Return to Transcripts main page


Japan's Nuclear Crisis; Bahrain Clashes and Crackdown

Aired March 16, 2011 - 16:00:00   ET


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: The true scale of the damage at Japan's stricken nuclear plant, as a brave few battle to avert a catastrophe.

Worries over nuclear fallout are only part of the problem. Now snow is hampering desperate efforts to find survivors.

Also tonight, across the Arab world, an attempt to stifle uprisings on two fronts, as Bahrain's security forces attack protesters in the streets and in Libya, government fighters bombard rebels on the ground and from the sky.

These stories and more tonight as we connect the world.

Well, the crisis is getting worse at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi power plant, driving many people to flee from areas as far away as Tokyo. This video was taken earlier on Wednesday, when a pall of white smoke was seen hung over the site. Now, the IAEA says the cores of Reactors One, Two and Three have been damaged. We're going to have much more on that in a moment.

A new fire broke out at the plant early on Wednesday. You're looking now at Reactor Number Four.

A sign of just how grave the situation is came when the emperor, Akihito, appeared on Japanese TV. This is the first time he's addressed his country on television during a crisis.


EMPEROR AKIHITO, JAPAN (through translator): I am deeply concerned that the current nuclear plant situation is critical. I truly hope that with so many people working together to help, this situation will not worsen.


ANDERSON: Well, the Japanese emperor there.

Well, with the latest on the nuclear crisis and on radiation fears that are causing many to up and leave, here's Stan Grant.


STAN GRANT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What to believe -- that is the question on so many lips here. Some foreigners are actually deciding to head for the exits. They simply can't trust the information they're getting and they're deciding to flee the country. There are long lines at airports here in Tokyo.

As for local people, they're especially concerned about these radiation levels, what's in the radiation, what are the radioactive elements and how dangerous are they?

Radiation today caused, at one point, the skeleton crew at the plant to be evacuated. A plan to use helicopters to drop water on the stricken reactors was aborted because of radiation and radioactive elements also turned up in the drinking water in Fukushima.

Now, officials there did say that they were very, very low traces, not enough to cause any harm and, in fact, you could continue to drink the water.

But the big concern among people is who do they trust right now?

So much information coming from various agencies at various times, often confusing, sometimes even contradictory.

Now, the government has decided to bring that all together in a joint task force. It's headed by the prime minister, who will report directly to the prime minister, to try to streamline this process, try to calm those fears, the fears of people who are feeling the gaps of information with their concerns and they don't know right now who to trust.

Stan Grant, CNN, Tokyo.


ANDERSON: Well, Digital Globe has released a new satellite image of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear site. As things stood on Wednesday, for the first time, you can clearly see just how bad the damage is.

Take a look at this. This is Reactor One. And the badly damaged top is what I want you to take a look at the there.

On Saturday, an explosion caused by a hydrogen buildup blew the roof off the concrete building housing the plant's reactor.

Now, Reactor Three is the next point of interest. You can see steam venting here. And this is where the second explosion happened. And that was on Monday.

And then came the third explosion. That was this, Reactor Two. Take a look at that. You can see steam venting through that hole which is blown out on that panel just there.

The other problem on Tuesday was this, and this was Reactor Four. Now, a fire near this may have ignited fuel rods. And here the roof, as you can see, appears intact, but the side is badly damaged, as you can see.

Now, the IAEA confirmed today that the cores of Reactors One, Two and Three -- these three here -- have been damaged, but the reactor vessels are probably intact.

Now, working to stave off disaster at this plant is a group of workers who've become known as international heroes.

Anna Coren tells the story.


ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As smoke rises above the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, inside is a team of workers desperately trying to stop a potential nuclear disaster.

For days, they've been working tirelessly to prevent a meltdown. And in acting as the country's last defense, they're facing exposure to dangerously high levels of radiation.

ROBERT ALVAREZ, FORMER U.S. ENERGY DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, I think the workers at this site are involved in a heroic endeavor because there is at least fragmentary evidence that in some places on this site, there are life-threatening doses of radiation.

COREN: Initially, 50 workers stayed after more than 700 employees were evacuated, but the government says the team has now increased to 180.

The power company hasn't released any details on the workers, but the Japan newspaper reports a 59-year-old man is among them. He volunteered for the job. He was only six months away from retiring.

His wife telling him, "Please do your best to give relief to the people."

For the residents who have been evacuated from the immediate area or those who live hundreds of kilometers away, the workers' selfless actions have evoked a great sense of pride.

"I couldn't do it myself," explained Yueno Tatataka (ph). "I think it's a wonderful thing they're doing because they're saving lives."

"I believe in the power of the workers," said Mayomoto Mashahiku (ph). "I just hope they can do their work safely."

(on camera): People here in Tokyo and all across Japan know only too well the sacrifice these men are making. But as the world anxiously waits to see if this situation can be contained, many believe not enough is being done to assist these workers.

JAMES WALSH, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: People have to continue to try to be there, to manage this with the hope of -- of getting One, Two and Three to a point of stability. But they can't do it by themselves. That's why I was saying, the government has to step in. And IAEA, they're -- they're supposed to be protecting all of us here and they are nowhere to be seen.

COREN: The government says it's considering seeking help from the U.S. military. But in the meantime, it's up to the workers left inside this plant to save a nation from a catastrophe.

Anna Coren, CNN, Tokyo.


ANDERSON: With me here in the studio in London is my guest, John Ritch, an expert in all of this.

He's the director general at the World Nuclear Association, the former U.S. ambassador to UN organizations in Vienna, including the International Atomic Energy Agency.

John, we welcome you.

I'm going to come to you in a moment.

First, though, you heard there in Anna Coren's piece an analyst criticizing the IAEA, the UN's nuclear watchdog, that's come under fire for its handling of this crisis.

More on that from Matthew Chance in Moscow.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency says he will now travel to Japan to asses the situation with the country's damaged nuclear reactors. Yukio Amano, himself a Japanese national, is expected to leave Vienna for Japan on Thursday.

There has, though, been criticism that the UN's nuclear watchdog agency has been too hands-off in its approach to the Japanese nuclear crisis. There have been questions about why UN nuclear experts have not been sent already to assist in Japan. There have been concerns, as well, that data being released by Japanese nuclear agencies may have initially, at least, have underplayed the extent of the disaster.

Well, officials of the IAEA defending the organization, saying it can only do what its member states ask it to do and that so far, it's received only limited requests for help from Japan.

That, though, frankly, may now start to change, as the nuclear crisis in Japan shows little sign of abating. In fact, it's showing signs of getting worse.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


ANDERSON: Well, John Ritch is the director general of the World Nuclear Association.

He knows the IAEA, of course, extremely well.

Do you buy these criticisms?

JOHN RITCH, DIRECTOR GENERAL, WORLD NUCLEAR ASSOCIATION: Well, Becky, the -- the IAEA is very important in setting standards for reactor operations around the world. But it's up to individual countries and the experts that are in those countries and their regulatory authorities to apply those standards and ensure that reactors are -- are built and operating safely.

So it's a national responsibility.

ANDERSON: All right. OK. Let's go to Japan. The Fukushima crisis is still out of control.


RITCH: Well, your -- your question brings us to the lessons to be learned from this. And it's crucially important that we learn the right lessons. We knew before Fukushima that every nuclear power plant in the world needs a reliable post-shutdown cooling system. And what we learned from Fukushima is that we need to go back through the regulatory authorities in every national -- national sovereignty and take a look at the question of whether those post-shutdown cooling systems are able to survive even the worst case scenario geological tsunami and weather events we can imagine.

In Japan, they asked that question and they got the answer wrong and that is the reason we're having this crisis. Let's remember that Japan's entire nuclear fleet of 55 reactors has repeatedly survived earthquake after earthquake and it survived last week's earthquake. It was the post- shutdown period and the failure of the cooling system there to survive the tsunami that caused the problem.

ANDERSON: Right. We're five, six days in at this point. Some say it could be weeks.

What sort of risks are these workers, these heroes, as they're now being called, running in trying to sort this process out?

RITCH: You're right to praise them. They are demonstrating a -- a heroism that should arouse admiration from us all. And some of those plant workers are incurring risks and jeopardy to their health.

I think it's very possible right now, with -- to be cautiously optimistic that no member of the Japanese public will incur radiation exposure that is harmful. But we can't say the same about the -- the plant workers. There are going to be several dozen of those who will be in real jeopardy.

ANDERSON: John, I want to talk about the international implications of this. And it's interesting to point out -- and let's just get the viewers, some -- some thoughts here -- that around the world, nuclear plants are, of course, vulnerable to earthquakes. Earthquakes can occur anywhere and there's little or no warning. But they are more likely to occur along the earth's plate boundaries. The International Atomic Energy Agency estimates that a full 20 percent of all the world's commercial nuclear power reactors are in areas of significant seismic activity. We're going to call them earthquake zones, these shaded areas of the map here.

The dots represent the world's 442 operable power reactors. Now, this map shows the earth's plate boundaries. So you can see that nuclear power plants from North and South America to the Middle East, Europe and Asia are located near or along the fault lines. Turkey and India plan to build new reactors along these plates.

Your thoughts?

RITCH: This reality has not been lost on the nuclear regulators of the world. They have known this for a long time and, in fact, it's been built into the -- the planning and siting of nuclear reactors from the very beginning.

I -- I return to my point that Japan is a very earthquake-ridden country. It relies heavily on nuclear power. And its nuclear fleet has repeatedly survived every earthquake in Japanese history, including the worst earthquake in Japanese history, which occurred last week.

It was the very narrow problem of the post-tsunami cooling system, which, ironically, runs on a quite simple technology, a -- an electrical generator of a kind that can be found in rural homes and on farms.

And that's what needs to be the focus of our -- our concern, is making sure that every reactor has a post-shutdown cooling system that can survive any eventuality.

ANDERSON: You're not going to like this next question, because you are inside the industry and not outside, at this point.

But does this crisis/potential catastrophe -- let's hope it doesn't go there -- does it sound the death knell for an industry which has only recently become fashionable again?

And I'm talking about the nuclear industry here.

RITCH: It's become fashionable in the awareness of the media recently. But there are key countries of the world, including China and -- and India, which are, without regard to the media's opinion, are piloting major nuclear power expansion programs that will cause each country to have well over 1,000 reactors within the next few decades.

So they're not interested in fashionability. They're interested in the merits of nuclear power, the reliability of nuclear power, the affordability and the environmental responsibility that nuclear power confers on a country because of its zero emissions characteristic.

Now, let's divide the column into two parts. We have the existing reactor fleet, as you've pointed out, of 440 some reactors in the world. We have the future reactors to be built in even larger numbers.

I said, we need to go back and look at every reactor. And I'm sure that nuclear regulatory authorities around the world will decide that in some cases, in order to give an extra level of defense and assurance to publics, that more will have to be done on those -- those cooling systems.

But let me make this point, because this is crucial. The modern reactor designs that are now being designed and built around the world and that represent the future of nuclear energy have already solved that problem. They incorporate passive safety systems that will use natural physical principles to ensure post-reactor shutdown even if there's no electricity, even if human beings walk away from the plant, the -- the plant will cool itself using natural physical principles.

That's the future of nuclear power.

ANDERSON: And let's make this point, as I understand it. The Fukushima plant is about 40 years old. It was looking to be decommissioned at some point fairly soon.

RITCH: Um-hmm.

ANDERSON: Briefly, though, catastrophe waiting to happen or not?

RITCH: I still think there's reason to hope that there will not be a catastrophe that in any way affects the public of Japan. And -- and I applaud the heroism of the people who are trying to make that true.

ANDERSON: OK, John Lennon.

Well, CNN is launching a new high tech way for Smartphone users around the world to take immediate action to help disaster victims in Japan. Now, throughout this coverage of this show, we're going to show you special black and white codes, which you can see now on the screen. If you scan this image with your Smartphone, it loads our Impact Your World Web site automatically, no typing required.

And there you'll find links to charities that are helping disaster victims in Japan.

We'll air this code later in the show throughout the day on CNN, so keep your Smartphones handy, because aside from the nuclear crisis, which we hope will not be a catastrophe, of course, many, many, many people suffering in Japan.

Coming up, superior firepower threatens to snuff out the Arab spring.

Could we be witnessing the end of two popular uprisings?

Authorities in Bahrain use force to break up a month-long sit-in in the symbolic Pearl Square, while the clock is ticking in Libya. One of Moammar Gadhafi's sons predicts the rebels will fall in just 48 hours.

You're with CNN.

Stay with us.


ANDERSON: Optimism about the spread of democracy throughout the Arab world is dimming today, as two popular uprisings appear at a tipping point. Both Bahrain and Libya are determined to crush protesters hoping to share in the Arab spring.

Now, in Bahrain, police backed by tanks and helicopters launched an all-out assault to clear Pearl Square. That's the symbolic heart of the revolt by Shia Muslims against the kingdom's minority Sunni rulers.

Well, hours later, the Square resembled a scorched battlefield. At least five people, protesters and policemen, were reportedly killed.

And in Libya, rebels are fighting for their lives, trying to fend off attacks in the east and the west. Moammar Gadhafi's son, Saif, says the battle will be over within 48 hours.

We're going to have more on Libya in a moment.

First, though, Bahrain, where the crackdown on Shia protesters is fueling sectarian tensions already inflamed by the unprecedented arrival of troops from Sunni-dominated Gulf states, including Saudi.

Our Mohammed Jamjoom was reporting from Bahrain, but the government ordered him to leave.

He is now in Abu Dhabi.

You're back.

What did you see while you were in Bahrain?

What can you tell us?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, we were awakened about 7:00 a.m. this morning. We had activists calling us, telling us about what was going on in Pearl Roundabout, which was just about half a mile down the road from our vantage point.

We also started hearing gunfire, lots and lots of rounds of gunfire for several hours. We saw tanks coming in, huge, thick black plumes of smoke rising from Pearl Roundabout.

We saw anti-riot police try to disperse the crowd, shooting tear gas into residential neighborhoods and into Pearl Roundabout. It was very violent, very chaotic. It lasted several hours. And the eyewitness accounts we got from people on the scene were quite disturbing, saying they were being shot about by rubber bullets. Many of them were injured.

Even more disturbing from that, we were trying to reach medical officials. We were calling Sulaymaniyah Hospital, the main medical complex in Manama. And we spoke to three doctors inside that hospital. They had harrowing tales to tell us. They said they were running from room to room hiding because security forces had surrounded the hospital, preventing doctors from getting out, tending to the wounded and preventing wounded from getting into the hospital.

Now, the government disputed that. They have statements on Bahrainian television saying that those accounts were false. The government said that there was some sort of hostage stand-off that was going on in the hospital and that the forces were there in order to try to protect the doctors and the patients and the hospital.

But the doctors we spoke with said that was false. Furthermore, they said the security forces were beating medics, were beating doctors.

And we tried to speak to officials throughout the day. We kept requesting it. And we kept being told people would come to us. Nobody did.

Finally, I was asked to -- to leave the country. I was expelled from the country just a few hours ago. I'm now back in Abu Dhabi. The rest of the CNN team is there. We have another reporter en route. We still don't have a reason for why I was asked to leave -- Becky.

ANDERSON: All right, Mahmoud there in Abu Dhabi, recently out of Bahrain.

Well, the significance of this uprising stretches far beyond Bahrain's borders. It actually reflects a sectarian power struggle in the region as a whole. Now, Bahrain's Shia majority has long complained of discrimination and mistreatment by minority Sunni rulers. Many of Bahrain's neighbors have no interest in seeing that Sunni leadership crumble.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, both countries dominated by Sunni Muslims, have sent troops to support Bahrain's leaders. The troops are actually under the banner of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which also includes Qatar, Kuwait and Oman. All of these are majority Sunni countries, as well.

Now, the main reason they don't want to see a Shia revolution succeed in Bahrain is because they fear it would give Iran more regional influence and perhaps a new foothold. Shia majority Iran considered a traditional enemy of many Arab states, is now rallying behind fellow Shiites in Bahrain.

Well, the unrest there is very worrying to the United States, which bases its Fifth Naval Fleet in the strategically located kingdom. President Barack Obama phoned the king of Bahrain and the king of Saudi Arabia today to express concern about the violence and to urge maximum restraint. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, meantime, criticized the deployment of Saudi-led troops in Bahrain.

She spoke to CNN's Wolf Blitzer.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We find what is happening in Bahrain to be alarming. We have spoken out against it, both publicly and privately. We have made it clear to the highest levels of the government of Bahrain that what they are doing is pursuing the wrong track, that there is no answer to the demands for political and economic reform through a security crackdown.


ANDERSON: Hillary Clinton there.

You can watch Wolf's entire interview with her on CNN right after CONNECT THE WORLD here this hour. THE SITUATION ROOM begins in about a half hour from now.

Iran also voicing its opinion about the uprising in Bahrain, saying the kingdom made a strategic mistake by inviting Gulf troops to help quell the rebellion. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told reporters in Tehran on Wednesday, and I quote, "The expedition is a very foul and doomed experience and regional nations will hold the American government responsible for this."

Well, as you can see, there are many countries that have a huge in this uprising, in what is a -- a tiny country. Looking at the big picture for us is our big thinker here.

Fawad Gerges joining me in the studio, professor of international relations, of course, at the London School of Economics.

Let's break this down, shall we?

Let's start out with role of the Saudis here.

What is it?

FAWAZ GERGES, PROFESSOR, PROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: Well, it's their backyard. The Saudis are extremely concerned about instability in Bahrain and the possibility of the spill- over effects into Saudi. Remember, while the population in Bahrain, the majority of the population, 70 percent, are Shiites, you have also a sizeable Shiite community in Saudi Arabia, as well, itself. It's about 25 percent, between 20 and 25 percent, in one of the most strategic areas in Saudi, in eastern -- in the eastern part, where most of the oil resources are located.

Saudi is not just concerned about the Shiite community, it's concerned about the role of Iran. The argument is that Iran is fueling trouble, not just in Bahrain, but in Yemen and also in Iraq, as well.

The reality is this is not about Shiite-Sunnis. This is really about an internal struggle for empowerment, for freedom, for a more representate -- representative government in Bahrain and other places, as well.

ANDERSON: It's as simple as that, you're saying.

Is there any evidence to suggest that Iran is actually fomenting the protesters in Bahrain?

GERGES: There is no evidence whatsoever. In fact, the consensus within the American government, and, as you well know, the United States, it does not really feel very good about, does not really see anything good about the Iranian government, is that Iran has not had a hand in what's happening, either in Yemen or in Bahrain or in other places. In fact, the consensus within the U.S. government is that this is an internal crisis and it is an internal crisis.

But, in fact, the Americans say if the crisis is prolonged -- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said, if the Bahrain royal family does not politically engage the opposition, Iran could play a major role in the crisis in the long-term.

ANDERSON: What impact, if any, will the US' vague criticism of Saudi Arabia's involvement here have, do you think?

GERGES: There is a major crisis between the United States and Saudi now. This is the real big challenge, over Egypt, over Tunisia and over Bahrain. In fact, the United States has made it very clear it wants the Bahrain royal family to engage the opposition. And it seems now the reality is, is that the headliners in Bahrain have gained the upper hand. Remember, first Crown Prince Helmand (ph) was in charge and he made it very clear on CNN, he was -- he came on CNN live a few weeks ago and he said we are willing to engage the opposition, everything is on the table.

Now, the situation has been reversed. You have forces from Saudi and the United Arab Emirates intervening in Bahrain and -- and the -- the big picture is that the Bahraini royal family has decided to suppress the protesters as opposed to politically engaging the opposition -- a major qualitative shift in terms of depeche (ph).

ANDERSON: And we're going to talk about a second front in what is the big picture of the Arab spring or not, as the case may be, when we talk about Libya just after the bottom of this hour.

Just briefly, Qatar also voicing support for Saudi intervention in Bahrain, which might surprise our viewers, given that the Qatar-based Al Jazeera new network...

GERGES: Of course.

ANDERSON: -- has been credited with helping sustain the protests over the region.

Are you surprised by Qatar's move?

GERGES: Yes. It is very surprising. But it tells you, I mean Gulf politics is Gulf politics. The oil producing countries, the Gulf Cooperation Council, it's a family. It's a, really, a very, you might say, a very small and closed club. And any particular instability in Oman or in Bahrain or in Saudi affects at least the perception of the leadership of stability in the Gulf Cooperation Council.

What you see is really unifying the ranks, all of them, in order to prevent the situation from spilling over into other Gulf countries.

ANDERSON: Stay with me, Fawaz.

It's always a pleasure to have you.

Coming up next, we'll get the view from Libya, where government forces appear to be planning a major attack on rebel groups, determined to crush the uprising that has turned into a bloody civil war.

That and your headlines follow this short break.

Do stay with us.


ANDERSON: You're back with CNN and CONNECT THE WORLD this hour. I'm Becky Anderson in London. Coming up, Moammar Gadhafi's forces are fighting hard to retake control of several key cities in Libya as calls for an internationally-enforced no-fly zone continue. More on that in just a moment.

Plus, winter storms and freezing weather have made rescue operations that much harder in Japan, but teams are still looking for anyone still out there.

Well, despite the cold weather, there are extraordinary survival stories emerging. How one elderly woman escaped the tsunami. That story coming up this half hour.

All of that ahead. First, a very quick check of the headlines for you this hour.

Well, the head of the UN's nuclear agency will travel to Japan as soon as possible to assess the crisis at the Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant. There was a radiation spike there earlier on Wednesday that forced workers to leave, but they have returned as levels dropped back down.

Witnesses tell CNN Bahrain government forces attacked opposition demonstrators at Manama's Pearl Roundabout, a rallying point for protesters in recent weeks. Reports say at least five people, protesters and policemen, were killed.

An American CIA contractor has left Pakistan. Raymond Davis was released from a jail just hours after he was formally charged with the murder of two Pakistani men. An official says $2.3 million was paid to the victims' families.

And international police have busted a major online pedophile network. Europol says more than 200 children have been rescued in the three-year operation. British Child Protection Center located the website owner and traced the server to the Netherlands in 2009.

And the Nikkei rebounded today. Japanese stocks, there, of course. But stocks on Wall Street did not. The Dow fell again, hard, partly because of concerns over Japan's nuclear crisis. Blue chips sunk around 250-odd points, 242, to close at 11,613. Earlier, Japan's main market index actually ended up 489 points. That market, of course, opens once again in a couple of hours.

Well, in Libya, forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi appear to be gearing up for a major battle after a day of severe and sustained attacks on several cities under rebel control. Both sides fought fiercely for Misurata and Ajdabiya. At least two civilians were killed and more than a dozen were injured.

Now, Ajdabiya is the last major point between pro-government forces and the opposition stronghold of Benghazi. If Gadhafi's troops take control, it would give him direct access to the opposition's base. And tonight, thousands of forces have gathered right outside with a dozen tanks, heavy artillery, and radar-controlled weapons systems.

Well, Gadhafi's forces set their sights on Ras Lanuf, as well. This video, sent to CNN's iReports shows a rocket-propelled grenade exploding near a rebel group, just barely missing them.

State television showed video of what it said was Gadhafi meeting his supporters in the embattled city of Misrata. It's not clear when this video was shot.

And in television interviews today, Gadhafi's son Saif promised the fighting would soon be over because Libyan troops are on the verge of victory, he said.


SAIF AL-ISLAM GADHAFI, SON OF LIBYAN LEADER (through translator): In 48 hours, we'll have finished our military operation. We're at the gates of Benghazi.


ANDERSON: And also today, "The New York Times" reports that four of its journalists are missing in Libya. They were last in contact with their editors on Tuesday morning Eastern time when they were in Ajdabiya.

All right, let's find out what's going on with the very latest. CNN's Arwa Damon is in eastern Libya, and she joins us, now, live. Arwa?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Becky. And we've tried to get back down to the city of Ajdabiya, where we were yesterday, but we were stopped around 30 kilometers outside of it at an opposition checkpoint, where we were told that we could not cross quite simply because it was too dangerous.

They said the fighting was too intense. They were talking about a sustained air bombardment that began at around 9:30, 10:00 in the morning, followed by very heavy artillery fire. One eyewitness coming out a fighter, saying that pro-Gadhafi snipers had taken up positions around the city.

Another eyewitness we spoke to told us about an entire family that had been killed in that ongoing bombing campaign --


DAMON: Speaking about their concern --


DAMON: About the rising civilian casualties. They say that it is going to be very difficult to keep holding this ground, but they are still determined to do so no matter what the cost. Ajdabiya very critical because it is just 160 kilometers west of the stronghold of Benghazi.

The fighters determined to try to hold on for as much and as long as they can, but without international help, without that no-fly zone they've been calling for for around a month now, that is going to be increasingly difficult. And we're seeing a fair level of frustration and anger with the international community's inaction, Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes, Arwa Damon on the ground for you in Libya. Arwa, we thank you for that.

The United Nations Security Council, then, has been meeting behind closed doors today to try and agree on what to do about Libya. Let's find out what's going on there. Richard Roth at the United Nations. Any conclusive decisions, as it were?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR UN CORRESPONDENT: Not yet. And despite what Arwa was saying with rebels and opponents of the government asking -- pleading for international support, there's no sign yet of a vote that would approve a no-fly zone.

There are many questions and debates going on right now inside the Security Council, a council that began its day with unity, because it was a minute of silence moment for the people of Japan devastated by that earthquake and its aftermath.

The Security Council currently behind closed doors. One diplomat pointing fingers at Russia, Russia denying, saying it's baloney that they are blocking anything.

There were countries yesterday, such as Germany and India, that had questions. Who would implement this no-fly zone? How would it really be enforced? The United States, pushing, prodding, saying it wants Arab countries to be heavily involved, leading, participating in a no-fly zone.

We've heard, of course, analysis by Robert Gates, the US Defense Secretary, days ago, saying you have take out the Libyan air defense systems before you implement a no-fly zone.

So, they're inching forward, going paragraph by paragraph on a resolution which includes a no-fly zone and zones of protection, possibly, for humanitarian aid to get in. The council wants to protect the people of Libya but, of course, huge political and military angles to what happens if you start the no-fly zone?

The Security Council, Becky, sat on the sidelines, really, watching the revolutionary cycle spin through Tunisia and Egypt. It's now involved in the -- in the Libya matter after the Arab League pleaded, said it wants a no-fly zone, though also confusingly said it didn't want foreign intervention. So, they're trying to thrash out all of these issues, now.


ROTH: China and Russia, of course, remain reluctant also in these issues.

ANDERSON: All right, Richard Roth with the latest from the United Nations, "inching forward" being the operative term, I think.

Yesterday, on this program, we spoke with a Libyan opposition Leader who said the rebels are desperate for help from the international community, and he said he's worried about how many more people will die if those please are ignored.


ESSAM GHERIANI, LIBYAN OPPOSITION MEMBER (via telephone): I really do believe that they're ignoring the Libyan situation and not talking about the no-fly zone is a shame on those members that are refusing or objecting to the imposition of the no-fly zone.

It is a humanitarian crisis that we have here. We have brutal thugs that are killing people, demolishing cities. And I believe that the international community cannot just stand by and watch him do that.

ANDERSON: What's your biggest fear, at this point?

GHERIANI: My biggest fear is any action short of the no-fly zone and other military intervention requests that we had placed from the very beginning of our crisis, which is the bombardment of certain locations, strategic location, of the Gadhafi regime.

Anything less -- of that is going to mean the prolongation of this crisis, and more people are going to die. And there is going to be a stalemate. There's going to be a stalemate, where more and more and more and more people are falling dead.


ANDERSON: OK, you're right, that interview conducted yesterday. And, frankly, nothing has changed so far as the international community is concerned. Fawaz is still with me. Our guest yesterday effectively saying he feels like they've been hung out to dry by the international community. Have they?

FAWAZ GERGES, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: I think so. I think there is no consensus within the international community. Europe is deeply divided. Germany is opposed to even a no-fly zone. Just France and Britain want a no-fly zone.

The United States, there is no appetite for another war. The American military is on record saying a no-fly zone will not change the military equation in Libya.

Remember, Becky, the big picture. Gadhafi is not using his air force really very expansively. This is a ground campaign. You're talking about special forces operations. You're talking about tanks. You're talking about ships. You're not talking about a great deal of air force in the fight.

So, even -- let's say that tomorrow the United Nations Security Council approves a no-fly zone, it will not change the strategic balance of forces inside Libya.

ANDERSON: Saif Gadhafi says it'll take 48 hours and it's all over. Take that as you will at this point, what sort of retribution, though, should these or might these rebels or opposition forces expect from a Gadhafi regime that is on the up, as it were.

GERGES: Saif al-Islam is dreaming. He is a clown. He really is. Saif al-Islam is a clown. This is not about 48 hours or 48 days or even 48 months. Even though Gadhafi has gained the upper hand, even though Gadhafi is marching towards the east, the reality is, this will be a prolonged struggle.

What the opposition needs to do is to organize itself. It's not really well-armed, like the loyalist forces. It needs more, you might say, guidance. It needs arms. It needs to put its house in order.

This is what the international community can do, as opposed to just a no-fly zone. But the reality is, Gadhafi will not be able to control Libya in the same way that he has done for the last 41 years.

ANDERSON: Do you think there's enough appetite within the international community for anything -- let's leave the no-fly zone aside. We hear talk of military aid, of arming the opposition. But are we seeing any real appetite for that to happen physically? Because you're saying the opposition needs some cohesion. But they're not getting it from the outside, is it?

GERGES: It's minimal. And even the Americans and the Europeans would like the opposition to put its house in order. We're very harsh on the opposition. Remember, there is no coherent leadership. This is a bottom- up movement. Gadhafi decimated civil society, there are no institutions. It's very difficult.

But let's remember, I think the opposition is getting a lot of support. Even the Americans are helping the opposition. Arms are flowing from Egypt. The reality is, the opposition has -- does not have the time. It has to have the stamina, the will, the determination to fight, because this war is not over yet.

Remember, you asked earlier is that, are we witnessing the end of the revolution? The big picture is the following. This is a revolution in the making. Revolutions in the making, you have phases, you have setbacks. You have a major setback, now in Bahrain, in Yemen, in Libya. But this is far from over.

The tide is very powerful. Even if the -- when the government wins the first round, there will be a second and third and fourth round. So, let's put things in perspective.

ANDERSON: Fawaz Gerges, a regular guest on this show. Always a pleasure, thank you.

GERGES: Thank you.

ANDERSON: And next on CONNECT THE WORLD, we'll return to Japan, where nuclear fears have many countries preparing evacuation plans and, an ocean away, Americans take every precaution to stay clear of the radiation. Stay with us.


ANDERSON: Welcome back. You're with CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson on CNN. At least 8,000 people are still missing after Friday's devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Rescue crews are racing to find anyone who may still be alive trapped in the rubble. But as CNN's Brian Todd reports, harsh weather is now hampering their efforts.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): We're in the town of Kamaishi in northeastern Japan, got here this afternoon to find this scene here, pretty much tells the story. Complete devastation in this neighborhood. These teams have to comb through all this rubble that's very heavily concentrated.

And the houses clearly have been displaced, knocked into each other. There's a house that was knocked over and possibly into that other one over there as these guys try to enter that house. You can see them over there.

They're working against every conceivable obstacle over here. Tons of mud, debris all over the place. You've got downed power lines, and the weather, obviously, has turned very, very bad and risky for these crews.

What are the added complications, here, of the snow?

ROBERT ZOLDOS, CHIEF, US TASK FORCE ONE: Well, there's a lot of complications that are added by the snow. First of all, the slip and fall hazards are, obviously, there.

TODD: Yes.

ZOLDOS: But the snow adds a different element in that it does hide things. It makes a lot of the ground look identical all the way through, it makes it much harder for rescuers to identify what may be a pit, what may be an entrance to a cellar, as we could easily miss things, so our people have to be much more direct on that.

TODD: It's a scene of complete destruction, but it's worth it for these guys to pick through every inch and make their way through the downed power lines over all the objects into the spaces because the stakes are enormous, of course, but there is opportunity.

There are voids, seemingly, everywhere you look. Under this house, spaces where people could be sheltering, waiting for these guys to arrive. Under here, everywhere you look, a possibility for rescue.

These guys have almost no room to operate as they try to get into this house that's been turned completely on its side. Look at this. They've got to slide through these openings, have nail around, all kinds of sharp objects. Here's a guy coming out.

What's incredible about these places is, even with no sign of life, seemingly nothing to come back to, people keep coming back. There's a couple over there picking their way through this rubble that you can barely walk through, trying to get to their house, maybe find something that they can take back.

Late in the day, here, the hope of finding someone alive gave way to a desperate reality. Yet again, a body was found inside this house in one of the crevices. They covered it in a flowered blanket. So, this area, like so many others devastated by the tsunami, no survivors found here in the wreckage, so we move on to the next area. Brian Todd, CNN, Kamaishi, Japan.


ANDERSON: Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, the weather getting worse, there. Let's bring in Jenny Harrison from the International Weather Center. What's the forecast, there, Jen?

JENNY HARRISION, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It's -- it's improving, Becky, I'm just going to start by saying that. It is improving. It's going to take a couple of days, really. And whilst we're talking, of course, about those awful, bleak, wintry conditions, how bitterly cold it is, there has been some significant snowfall.

But really, in and around Sendai, for example, two centimeters. To the north, we have seen a bit more snow. Fukushima, one centimeter of snow. But the winds are very strong at the same time, as well, so it really was that very wet, heavy snow, that sea-effect snow, as you can see, actually, there with Brian's report, it was very heavy, sort of big flakes.

So, not really accumulating a huge amount on the ground, but the winds are very strong, up to 60 kilometers an hour, there, some of those gusts in Ibaraki. And that wind is going to actually ease off over the next couple of days.

Here, just another image to show you, of course, again, like we were seeing there with Brian Todd, just people looking and hoping to find somebody. But we all -- we know that it could be possible, that there could be somebody trapped.

And as Brian was saying that within these buildings, there are pockets of, certainly, shelter, as well. So, although the wind chill is making it feel bitterly cold, well below the average, if you're, perhaps, protected from that wind --

And one of the things, again, with have some snow or some rain is that might be the first water you, perhaps, have been able to get a hold of for several days. So, the conditions are not good at all, minus ten is, as I say, how it feels out there in the wind right now in Fukushima. But the winds are not as strong as they were.

Coming from the northwest, but that also means that it is blowing the air across Honshu from west to east, so anything that's going on in the plant, in the Fukushima plant, that is heading out towards the open waters, the unpopulated waters, of course, as well, of the Pacific.

But we will see more of this snow coming in over the next 48 hours. Then, it really does clear up. And most of this snow is really just going to land across the tops of the mountain ranges. Remember, some of these mountains actually up to about 3,500 meters, so that's where the accumulation will be.

And then, look -- let's hang on this. Sendai, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Buy Saturday, Becky, 11 degrees the high, actually a little bit above average. Still cold in the overnight hours, but it should be drying up and improving and getting much better temperature-wise as we head into the start of the weekend.

ANDERSON: Well, that is much better news. Jen, thank you for that.

Well, a nuclear crisis that many fear could become a catastrophe has led so many people to flee the capital, turning Tokyo's airports into complete chaos. Kyung Lah, now, talks to some who chose to go and some who, for now at least, are staying put.


KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Winding lines, mothers comforting babies, no seats anywhere at Tokyo's Haneda Airport departure area. Across town at Tokyo's Narita International Airport, thousands waiting to leave the country.

This is what an unprecedented mass exodus out of one of the world's most populated cities looks like, driven by concerns about the nuclear emergency in Fukushima, nearly 200 miles away. The ones able to leave Tokyo quickly, expatriates like Matthew Delboe.

LAH (on camera): Are you really worried? You really think that there's something that's going to happen?

MATTHEW DELBOE, FRENCH CITIZEN: Two days ago, I thought, like, there wasn't really a risk. Now, I think it's stupid to stay when you can leave.

LAH (voice-over): This is an orderly mass departure, remaining calm a mark of Japanese civility even in the face of crisis. And this is a crisis, noted in an unprecedented sight.

AKIHITO, EMPEROR OF JAPAN (through translator): I am deeply sorry for the devastation in the disaster-stricken area.

LAH (voice-over): Japan's emperor comforting his country in a nationally televised address.

A nation's quiet anxiety evident all over the city. Empty grocery stores shelves, as residents stockpile rations for a possible emergency, and empty streets in downtown Tokyo.

LAH (on camera): Normally, there are people lining up all down those stairs for that very popular restaurant in this business district. Over here, you would normally see people, also, lining up to get food to carry out. You can see there's no one here. This is highly unusual for the middle of the day on a Wednesday.

Walk around over here, and this is one of the only ATMs in the area. There's normally people lining up all down this street. But you can see, there's no line today.

LAH (voice-over): "It's scary," says this owner of a noodle shop, "and lonely." No customers for restaurants to serve, but he's not leaving.

"I have my entire life here," he says. "I can't just pull up and leave."

ZACH OGURA, TOKYO RESIDENT: I think it's -- yes -- a bit overwhelming, yes.

LAH (voice-over): Tokyo resident Zach Ogura says Tokyo is home, and he's not ready to leave with his two sons yet. Emphasis on "yet."

OGURA: At this moment in time, I don't worry. But -- but I don't know. You know? Within a few days or so, that's -- I don't know.

LAH (voice-over): That uncertainty keeping a country on edge and on the move, away from the brewing threat to the north. Kyung Lah, CNN, Tokyo.


ANDERSON: Well, several countries are, actually, taking steps to evacuate their citizens from all over Japan. The French government announced their first plane of evacuees landed in Paris this morning.

And Russia says it will begin evacuating diplomatic personnel and their families starting on Friday.

Chinese state media reporting that busloads of its citizens have been rescued from the hardest-hit areas.

Today, Hillary Clinton told CNN that, at this moment, Americans are not being urged to leave Japan, but that they were -- keeping updating -- keeping their evaluations updated, sorry. Take a listen to this.


HILLARY CLINTON, US SECRETARY OF STATE: I think now, our experts are probing deeply to get every piece of information they possibly can so that we can make our own judgments. As I said earlier, we will make the judgment as to whether to advise Americans to move or to leave based on our analysis and, of course, that's what we owe the American people.


ANDERSON: Hillary Clinton talking to Wolf Blitzer. The full interview coming up just after this show in about seven minutes time.

Coming up next, here, before we leave, thousands died, but many more survived and were left homeless by Friday's disaster. We're going to take a look at the new reality that they are facing as they assess the damage to their homes and to their lives.


ANDERSON: The official death toll from Friday's earthquake and tsunami in Japan now stands at 4,314, with at least twice that many still missing and nearly 3,000 injured. Half a million have been left homeless, but at least they are alive.

And now, more than five days after the disaster, some of their extraordinary survival stories are emerging. Here's CNN's Gary Tuchman.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Suna Kimura (ph) is living among friends at a shelter in the city of Hachinohe, Japan. But on the day of the earthquake and tsunami, she was at the home where she lived by herself.

SUNA KIMURA, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR (through translator): I was scared.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): But she had her wits about her. She heard the sirens signaling a tsunami was on the way. So, what did this 83-year-old woman do?

KIMURA (through translator): After the tsunami warning, I got on my bicycle by myself and rode away.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): That's right. Suna Kimura escaped the tsunami on her bike. She spent her life as a rice farmer and takes pride in her physical stamina. When she saw the waters devouring her city, she couldn't believe it.

KIMURA (through translator): I thought Japan would disappear. I thought Japan would disappear under water.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Like so many people on the Japanese Pacific coast, Suna's house is now flooded.

KIMURA (through translator): It's totally messed. I went to see it. I couldn't even enter the house. It's totally messed.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Everyone in the shelter is, of course, also consumed by the frightening nuclear reactor drama. The situation has special significance for the older people, here, who remember the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Suna was a teenager, then.

KIMURA (through translator): This reminds me of it. Very much so.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Suna has two children, but doesn't want to be a burden to them. She wants to live on her own, but --

KIMURA (through translator): I have no idea what I will do next or where I will go.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Suna Kimura is strong and proud. Something you might expect of a woman who escaped the tsunami on her bicycle. Gary Tuchman, CNN, Hachinohe, Japan.


ANDERSON: Well, Suna just one of the half a million Japanese who've been left homeless by the earthquake and tsunami. Many of them staying in shelters like the one you just saw. But even as their lives have been overturned, many say that they are just grateful to be alive.

We're going to leave you, now, with some of the images from some of those shelters. I'm Becky Anderson in London. "The Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer up next.