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Third Explosion at Nuclear Plant; Survivors Share Heartbreak
Aired March 15, 2011 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: All morning, the death toll from the earthquake and tsunami has been climbing. The latest figure from the government is nearly 3,400 bodies have now been recovered, thousands more maybe still buried.
And we want to show these new images from Japans northeast coast. The tsunami virtually leveled this fishing town and left it largely isolated.
CNN's Brian Todd was able to reach it because he's shadowing the government agency U.S. Aid on a humanitarian mission.
We just don't know how radioactive material may have been released earlier today on that explosion at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant. But I spoke a short time ago with CNN contributor Jim Walsh about the last line of defense against radiation leaking outside the reactor. That is the condition of the containment vessel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM WALSH, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The government has said that is possible. And they've never said that before. We do not know for a fact that it is true. There is some circumstantial evidence that may suggest it's true but we can't confirm that. So I think we should be cautious on this one because this is a critical detail. If that containment vessel is breached, then that is the last line of defense that would be holding the reactor rods and the radiation inside that vessel.
You know, three mile island when it had its problem, the containment vessel held, and while there was some radiation out there, it did not - the core did not leak out into the environment. So that's the difference here. You know, we're sort of hoping for three mile island as ironic as that is. We're hoping that the containment vessel works and keeps most of that radiation inside the reactor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: We just don't know right now. Jim goes on to call the workers who are staying at the plant protectors of their country who may pay the ultimate price as others are evacuated.
There's so much radiation being released into the air in northeast Japan, wind direction has become critical. Meteorologist Jacqui Jeras is tracking those winds for any potential shift. So where are they coming from now, Jacqui? JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, right now we're looking at an east-northeasterly wind. So unfortunately at this time with that wind direction, what it would be doing is it would be blowing anything from that plant that could potentially be released on to the shore. So that's the bad news. We don't want this kind of thing to happen. We want it to be moving in this direction so it blows over the ocean and doesn't impact anybody.
Well, the good news that we have is that conditions are going to be changing. We've got this area of low pressure that is in the area right now that's going to be pulling out probably within the next 12 hours. And our next system pulls in, bringing in winds to the north- northwest. And so that's that offshore wind that we're going to be looking for. And it's going to be rather gusty. So it would blow anything pretty rapidly out to sea. So that's a little bit of the good news.
Now some of the other weather conditions that we're dealing with that low is that it has been bringing in rain. It's very cold, very damp rain, very raw conditions in Sendai right now. But rainfall totals would stay well under an inch. There could be a little bit of that mixing of snow very early on Wednesday morning, but that moisture's going to start to cut off and then we'll be looking at some drier conditions for the next couple of days. But those temperatures and that rain and snow, Carol, certainly very critical for any victims and people that still, we hope, can still be rescued.
COSTELLO: Well, a lot of people don't have electricity, there's no heat. It's just awful.
JERAS: Very uncomfortable.
COSTELLO: Thank you, Jacqui.
Japan's nuclear crisis going from bad to worse after a third explosion at that damaged nuclear plant. The threat of radiation exposure on the rise. Japan's government now warning people within a 19-mile radius to stay inside.
CNN's Jason Carroll is live in New York. And Jason, when you see nuclear crisis, you think Chernobyl, you think Three Mile Island, so how does Fukushima compare?
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's what scientists are going over right now. We have to remember that the crisis that we're seeing in Japan is still on-going. You know, reactor operators thought they were gaining the upper hand, but late last night the battle was on again to control the damaged nuclear plant. Japanese power officials say the amount of radiation around the plant rose to six times higher than permissible levels. The crisis again still underway, already comparisons being drawn to previous nuclear accidents.
CARROLL (voice-over): Last night, another explosion, and more problems for operators fighting to stabilize the Fukushima Daiishi nuclear facility.
NAOTA KAN, JAPAN'S PRIME MINISTER: Radiation has spread from these reactors and the reading of the level seems very high. And there is still a very high risk of further radioactive material from coming out.
CARROLL: Japanese power officials cannot rule out the possibility of a partial meltdown has already occurred. Observers questioning if the problems in Japan will end up like with two other crises in nuclear history. April 1986, an explosion at the Ukrainian nuclear power plant Chernobyl causes the worst nuclear disaster in history. 30 are killed, a United Nations report documents more than 6,000 cases of cancer from people exposed to the affected area.
March 1979, a partial reactor meltdown at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island nuclear facility releases radioactive material. No one is killed. The cleanup takes years making it the worst nuclear accident in U.S. history. Ron Karzmar helped develop the control panel and nuclear sensors at the Fukushima facility 40 years ago.
RON KARZMAR, PHYSICIST & ENGINEER: I'm concerned. I'm very concerned.
CARROLL: William Tucker authored a book on nuclear power.
WILLIAM TUCKER, AUTHOR "TERRESTRIAL ENERGY": This is not a never could or would be a Chernobyl. That's out of the question.
CARROLL (on camera): Why is that?
TUCKER: Well, very simply, the Saudis didn't have a containment structure on top of their reactor.
CARROLL (voice-over): Fukushima does have a containment chamber, a giant building of concrete and steel, and its reactors protectively shut down after the earthquake, then an emergency system pumped in water to cool the facility's fuel rods, but the cooling system failed so did the backup system when the tsunami hit. Now operators are using sea water to try to cool the fuel rods and prevent a meltdown.
KENNETH BERGERON, NUCLEAR PHYSICIST: It's a very frightening situation. We can only hope for the best, hope these containments survive, hope that a meltdown doesn't occur.
CARROLL: Well, some scientists say the best-case scenario at this point is that the situation in Japan ends up like Three Mile Island, a partial meltdown occurred and radiation was released at Three Mile after a faulty valve caused its reactor to overheat. But after a period of time, the EPA found no contamination in the water or soil there at Three Mile Island.
But again, Carol, the situation in Japan still ongoing. So at this point, we still have to wait and what the result there will be. Carol. COSTELLO: It's kind of crazy to me that we're hoping the outcome is like Three Mile Island. It's just so sad and scary. Jason Carroll.
CARROLL: Absolutely, Carol. But you know, Carol, when you speak to scientists one other point, they say that at least at this point if you're able to get the water in there and you're able to cool things down, time, hopefully, will be on the side of those Japanese operators.
COSTELLO: It's amazing to me they're pumping water out of the ocean and apparently they're using fire trucks to do it. And you've got to think, you know, the huge amount of water it would take to cool that stuff down.
CARROLL: Absolutely. But you've got to get the water in there.
COSTELLO: Thank you. Jason Carroll live in New York.
The United states has responded to the crisis in a variety of ways. Military help for humanitarian reasons, money for immediate needs, and manpower to search for victims. Today, secretary of state Hillary Clinton met with Japan's foreign minister at the G-8 summit. She sent condolences from the American people and she vowed continued solidarity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Japan is always a very generous donor to any disaster anywhere in the world. And today the world comes together to support Japan in its hour of need.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARROLL: Japan's nuclear crisis is also sure to echo on Capitol Hill. This is a meeting of the Senate energy committee, which helps set the national policy on nuclear power with so many alarming developments now unfolding at Japan's damaged nuclear plant, the topic is almost certain to prompt discussion here. We'll keep our ears open for you.
The disaster in Japan has also thundered around the world and rattled investors. Overnight, Japan's Nikkei index plunged more than 10 percent. Other markets are seeing big sell-offs, too. Alison Kosik is at the New York Stock Exchange, watching the world's market. What's happening now?
ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Carol, we're about 40 minutes into the trading day, already the Dow industrials down 254 points. Pretty much we've wiped out most of the gains for the Dow this year. If you talk to traders, they say you're seeing some of degree of panic selling here. You're seeing the markets react to yet another nuclear reactor exploding in Japan. This is the third one and, of course, the repercussions, you know, they are being felt around the world and in the world markets. You know, Japan's prime minister is warning that the risk of a radioactive leak is also very high. Investors are, you know, grabbing on to this, they are worried that this could become a global issue and not just an issue to Japan. So sure, this is rippling throughout the Asian, European, and U.S. stock markets. Carol.
COSTELLO: Alison Kosik live at the New York Stock Exchange.
The scope of the devastation in Japan is just mind boggling, and so is the human tragedy. Survivors are sharing their stories all the more poignant because there are so few.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOSHIFUMI SATO, HOSPITAL STAFF (through translator): We could help less than half, maybe 1/3 of our patients. There was no time to save the rest. And we don't know where they are.
SUEKO GOTO, SURVIVOR (through translator): Before anyone can do anything, the huge wave came gushing in and then another swirling wave. Everyone was being carried away right in front of me. And then they were gone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I'm worried about how long the evacuation will last.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (through translator): I want to see my family. I can't find anyone from my workplace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: But there's some uplifting news, as well. The family of Paul Fales, an American teaching in Japan had not heard from him since the earthquake and tsunami hit. CNN helped locate their son who was alive and safe but understandably shaken from the disaster.
Soledad O'Brien is in Akita, Japan and she has the story. Hello, Soledad.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS CORRESPONDENT: You know, it was very interesting when you saw the amount of damage that took place where this young man's apartment was. You could see how his parents would be absolutely panicked. Because in truth, many people lost their lives and many of the homes were devastated. Not just by the earthquake, but even more so by the tsunami that rolled in. So the parents have been very, very worried about their son, Paul, 25 years old, working as an assistant teacher on an island not very far from where his apartment was.
So imagine our surprise and his parents' surprise when we realize that the young man we were talking to in our interviews was the same young man that they were searching for, as well. Here's how it kind of played out on "Anderson Cooper 360" last night.
O'BRIEN: Peter, if you can hear me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
O'BRIEN: We got your son here. Anything you want to tell him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I do.
O'BRIEN: Take a look in the camera. Can you hear him?
PAUL FALES, AMERICAN LOCATED IN JAPAN: Yes, I can hear you, dad, hi.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you? We really miss you.
FALES: I'm fine, dad, I just - yes. I'm alive and everything, so it's just been crazy as far a as - I've been on the island since like Friday. So I just got back this morning. People have been very nice and very generous, I'm trying to make sure everyone's alive. I've been helping to get water. (INAUDIBLE) And I just have been like helping with whatever I can. But everybody's lost their homes and everything. And it's really bad. I've been at the gyms at the schools and they're just crowded because all the students are there, their parents, and there's so much damage. The inside is fine, a lot of the inside part of Japan, but the coastline and everything, it's a mess, it's damaged. It's crazy but I'm trying to get through one day at a time.
O'BRIEN: We had our chance to go back with Paul to his apartment. Everything on the first floor are a complete loss, in the second floor he's lucky because he has two floors, he's been able to salvage something. So he told me his intention is to stay and keep teaching because he loves it. Carol.
COSTELLO: Unbelievable, Soledad. So did Paul know beforehand that he's going to be able to talk to his family?
O'BRIEN: He did not. You know, it's funny, one thing we asked when we met him on this ferry was, you know, "Can I use your phone to call my family, I haven't talked to my family since the earthquake, I'm sure they're worried about me. And we said absolutely. But when he called, he got voice mail. And he kept saying I can't imagine where they could be. Well, I can tell you where they could be. They were getting ready to do "AC 360," so he couldn't reach them on their phone, so for the first time he really got to hear his dad's voice was when he popped up in the interview. It was a complete surprise to him and it was really nice to see his surprise and his parents also, just really, thrilled, frankly to see that their son was OK and looked good and looked healthy and he was safe.
COSTELLO: And so generous because he's continuing to help out in Japan. It's just an amazing story. Thank you so much, Soledad O'Brien reporting live from Akita, Japan.
If you would like to help the relief effort, visit our impact your world page at cnn.com/impact.
Bahrain's king imposes a state of emergency. The move follows weeks of protests in the streets. And the government also takes an extra step of inviting foreign troops into the kingdom. We're updating unrest in the Middle East next.
COSTELLO: Lawmakers of the house are expected to vote on a temporary spending plan today. Republicans want another $6 billion in cuts if passed it keeps the government operating past Friday and gives congress another three weeks to pass a final, final, final budget for the rest of the fiscal year.
Checking now on some stories from our affiliates that are making news cross country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: First up, Boise, Idaho, where a military family is back together again after dad spent a year in Afghanistan, Tyler Stansell couldn't wait to surprise his nine-year-old stepdaughter.
TYLER STANSELL, U.S. NAVY (ON THE PHONE): Very excited, and almost like it's a dream.
CHRISTY STANSELL, TYLER'S WIFE: Nothing makes me happier than to have the whole family together again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: In Virginia, today we say good-bye to our last (INAUDIBLE), Frank Buckles, the last American World War I veteran will be laid to rest this afternoon at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. Buckles was the last of his generation, he died March 6th at the age of 110.
In Michigan, it was a cheerful season ender for the Fennville Blackhawks. Just over a week ago, their star player died suddenly when he scored a game-winning shot. Fans of the team got a wild applause in the final seconds of the game.
The men's college basketball tournament begins tonight, like no one knew that. Jeff Fischel is here with (INAUDIBLE).
JEFF FISCHEL, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: News flash, right? Yes, 68 teams this year. That's bigger than last year, biggest ever. Two games tonight, UNC Asheville versus Arkansas-Little Rock. Clemson versus Alabama Birmingham. But not everyone is keeping score by looking at the scoreboard.
Payscale.com has the salary final four, which schools have graduates making the most money. Princeton is your champ, of course, the Ivy League school, right? Duke, Georgetown, and UCLA also made the final four. UCLA. I'm a UCLA grad, I'm bringing down that average. By the way, the two games tonight are on our sister station, TruTV.
OK. We can only hope this tournament brings one of those unforgettable moments because maybe we get to watch them in Legos. The best NCAA tournament in the past 20 years have been recreated using Legos, 1992, check out Christian Latener sinking the buzzer beater, Paducah against Kentucky. There it is!
COSTELLO: I didn't know you could animate Lego, but apparently you can.
FISCHEL: Imagine the hard work this was. There's Chris Weber, remember 1993, first he traveled, no one called it, then he calls a timeout when he didn't have one. Memorable moment, the final seconds of the '93 title game and of course, as a UCLA grad, I love this. (INAUDIBLE) coast to coast helping set up UCLA's title run. Oh, the crowd goes nuts.
COSTELLO: And how can a Lego ball bounce, I'm wondering.
FISCHEL: Someone spent a lot of time on this. We found it on (INAUDIBLE) .com, by the way, this - the NCAA tournament we're following it all on cnn.com.
COSTELLO: Oh, yes that.
FISCHEL: (INAUDIBLE) Yes, you can check it out there. There you go. Fill out your own and check out how you do against some of the news anchors here at CNN. That's cnn.com/brackets.
COSTELLO: That was fun. We needed a little bit of brightness and you brought it to us. And we appreciate it.
FISCHEL: I know. It's been a rough time. And hopefully people do have fun watching the NCAA tournament starting tonight.
COSTELLO: They will. Thank you, Jeff.
FISCHEL: OK. Just ahead, we'll have to go back to the nuclear crisis in Japan. Fires and explosion, there are growing fear that things will get even worse.
COSTELLO: We're continuing to follow the unrest in North America and the Middle East. The king of Bahrain today imposed a state of emergency to last for three months. There have been weeks of anti- government protests in Bahrain. Part of a wave of demonstrations that have swept through the Arab world. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have actually sent troops into Bahrain. The Bahrainian government says the troops are there to protect the safety of citizens.
And in Libya, forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi continues to advance against rebel fighters. The "Los Angeles Times" is reporting that the rebel-held seaside city of Misrata is under an air, road and naval blockade. And CNN is reporting that the town of Zawara is now under Gadhafi control. We're back in a minute.
COSTELLO: It's past half the hour now, time to bring you up to speed on the disaster in Japan. Concerns are rising over the crisis of the damaged nuclear plant. Earlier today, there was an explosion and a fire and a release of dangerously high radiation. The levels have since dropped, but it was very serious there for a time.
All morning, the death toll from the earthquake and tsunami has been climbing. The latest figure, nearly 3,400 and thousands more may still be buried under the rubble. Japan's economy is reeling. Overnight, Japan's stock market plunged. The Nikkei index has lost 10 percent of the value since this time yesterday.
Even nuclear experts say Japan's nuclear crisis is rapidly descending into unchartered territory. CNN's Stan Grant has been diligently following all the latest developments. So Stan, What is going on now? And what's the Japanese government saying?
STAN GRANT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So really there are a couple of issues here that we need to zero in on. One is what took place in reactor number two and reactor number four. Reactor number two today, there was an explosion. What is concerning about this explosion is that it could have damaged the containment vessel.
Now, that is actually considered the last line of defense in the event of a real full meltdown because it tracks within the nasty radioactive material that would otherwise seep into the atmosphere. Then we're talking about reactor number four. There was a fire today, that fire is still being investigated. But officials here are saying that could have been the cause because of hydrogen, explosion,
They're also concerned about a pool of spent fuel rods in there. Now, those fuel rods were sitting in water. That water had evaporated. They are concerned that the possibility of those spent fuel rods having caught fire. Now immediately after that, there was an alarming spike in the radiation levels within the plant.
So much so that the government he was warning would have posed a risk to human health. Now, there was a perimeter, of course, at 20 kilometers, 12 or 13 miles established around there, an exclusion zone and 200,000 people have been evacuated. That's also now been widened with a warning from the prime minister that people within a 30- kilometer radius also should stay inside their homes, close the door, pull down the window to avoid coming into contact with any hazardous material. Carol.
COSTELLO: So Stan, could that zone of exclusion be widened even more?
GRANT: There's always a possibility the it's been widened as each new crisis emerged. It initially started out about a mile or so, it was then pushed out to 12 miles. That's where it is right now officially. But of course, as the risk continues - as we continue to see things like explosions and fires, we here talk about meltdowns or partial meltdowns, about fuel rods being exposed. All of these are red-letter words. They are warnings and people become concerned and government must take every precaution and try to keep people away from that.
There's also questions about the information flow. What are people being told? What they have not been told? A lot of questions are being asked about that. So the government and the officials are grappling with so many different fronts. We are five days now from the earthquake, five days since that plant was stricken and knocked out of service. And they're still struggling to come to terms with it. Carol.
COSTELLO: Scary stuff. Stan Grant live in Tokyo. Thanks so much.
Here at home, there's a growing debate about the safety of nuclear plants in the United States. 20 percent of our electricity comes from nuclear power plants. So despite the debate, we're stuck with it for now. And that is not a good thing if you ask Patrick Doherty. He is the director of the Smart Strategy Initiative at the New America Foundation. Welcome, Patrick.
PATRICK DOHERTY, NEW AMERICAN FOUNDATION: Thank you, Carol. Thank you for having me on today.
COSTELLO: Thank you for being here. Patrick, even the president says nuclear energy is clean, it's safe, and it's a lot better than depending on foreign oil. So why do you think we need an alternative to nuclear energy?
DOHERTY: Well, I think what we're seeing is that it's actually not clean and not safe. I think your reporting just showed that we've evacuated 200,000 Japanese from the area surrounding it. There have already been releases of radioactive material. It's not clean, it's not safe. And as earlier reporting showed, it's also wreaking havoc on our financial markets --
COSTELLO: True. But Patrick, there are inherent risks in everything, right?
DOHERTY: You know, I think there are inherent risks in any human endeavor, I think that's right. But we need to avoid disaster-prone energy sources. We've had this nuclear disaster in Japan. Last year, we had the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. And we're currently undergoing a major global disaster in the form of climate change.
So, we need -- what I've been writing on CNN.com today on your Web site is that we need to a plan for disaster -free energy.
COSTELLO: OK, so what is that plan? And what alternative solutions do we have?
DOHERTY: We've known for quite some time that a more resilient form of energy that can power prosperity and security worldwide is in the form of distributed energy over a smart grid. The trick has been the economics and getting the economics right.
So, the work I've been doing at the New America Foundation has really been looking at that core economic question. And what we've been looking at are some fascinating demographic shifts in the United States. Baby boomers and their children, the millennial generation really want a new place to live. They want a new American dream.
And the opportunity here for 60 percent of the American population -- it's a massive pool of pent-up private demand. They're demanding new communities. And in the process of building those communities, we can put Americans back to work. We can also redesign our energy systems --
COSTELLO: Yes, but -- but what are you talking about exactly? Where is this utopia? What are you talking about?
DOHERTY: Right. Well, you know -- you may be in Atlanta or New York. The closer you live to public transit here in Washington, D.C., the more you're going to pay for -- more you're going to pay for a house. The further you are out in Atlanta -- it's classic exurbia (ph) out there. That's where the mortgage foreclosures are the worst.
What we're seeing is that baby boomers and millennials don't want to live in suburbia 1.0. They want modern urban villages. And in the process of building those new communities, we can rebuild a new energy system with distributed energy.
Hey, look, New York City has already taken this onboard. "The New York Times" building has combined heat and power plant powered by had been natural gas, much cleaner than coal or oil. And it's saving New York City from having to build the next power plant of New York City. And "The New York Times" is making $790,000.
COSTELLO: Right. I understand. And all of these things are very positive, but it's difficult to get people to change minds about energy. And it's also expensive. For example, if I wanted to put solar panels on my house, that would be really expensive. If I wanted to buy an electric car, that's $33,000 for the Chevy Volt. And there aren't that many being made, so there's already a waiting list.
So, all of these things are great in theory. But to actually make them work on a grand scale, that's really a challenge.
DOHERTY: It is a challenge. My wife and I can't afford solar panels for our roof, either, but we drive a Prius. It's a hybrid car. It's a transitional strategy, just like what "The New York Times" installed on its brand-new skyscraper in New York City. It's a transitional strategy.
What Washington needs to do is develop that long-term grand strategy for America that rebuilds our country and puts us in a much better position. Energy is a critical component to that, and I think we can do it.
COSTELLO: Well, I hope so. I know lawmakers can't even agree on a budget, but I am hopeful. Patrick, thank you very much. And we'll catch your article on CNN.com.
DOHERTY: Thank you, Carol. I really appreciate it. Thank you.
COSTELLO: As I said, you can read more about Patrick Doherty's article "Disaster-Free Energy," and it's on CNN.com.
With growing concerns of a nuclear threat in Japan, some may have forgotten about the road to recovery. CNN's Soledad O'Brien gives us a first-land look at the damage and everything the quake and tsunami left behind.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS CORRESPONDENT (on camera): You can see those overturned cars down there and just absolute debris. This is what it looks like when a tsunami slams into a much bigger city. The city has a population -- it's called Kesennuma and had a population of about 70,000 we're told. And so the damage, 90 percent tsunami and 10 percent earthquake damage.
So these buildings collapsed although some of them were able to hold up well. But look at this. This is the kind of really, almost equivalent to some of the stuff we saw in Haiti where just the structure just folds in on itself.
That's because the earthquake happened. And then residents here tell us about 15 minutes later from the water came a massive wave that just roared through this town that goes straight back up that way, collapsed everything here. And the force of the water, as you can see, powerful enough to bring this ship in on the sidewalk.
So when people are trying to figure out just how strong and how powerful a tsunami can be, this is a pretty good example of what the people here were dealing with. And there's no surprise that a number of people in this town lost their lives that the search and rescue are still looking for more people.
And, today, they are trying to figure out what to do next. Many people asked us, what do you know? What are you hearing? We're not getting any information.
Kesennuma about two hours north of Sendai, some of the people here saying they feel very cut off from understanding what the next step is going to be.
COSTELLO: It's hard not to be moved by images like those. So, charities are ramping up. Emergency donation drives. But the money is slow in pouring in. So, why aren't people donating?
COSTELLO: Americans see what's happening in Japan. And many have opened their hearts, but not necessarily their wallets. Take a look at this. $23 million has been donated to Japan relief so far. And it seems like a lot, right? But consider this: $150 million was raised in the first four days after the Haiti earthquake. And after Hurricane Katrina, $108 million was raised in that same amount of time.
Ken Berger joins us now. He's the president of Charity Navigator. And Ken, I guess my first question is, why have monetary donations been coming in so slowly?
KEN BERGER, PRESIDENT, CHARITY NAVIGATOR: Well, I think some people feel this is a very developed, affluent country and they may feel the need may not be quite as stark as it was in the case of Haiti, for example.
However, we would argue that especially in an emergency like this, there really is a desperate need. And even though the government may fill the gap in the longer term, nonprofits charities are in a unique position to fill the gaps and be creative and innovative and to get to places that government otherwise would not be able to get to as quickly.
COSTELLO: And I think, too, people are afraid to donate because sometimes you don't know where your money is going. So, you are here to help.
COSTELLO: Convince Americans that if they donate, their money is going to go to the right places. So, you've got five tips. Let's start with number one. Number one is, you say to avoid newly formed charities. Explain.
BERGER: Well, this is one of the ways that scammers that want to take your money and use it for the wrong purposes will go about trying to reach out to you. They'll create new organizations that sound good, but are, in fact, not really serving people.
In addition, there are some very well-intentioned people that will form that new organization but it has no track record, it no experience. And therefore your best bet, to be sure that your donation's going where you want it to, is an organization with a track record. A track record in Japan, in disaster relief that has shown over time that it knows what to do and it has the experience to really get in there and help quickly.
COSTELLO: Understand. Okay. Tip two, send supplies, not money. Why?
BERGER: Well, we saw this in Haiti. Some very well-intentioned people would send carts, crates of materials to Haiti, and it would then sit on the runway. And just never get distributed. Some of it would even get just thrown away.
It's really critical to know that cash is king in a disaster like this. And the nonprofits on the ground there need those kind of resources to be flexible to use the money where it's most needed. So, we caution people not to send supplies. If you have things in your attic and you were thinking about donating them, then have a garage sale. But translate it into cash because that's what's really needed
COSTELLO: I think I split (ph) that. So, send money, not supplies. Tip three --
COSTELLO: Indeed. Tip three, beware of solicitations. What do you mean by that?
BERGER: Well, when it comes to either phone, on the street, or even by e-mail, you really have to be careful. The classic case is some phone solicitors will claim they represent a charity when, in fact, they don't. Or even if they do, they may get as much as 95 cents on the dollar of that donation to a for-profit phone telemarketer. And in the case of the street -- we've seen cases even in Haiti where people claim to be representing a well-known charity and, in fact, they were just representing themselves.
And then when it comes to e-mails, the classic warnings about never opening an e-mail from an unknown source. That can be an abuse, as well. So, you really have to be careful. The safest ways to go are through known portals, whether through Charity Navigator or through the Web site of a known charity. Those are the safest ways to go.
COSTELLO: Gotcha. And number four is research your charity's Web site, which we got into. Tip five, keep tabs on your donations. How can you do that?
BERGER: I just want to say one thing on your tip four. There were 4,000 examples of bogus sites that the FBI identified during the Haiti crisis. So, it really is critical to know it's a verified Web site. Just because it has a Web site doesn't mean it's real. That's why you should use a portal that vets those charities.
I'm sorry, we were on to five. You were saying?
COSTELLO: We were on to five. How do you track your donation?
BERGER: We really think that it's important to realize that you'll see some of the charities that are involved there are actually in the assessment period right now. They're trying to determine exactly what the best way to go is.
So, it may not be an instantaneous turnaround. So just be patient. These really experienced charities are going to do some fantastic work. Give them some time, and I think you'll -- as long as you do a little research and use your head, you'll be able to see some fantastic results. These are some great organizations out there.
COSTELLO: They are. There are many great organizations. Ken Berger, thank you so much for joining us this morning.
BERGER: My pleasure.
COSTELLO: To find out how you can make that difference and help the relief efforts, visit our Web site, CNN.com/ImpactYourWorld. And there you'll find links to vetted organizations and charities that are really helping out in Japan.
Survivors arrive by the hundreds, and doctors and nurses working around the clock to try to save them. Coming up, we go inside the busiest hospital in the disaster zone.
COSTELLO: Wolf Blitzer is a traveling man. He's onboard a plane with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. They have just landed in Egypt.
So, Wolf, tell us what the secretary's looking to accomplish in Egypt.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM" (on the phone): Well, Carol, she wants to meet with the new Egyptian leadership, at least the temporary Egyptian leadership until there are elections, which are scheduled now for later in the year. She wants to make sure the process, you know, this democracy that the effort to lead with some sort of democracy in Egypt -- that it actually works.
There's been some questions about it the last few days. It's not going to be an easy road by any means, but she's here to meet with the leaders, including the defense minister, who is now the effectively -- at least the interim leader, the general. So she's got all these meetings with the foreign minister.
And she's also going to meet with some of those folks that we all saw in Tahrir Square who were demonstrating. Some of the young people, some of the social network activists who were so instrumental in removing President Mubarak from power.
So, she's got a full agenda here. And then later she'll head off tomorrow night to Tunisia, where this whole revolution three months ago started in North Africa in the Middle East. She's got a full agenda.
COSTELLO: Fascinating. I know she's also talking to other leaders about this idea of a no-fly zone over Libya. The Arab League says that it voted for a no-fly zone, but we're talking about it here in the United States. Can't seem to make a decision.
Things seem to be disintegrating in Libya as far as the opposition is concerned. Might a decision on a no-fly zone come too late?
BLITZER: Well, it looks like Gadhafi is really steamrolling across Libya and consolidating his power while the rest of the world sort of debates about what to do. I don't think there's any inclination - there's no stomach, no desire on the part of the Obama administration to go ahead with the no-fly zone.
The Arab League, as you know, over the weekend, authorized a no- fly zone. And a lot of U.S. officials have been making the point, you know what? If the Arab League wants to have a no-fly zone, let the Arab League impose a no-fly zone. There are air forces in various Arab League countries. They can do it if they really want to do it.
They passed a resolution calling for no-fly zone. But they said there could be no attacks, no air assaults. Well, the U.S. is certainly not going to do a no-fly zone unless it knocks out Libya's air defense systems, which are relatively robust. And so, there's a lot of confusion about what's going on right now. But my gut tells me that Secretary Gates, Secretary Clinton, and probably the president, they're really in no hurry to get that no-fly zone, although they see the clock ticking in Libya right now and Gadhafi just moving forward with this offensive, and it's very disconcerting to a lot of folks.
COSTELLO: And I assume, Wolf, you're going to be live at 5:00 p.m. Eastern for "THE SITUATION ROOM" from Cairo?
BLITZER: Correct. We'll be live from 5:00 to 7:00. And CNN International anchor Isha Sesay will be joining me. So, we'll have all the latest from Japan. We'll have all the latest from here. All the important news in the United States and around the world. That's what we do.
COSTELLO: All right, thank you, Wolf. We appreciate it.
Rescuers are working nonstop to find survivors in Japan. So, too, are those caring for them. Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is in Akita, Japan.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The images are tough to watch. But as I learned, the stories are even harder to hear. You see those cars being tossed around like toys? Well, this man, Hiaboshi was in one of them and lived to tell about it.
(on camera): So you were looking out your window and saw all the water coming?
He tried to escape, but it was too late.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Over and over I was hit, he said, and then his car flooded.
GUPTA (voice-over): He was slowly drowning, and so he tried to smash the window with his right hand. Finally, he got the car to open, but the water pinned the door back on his hips and his leg. Mr. Hiaboshi (ph) doesn't know how he was saved. The next thing he remembered was pulling up in the ambulance to Saka (ph) hospital.
(on camera): As you might imagine, triage is a big deal at a place like this. Here at Saka Hospital, they basically categorize patients into four categories immediately. Green if it was a relatively minor injury, yellow if it was more serious, red if it was very serious, and black if the patient had died. When Mr. Hiaboshi (ph) came in, he was considered a red. (voice-over): Critically injured, his life was now in the hands of Dr. Takanori Sasaki.
(on camera): It's important to point out that Dr. Sasaki, he's been here since Friday. He never left the hospital since the earthquake occurred and has been taking care of these patients, has headed the emergency room.
(voice-over): Day after day, Saka Hospital stayed open with the Dr. Sasaki in charge, taking care of hundreds of patients. In Japan, near drownings and cardiac arrest are the most common serious injuries seen, followed by head and crush injuries.
(on camera): Now, Dr. Sasaki has been here since Friday and I want to give you an idea of how busy the busiest hospital has been after the earthquake and the tsunami, 600 patients seen here over the last several days, 79 patients remain, 13 patients have died.
(voice-over): Watching Hiaboshi (ph) closely, it is clear he is haunted by what happened to him. The tsunami robbed him of just about everything. In fact, you're looking at all he has left. But then, a rare smile. And he tells me almost in disbelief, "I am still alive."
GUPTA: Mentally, emotionally, Carol, he's got a ways to recover. Physically, he's going to be fine. But you know, this is part of what's happening here. Along those coastal communities where the tsunami affected so many people, a lot of people use those as retirement areas. So, the demographics of who is affected here tended to skew toward the elderly. And where do they go now? After he gets out of the hospital, he doesn't have much in the way of resources. So, this whole issue of displacement and caring for them afterwards -- I mean, that's weeks, months, years of care down the road, Carol.
COSTELLO: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks so much. Reporting live from Akita, Japan.
The Aflac duck, well, he's no more. The comedian behind the voice of the familiar insurance mascot has been fired. The company says he was way out of line.
COSTELLO: It's hard to turn on the TV without seeing the Aflac duck.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GILBERT GOTTFRIED, ACTOR: Aflac!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Boy, I'm glad we have Alflac, huh?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: Not so much any more. That duck just lost his voice. Comedian Gilbert Gottfried was the voice behind the commercial - the commercial duck. He was actually fired because of some tweets about Japan.
"Showbiz Tonight" host A.J. Hammer joins me now. They western even funny.
A.J. HAMMER, "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT" CO-HOST: No. It was a pretty dumb move on Gottfried's part. He hit Twitter over the weekend, Carol, with a bunch of insensitive jokes no one thought were funny about earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Yes, it cost him his job.
Gottfried had the voice behind the Aflac Insurance Company's famous duck mascot since 2000. On Monday, the company announced that it was severing ties with him. Here's what they said. "We discovered the tweets probably around 2:45 this afternoon and within an hour, he was fired. " And in announcing Gottfried's dismissal, the company said in the press release, "Gilbert's recent comments about the crisis in Japan were lacking in humor and certainly do not represent the thoughts and feelings of anyone at Aflac."
So, Carol, Gottfried known for this type of humor. That didn't surprise me so much. But wow, what a dumb move on his had part. As I said, he's been doing that since 2000. That has to be the easiest gig on the planet right there.
COSTELLO: You got that right. I just can't imagine someone would joke about something like that so soon after a tragedy. That's just bizarre to me. A.J. Hammer --
HAMMER: We have some good news to talk about, though.
COSTELLO: We do? We do? Oh! You're going to talk about the twins with me, aren't you?
HAMMER: I would like to. I just got the picture emailed to me. I was just looking at this amazing shot. I can't believe -- good for Kyra, by the way, allowing a camera in there for something that will be seen worldwide.
COSTELLO: I know! Look! John looks so fresh and peppy, and Kyra kind of looks exhausted, as you might expect, because she had twins. Kellan and Sage are their names.
HAMMER: Yes. And they were just welcomed this morning, 12:03 a.m. and 12:05 a.m. Beautiful, beautiful little children. Look at that.
HAMMER: Five pound 15 ounce Sage Ann. And Kellan Clay at five pounds and 15 ounces also. Eighteen-and-a-half inches each. Wow!
COSTELLO: Thanks for sharing that good news, A.J.! We appreciate it.
We're coming up on the top of the hour. We'll bring you up to speed on developments in Japan as the country sees more aftershocks today . Suzanne Malveaux up next with more.