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WORLD REPORT: Reconnecting Power; The Battle for Libya

Aired March 19, 2011 - 02:00   ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Natalie Allen in CNN Center. You are watching WORLD REPORT. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

Two major stories making news right now:

In Libya, rebel fighters man a check point not far from the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, hours before members of the no-fly zone coalition gather in France to plot military strategy against Moammar Gadhafi.

And in Japan, engineers struggle to restore power to crippled nuclear reactors. They hope to get it flowing this weekend and restart the reactors' water pumps to cool hot, nuclear fuel.

But nuclear plant workers may be paying a heavy price for getting those electric cables reconnected. Power company officials now say they will allow workers to be exposed to 250 millisieverts of radiation before pulling them off the site. That is more than 80 times what someone living in a developed country is naturally exposed to in one year. But officials say they are trying to prevent a catastrophe.

Anna Coren joins us now from our Tokyo bureau with more.

Much work going on there and many more workers there are trying to get the job done, Anna.


We have some information because a new operation has just got underway. We know that there are water pumps sucking up water from the ocean. That truck is then pumping water to a nearby truck, which has an extended arm, some 22 meters high. And this water, this continuous flow of water, is being sprayed in to reactor three.

This, of course, is the number one priority, as far as Japanese authorities are concerned. They think there is not much water in the pools and they are trying to get as much water in there as possible. Now, this operation will run unmanned for seven hours. Those pumps will go continuously for seven hours, and because there are no personnel, they have no issues as far as exposure to radiation.

Now, we also know that workers have been able to effectively drill holes, three holes in to both reactors five and six. This allowed hydrogen gas and steam to escape from both those reactors. Power is also being restored to both reactors.

So, they are making progress. Now, power lines are trying to be reconnected to reactor two. If that's successful, it will mean that one and two will have power and hopefully then three and four.

This, of course, is a -- you know, hopes. These are hopes. We know this is a very fluid situation.

So, restoring power to all six reactors by the end of tomorrow is, of course, Natalie, the best-case scenario.

ALLEN: Absolutely. And all the while, Japan has increased the threat level to five. What does that mean exactly, Anna?

COREN: It has raised the alert level. And this is because there's been core damage to two of the reactors. This means that there are wider consequences, if there is a potential fallout.

Now, the chief of the IAEA, he was here in Tokyo yesterday. He met with Japan's prime minister and he said the clock is ticking for the Japanese to contain the situation. He also said this wasn't just Japan's problem, that this was also the problem for the international community.

Now, we know that the Pentagon is going to send 450 specialists to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and the U.S. admiral who'd be in charge of the operation, he believes that a joint U.S.- Japanese operation could prevent a meltdown -- Natalie.

ALLEN: And, of course, people from around the affected area have been evacuated, but we've even seen people leaving Japan from Tokyo and elsewhere, just afraid of what this could mean to their health.

What is the latest news from the government and as far as trying to get to remain the peace and calm among people there in Japan through all of this?

COREN: Natalie, I've got to say that people here in Tokyo are relatively calm. We are, of course, some 250 kilometers from the power plant. So, those who are living around the plant, it's a different situation. There's an exclusion zone that has been set up some 20 kilometers from the plant.

We spoke to a number of people who were able to flee that area. They were taking refuge in a shelter. There have been many shelters set up around the country. But this one particular shelter, they are offering food, bedding and, you know, really importantly, a warm, safe place to stay.

Many of these people are young families. You know, these are parents who are concerned about their children, the welfare of their children because of the potential risks of radiation. There is that great unknown. They just don't know what potential fallout would mean for them and their children -- Natalie.

ALLEN: All right. Anna Coren for us there in Tokyo -- thanks so much, Anna.

Well, the IAEA is under fire amid all of this. It is supposed to be the U.N.'s nuclear watch dog, but some say in light of the Japanese catastrophe, the agency is not on the job.

CNN senior international correspondent Matthew Chance is in Vienna with that.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): As the catastrophe in Japan continues to unfold, the U.N.'s nuclear watch dog in Vienna is increasingly under fire to its response to the nuclear crisis, and its record on monitoring nuclear safety.

(on camera): Matthew Chance from CNN. Looking at all this destruction in Fukushima and all the consequences of it, do you believe, in retrospect, that you were too soft on Japan? That this agency supported its nuclear expansion but failed to get the country to impose adequate, safety measures?

GRAHAM ANDREW, SPECIAL ADVISER TO IAEA DIRECTOR GENERAL: It's a question of our role. Our role is to provide member states, and Japan being one of them, of course, with the guidance, the safety standards. We provide them advice. But it's up to Japan. It's up to every other country, to implement that advice as they best see fit. It is not mandated.

CHANCE (voice-over): But perhaps it should have been. Critics, for instance, say the reactors at Fukushima, swamped by the giant tsunami were built far too close to the coast on cheap land at clear risk.

(on camera): Were you aware of the risks Japan was taking by building reactors so close to the coast for instance in a very seismic -- an area of great seismic activity?

ANDREW: We were aware the reactors were being built and we understood that there were earthquake possibilities. But as the director general mentioned yesterday, it wasn't a fact that there was a earthquake. That didn't come as a surprise. It was -- it was the level of earthquake and the proximity to the coast. That was a surprise.

CHANCE (voice-over): But it was no surprise to nuclear engineers like this Yuli Andreev, who supervised the Soviet cleanup of Chernobyl in 1986. The IAEA, he told me, has long allowed the nuclear industry to ignore risks in pursuit of profit.

YULI ANDREEV, NUCLEAR ENGINEER: If nuclear industry is prone to accident, well, it's not a reliable source of energy.

CHANCE (on camera): So, are you saying that the IAEA is working to protect the image, the position of the global nuclear industry?

ANDREEV: The agency is only for the going to distribute nuclear energy, and this is certainly good task but it's not enough. If you're distributing the nuclear, you think of the safety. But it's incompatible.

CHANCE (voice-over): It's another criticism the IAEA rejects.

ANDREW: I think it's unfair. The -- without seeming complacent, nuclear energy I think has got an enviable safety record. If you look at deaths for example from other ways of producing energy, and compare that with the nuclear, it has an enviable safety record.

CHANCE: But with a continuing crisis in Japan, it's a record like that of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog now under scrutiny.

Matthew Chance, CNN, at the IAEA in Vienna.


ALLEN: Well, let's check now and see if the weather is playing a role both in the nuclear crisis and the ongoing recover.

Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera joining us from the CNN international weather center -- Ivan.

IVAN CABRERA, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Natalie, we have those two angles. Of course, the winds, the prevailing winds at the surface there, as far as the radiation that we have been talking about and, of course, there's just generic weather that folks want to know what's going to be happening as far as whether it's going to be cold or warm. Still a lot of folks without power and it has been brutally cold. In fact, we have been showing you the snow.

What you want to see to get rid of snow and to get warm temperatures is a directional wind out of the southwest. That is generally, lower hemisphere, of course, it will bring you some warm winds and that is exactly what has happened here. We have moderated temperatures in significant fashion.

We'll get to the forecast in a second. But I want to start off with this high resolution computer model forecast here, exclusive to CNN. This is the way we are starting right with an offshore wind which is good. Anything, be it smoke, be it radiation, whatever, is going to be blown to the east.

What you don't want is known -- what is going to happen here as I forward this, I'm going to pause it as this disturbance moves in. Watch what happens here. You get the on-shore flow. So, whatever is on the ground, whether it's radiation or anything else, it's going to begin to be pushed further inland here to the populated areas.

However, that said, look at the wind speeds, not that significant. Right? So, with an area of high pressure moving in and that clockwise flow that what you would see weak winds. So, we're not too concerned about that. That's what's going on with the wind flow across the region here.

As far as the weather pattern, disturbance moved through quickly. We had a few showers in Tokyo, but nothing too significant. So, that's why we have this offshore flow from the north and west.

But over the next couple of days, we will have some precip. It's not going to be snow. It's going to be too warm for that -- same for the extreme higher elevations here. But I think most of us are going to be talking about rain here from Tokyo points north to Fukushima and that low moves in and that's when we're going to get start beginning to get those winds on shore here. So, we'll watch that.

Forecast looks much better than we had seen it here. We are actually average. And the overnight temperatures for a change are above average here, ten and five for the remainder and then we're going to turn unsettled here. So, whatever is in the atmosphere, if there's any radiation in the environment here, everything is going to get washed out here on Monday and Tuesday. So, that's another concern that we're going to be watching here.

And I'll leave you with what we've been covering as well, the coastal tides that have been coming in because Japan again, I have been telling you, has sunk literally because of the earthquake and now, they are susceptible to what normally is their high tides -- coastal flooding potential will continue over the next few days here. So, the warnings are up for that -- not tsunami-related just the tides coming in.

ALLEN: All right. Well, Ivan, thank you very much. At least they're not getting snow. I was looking for some bright spot in your forecast.


ALLEN: OK. Thanks, Ivan.

Well, the other story making news is, of course, in North Africa.


ALLEN: Is Moammar Gadhafi adhering to his ceasefire in Libya? Or will coalition forces have to use air strikes to enforce a no-fly zone? That's just ahead on WORLD REPORT.


ALLEN: Of course, now to our other big story we are watching very closely: the government in Libya says it's following the U.N.'s resolution, demanding a ceasefire, but opposition forces say that is a lie.

France is convening a meeting today in Paris of states that back the no-fly zone. Leaders are expected to coordinate efforts to enforce the U.N. resolution.

Meantime, on the ground, opposition forces say they are still under attack, despite Moammar Gadhafi's claim of observing a ceasefire. Witnesses tell CNN, casualties are mounting.

So, with the wheels in motion to enforce the no-fly zone, there's been a lot of speculation about what role the United States will play.

U.S. President Barack Obama is giving us a few hints as Karen Kiefer (ph) reports now from Washington.


KAREN KIEFER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Obama said on Friday that the U.S. cannot stand idle when it comes to Libya's civil war, but any action will be taken with the help of U.S. allies, not by American forces alone.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The change in the region will not and cannot be imposed by the United States or any foreign power. Ultimately, it will be driven by the people of the Arab world.

KIEFER: The remarks were the president's first since the U.N. Security Council voted to impose a no-fly zone over the country, prompting questions about the extent of U.S. involvement. Just hours later, Libya announced a ceasefire, promising a halt to attacks on anti-government rebels, but an opposition member in the coastal city of Misrata said the announcement had not stopped the fighting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just in the morning, we are under the bombing. This morning, they are burning the city.

KIEFER: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it is the actions of leader Moammar Gadhafi that will influence global response.

HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We will continue to work with our partners in the international community to press Gadhafi to leave and to support legitimate aspirations of the Libyan people.

KIEFER: Should Gadhafi remain resistant, the role of the U.S. in a military operation is a source of debate. Concerns include balancing possible intervention in Libya with remaining obligations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Gadhafi's unpredictability.

In Washington, I'm Karen Kiefer (ph).


ALLEN: Well, one retired U.S. general is worried President Obama's marching orders on the U.N.'s no-fly zone lack clarity. He spoke with CNN's Jonathan Mann.


BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT (RET), FMR. DEPUTY ASST. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Unfortunately, President Obama maybe making those pronouncements about what he wants Colonel Gadhafi to do. Colonel Gadhafi unfortunately had a vote in this process and I don't think he's particularly listening carefully to the president or balancing the consequences of what he wants to do. He may not believe our U.N. resolution to be credible. He may not believe our threats to be enforceable. And over the days and weeks ahead, it will be very important for us to demonstrate to Colonel Gadhafi that, in fact, we stand behind our words. That, in fact, we bring capability.

But there's a lot of clarity that's still needed for this mission and there's a lot of preparation that's still needed before this can be done effectively. This is not something that can be turned on a dime and be launched immediately. It takes preparation. It takes planning and it takes good, solid preparation in the battlefield before we kick this off.

JONATHAN MANN, CNN ANCHOR: Your words speak volumes. You talk about the need for more clarity. So, let me ask you: is it clear what the goal of the resolution is? Its aim -- its stated aim is to protect civilians.

But does that mean that everyone who voted for this and every military organization that takes part in it is going to let Colonel Gadhafi retake control of rebel-held areas as long as he doesn't punish civilians in the process, or are they saying that they were going to protect the rebels as well and keep the Gadhafi regime from regaining control?

KIMMITT: See, that's the lack of clarity that is confusing and confounding a number of those who watching, to include me. I'm not certain what our end game is. Are we looking at protecting or in fact, are we looking at regime change? Whether it's protecting civilians or whether it's regime change -- is the best means to achieve the goal a no-fly zone?

What I remain concerned about is the fact that our goals may be requiring a bit more than simply a no-fly zone. It will eventually creep in, I am concerned, into an air campaign against ground targets. And then, of course, it may require boots on the ground. Perhaps not U.S. boots on the ground.

But if you truly want to eject the forces of Libya out of the regions where the rebels are operating, a no-fly zone may prove to be insufficient. And probably will be insufficient if Colonel Gadhafi knows the only option he has is either fight or die.


ALLEN: Well, when we return, we go back to Japan and meet a family in a state of shock, digging out and coming to terms with unimaginable wreckage.


ALLEN: Japanese police have once again raised the official toll of victims from the massive earthquake and tsunami. Authorities on Saturday morning said more than 7,100 people are now confirmed dead. The reports of those missing since the earthquake now total almost 11,000.

It is difficult to imagine returning home after a disaster on this scale, only to find that your home, as you knew it, no longer exists.

CNN's Gary Tuchman joined one family as they went back for the first time since the earthquake struck.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is what many families along Japan's Pacific coast are coming home to. The Ichikawa family lives in the city of Hachinohe, two blocks from the ocean, where a wall of water devoured their neighborhood.

Now, with the help of friends, they try to clean up, but the task they have in front of them appears to be overwhelming.

(on camera): You can see the family's house is off of its foundation. How high did the water go? Here's the water line, all the way up there. That's at least 10 feet of water that came down this street.

You can see the mud. I mean it's insurmountable amount of mud to shovel just to clean up the driveway. And they don't know if they can be able to move back in this house, but they want to clean up, this family, and get an idea if it's possible to move back.

And it's so cold out right now. And the snow has come down again. What they've done is they put together this portable heater unit so they can work in to the night and not freeze.

(voice-over): Friends are helping with the physical work and psychological support.

Seventeen-year-old Ren (ph), his mother Chikaku (ph) and his father Hidemitsu are in a state of shock.

HIDEMITSU ICHIKAWA, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR (through translator): I have no words to express my feelings. I lost my mind. We will have to start from zero.

TUCHMAN: The nearby Pacific provides one of the great charms of living in the neighborhood, but now many of the homes are decimated. The ocean, they say, has turned against them.

(on camera): The city of Hachinohe has spent an enormous amount of money to build this elaborate series of sea walls, 30 feet tall to protect these neighborhoods from flooding. But not surprisingly, when the tsunami came, these walls made very little difference.

(voice-over): The Ichikawas have no idea how to even start figuring out whether they can even live in this house again.

ICHIKAWA (through translator): This is a nightmare, but we are alive.

TUCHMAN: And for that, they are grateful.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Hachinohe, Japan. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Well, relief agencies are working at fever-pitch to distribute aid to the hundreds of thousands of displaced people in Japan, like that family there. Transportation, of course, is still a big problem and the need is absolutely overwhelming.

Patrick Fuller is a spokesman for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent. He joins us now from Tokyo.

And, Patrick, I spoke with you last week. You were just trying to make your way to northeastern Japan at that point. What have you and your organization now been able to accomplish? And what are the challenges still?

PATRICK FULLER, RED CROSS/RED CRESCENT SOCIETIES: Well, there are many challenges, that's for sure. I mean, the weather being one of them. It's been snowing solidly up in the northeast, which is obviously hampered access to some of these areas and curtailed a lot of search and rescue efforts.

The cold is a real issue, particularly for thousands of people in evacuation centers, many of whom are elderly. But from the Red Cross' perspective, we have between 700 and 1,000 Japanese Red Cross medical personnel out there running mobile clinics in the evacuation centers.

So, that's our primary focus to help survivors of the disaster.

ALLEN: And I know that the area around the evacuation area, near the nuclear power plant, even has -- even more challenges for you because there's so much crowding with evacuees. Are you overwhelmed in that area?

FULLER: Not yet. I mean, there are two Red Cross teams working in the evacuation centers around Fukushima and it's a challenge. I mean, we got a call yesterday saying from one of the teams, they were in one of the centers, the sports stadium and there's 2,400 people there and they simply can't cope. So, they called up for reinforcement, so another team is going to go in there.

ALLEN: It's really unbelievable the numbers that we're talking about. And you probably have no idea how long you will have to maintain these shelters.

FULLER: Well, absolutely. I mean, it's the government's responsibility primarily to run the shelters, to supply them with food and water. But it's our job to provide the medical supplies. And it's a massive challenge. I mean, we got teams coming from all over Japan, Red Cross teams from different corners of the country that come on a four-day rotation, they leave and another team takes over.

And as I said earlier, the big concern is some of these elderly patients many of them who have chronic conditions and need specialized care, special medication. So, it's a real concern as to how we meet the needs of this kind of group.

ALLEN: Is there any work to try to get them to better facilities or to hospitals or medical clinics in other places in Japan?

FULLER: Yes, indeed. I mean, I was speaking to the head of a local council in one place we went, in Otsuchi, which was totally flattened. I think about half of the population is still missing. Most of the remaining population are in these shelter, and he was concerned about the lack of ambulances to get people away to hospitals.

And I think, you know, the government is certainly looking at plans as to the next step, where can people be housed properly, looking at relocating into other towns further inland.

ALLEN: Well, thank goodness for the work you and so many people are doing, because that man we spoke with a minute ago when he said I have no words to express my feelings, I have lost my mind and no idea how to rebuild -- and we can just imagine what you are up against dealing with people that are so hopeless right now.

Thank you very much and good luck to you.

FULLER: Thank you.

ALLEN: And for our viewers, if you are wondering what you can do to help victims in Japan, just pick up your phone. CNN is launching a new high-tech way for smartphone users around the world to take immediate action to help disaster victims in Japan. Throughout our coverage, we'll show you special black and white codes like that one you see on the screen right now.

If you scan this image with your smartphone, you are probably used to doing things like that now. 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 will air this code throughout the day on CNN. So, please, keep your smartphones handy and charged.

And that is it for this edition of WORLD REPORT. I'm Natalie Allen. I'll be back with more news in 30 minutes. "Voices from Japan" is next on CNN and the headlines.


ALLEN: And hello again. I'm Natalie Allen. Here are the world's top stories.

We are keeping tabs on Japan's fight to help that nuclear plant. They brought in a new super pumper -- that's the latest -- to help spray tons of water on overheated nuclear fuel rods. They say the automated pumper can deliver seawater continuously up to seven hours without a human operator. So, that's what they are doing right now.

Now to Libya where the Libyan government says it is observing a U.N.-ordered ceasefire but opposition forces in the country say they are still under attack and casualties are mounting.

All the while in Paris, members of the no-fly zone coalition will meet on how to enforce it, which may include airstrikes in Libya.

It was the site of massive anti-government protests in Bahrain. Now, it is rubble. Bahraini authorities said they demolished the Pearl monument to, quote, "improve the infrastructure." The U.S. and human rights groups are protesting the arrest of opposition figures there.

And in Yemen, at least 40 people have been killed, more than 100 hurt in clashes between protesters and security forces. This happened after Friday prayers when tens of thousands protested in the Yemeni capital of Sana'a. President Saleh has declared a state of emergency.

And those are the headlines. I'm Natalie Allen.

"VOICE FROM JAPAN" starts right now on CNN. We'll have more news in 30 minutes.