed back staying where is the world?
So there really is a change of atmosphere in here from this sort of buoyant optimistic enthusiastic sense to one that they may be facing what could be annihilation. Anderson.
COOPER: Ben Wedeman, stay safe and Nic Robertson as well. My best to your crew, Nic. Thanks.
SESAY: Up next, more of our coverage of the earthquake in Japan. The video tells the story of the sheer power and force of nature.
SESAY: New video just coming into us. We want to show you. These are images coming to us from an area 100 miles north of Sendai. Sendai, of course, is the city closest to the epicenter of this 8.9 quake that struck off the coast of Japan. Pictures that really bring home the scale of the devastation that has occurred. You see the cars tossed in amongst bits of wood. It looks like one big gigantic trash heap, but this is an area that's obviously been devastated by the force of nature.
Everything that stood in the path of the tsunami and result of the quake is essentially battered and left in pieces. You know, Japan is prone to earthquakes because of its unique geological position. It sits on top of three major tectonic plates.
Now one American scientist is warning that despite what happened, Japan is still at still at risk for another major quake and this morning's quake is the most powerful to ever strike Japan in recorder history.
Even to a country that as prepared as it can be, today proved once again that nature cannot be tamed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is still going. My God, the building is going to fall.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of a sudden, bam, it just hit, and could you tell this was different. The ground was rolling for an extended period of time. I wasn't exactly sure what to do or where to go. I had never been prepared for anything like this.
My wife and I stood outside and basically held on to the outside of our house. You couldn't even stand up. I mean, literally at the peak of these waves that were washing over the ground, you literally could not stay on your feet. You had to crouch down in a ball or put your back against something.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole ground was shaking so much. It was unreal. I can't describe it. It felt like someone was just pulling you back and forth, like side to side, as hard as they could.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An inferno, fire breaking out on an oil refinery in Chiba Prefecture north of Tokyo.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it looks -- and it looks like the tsunami has engulfed several cities in Miyagi Prefecture. Live footage of Miyagi as the tsunami has struck the area, obviously engulfing farms, homes, alongside the river.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It started off like so many other earthquakes where, you know, you get a little shaking and going on and you think, well, it's going to stop in a minute or so, but this did not stop. This just continued shaking and shaking, and then it started to get really violent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was beyond scary. This was the scariest thing I've ever experienced in my life. I'm still trembling.
(END VIDEOTAPE) SESAY: Incredible pictures there that really show the scale of the disaster. We'll be right back.