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Allied Air strikes Hit 20 Libyan Air Defense Systems; The Pressure in Reactor Three at the Damaged Nuclear Power Plant in Japan Has Come Back Down

Aired March 20, 2011 - 04:00   ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: The international community strikes out at Moammar Gadhafi. Air strikes and cruise missiles slam into Libya. Libya TV claims the strikes hit civilians, reports CNN cannot confirm.

And we continue to follow the nuclear crisis in Japan, as the pressure rises inside the reactor at the stricken Fukushima plant.

We want to welcome viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Natalie Allen at CNN Center, and this is CNN WORLD REPORT.

Warnings ignored, the time for talk now over. Coalition forces are taking action to try and stop Libya's leader from attacking his people. Officials say allied planes and missiles have taken out about 20 Libyan air and missile defense targets since Saturday.

Here you can see the skies lit up with anti-aircraft fire. Libyan officials say civilians are paying a heavy price. The military reports 48 dead and more than 150 injuries. CNN has not been able to confirm those figures.

U.S. officials say they will assess the damage done so far in Libya.

But Gadhafi isn't known for giving in to international pressure. As expected, he remains defiant. He says other nations have no right to intervene in Libya's internal affairs. Gadhafi spoke on Libyan state TV soon after the allied attacks.


MOAMMAR GADHAFI, LIBYAN LEADER (through translator): Libya will exercise its right to defend itself according to Section I of the United Nations Charter. That all targets -- maritime targets will be exposed to real danger in the Mediterranean -- were the Mediterranean and North Africa. Because of this aggression -- naked aggression, and this irresponsible action. It's a war zone.


ALLEN: Moammar Gadhafi there on state TV. We want and try and find out what is happening in Libya right now. A Tripoli resident joins us on the line, but we will not identify her for safety reasons.

Ma'am, thank you for talking with us and can you give us an idea of what you've witnessed and what is going on there today in Tripoli? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, good morning. Right now, things seem to be quiet. Nothing's going on.

But last night around 11:00, we heard the first strikes here in Tripoli, and they were very loud. It shook the house. We were estimating the smoke was coming from 10 kilometers away from the house. Then we heard two more strikes around 3:00 right after each other.

Five minutes later, there was another strike. Same thing that was happening. We looked out in the distance, and there were anti- aircraft machine guns being shot out in the air, trying to hit the airplanes down.

Of course, we know -- of course, these are U.N. trying to hit the military force bases. Other than that we cannot recall anything else going on.

ALLEN: I was having difficulty hearing you. Did you say you saw smoke also last night when you looked out?


ALLEN: Did you say you saw smoke outside as well?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, we did see smoke. We were estimating that it was coming -- it was about ten kilometers away from the house. The direction -- we were thinking it was either one of the army bases and also the other (INAUDIBLE) Mantiga (ph), coming out of Mantiga Base.

ALLEN: Without any knowledge of how long this could go on, what -- looking outside now, what's it like on the streets of Tripoli today?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are not out in the streets. Everybody's staying indoors. We received a phone call around 3:00 a.m. that everyone should head out in the streets. Around five thousand people were waiting to be given -- these are just normal civilians that are being able to have machine guns, anti-aircraft machine guns, anything that was given to them, to fire back at these airplanes.

ALLEN: That was provided to regular citizens?


ALLEN: How are you feeling now? Are you afraid in your home?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are fearful. Any time we hear those strikes, it sounds like it could be able to hit the home, but we're not sure. We're just waiting on anything to happen. We're hoping this will end very soon.

ALLEN: All right. We thank you. We hope for your safety. We thank you so much, ma'am, for talking with us and giving us that information very much. Thank you.

The Pentagon says the coalition is softening up Libyan positions before beginning enforcement of the no-fly zone. CNN's John King takes a look at what is a arrayed against Gadhafi and how it's being used. Here he is.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: It is called Operation Odyssey Dawn. The initial targets mostly along the northern Libyan coastline. Why? Those, of course, are the major cities, the major oil gas installations, and, of course, the political capital Tripoli. But the reason those targets were along the coast in the early days is because this is where Moammar Gadhafi has his most powerful weaponry that could be used -- could be used against coalition pilots.

The purple circles, S-200. In U.S. military lingo, S-5. NATO call them Russian-made surface to air missiles with a range of about 150 miles. Those were the biggest targets in the initial strikes. And those will continue to be targeted.

The smaller circles, other surface to air missiles, anti-aircraft batteries that Gadhafi has at his disposal. Again, those will be the top targets early on because of their ability to shoot down coalition planes.

Now, they were targeted. First, there were some firings from French fighter jets. But most of this was done -- the bulk of this was done using cruise missiles.

We can show you where they come from. They came from offshore. The USS Florida, the USS Providence, the USS Scranton, three submarines in the United States Navy that carry Tomahawk Cruise missiles. A British sub also took part.

The Guided Missile Destroyers the USS Barry and the USS Stout also taking part in the operation from the Mediterranean. What do they all have in common? They fire the Tomahawk Cruise Missile.

You see this photo taking off from the USS Barry. Here's what a Tomahawk looks like. It's programmed on the sub or on the ship. It flies low to the ground.

There is a newer version that has an optics package so it can hover over a target and be programmed and then take off. We are told, in the initial wave, all of the programming was done back on the ship or in the sub. That is an option that could be used heading forward.

Again, the cruise missiles came from the Barry and the Stout. But there are other U.S. ships in the Mediterranean, an amphibious assault ship, although the president has said under no circumstances would troops, including Marines, go ashore, command control ship the Mount Whitten (ph), very important in the early days of the operation, and an amphibious transport dock the Ponce, also there to help support the operation.

Those are among the U.S. ships. There are also a number of Canadian, British ships in the area. We know in the days ahead a French carrier is also coming in from Toulon. The French Aircraft Carrier Charles de Gaulle.

Those French jets that launched the first strikes, they came from up here in France. If you look at this map, this is the Libyan coast right down in here. This is where this operation will be run from in the days ahead. A number of NATO and U.S. installations in Italy, a U.S. Naval Air Station in Spain as well.

This is where all the assets will be coordinated in the days ahead. As we are told the operations that began in the first wave will continue, especially targeting along the coast in the early days. Then when the no-fly zone kicks in, not only will the United States, Canada, Spain, France, Italy and Great Britain take part; we're also told to look for Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to use their air force to help enforce that no-fly zone over Libya.


ALLEN: John King there with the coalition assets. Gadhafi's military claims 50 people, including women and children, were killed in Saturday night's attacks. There is no independent confirmation of that.

Earlier on Saturday, world powers gathered in Paris to figure out how to enforce the no-fly zone. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said everything hinges on protecting Libya's civilians.


HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: So let me just underscore the key point: this is a broad international effort. The world will not sit idly by while more innocent civilians are killed. The United States will support our allies and partners as they move to enforce Resolution 1973.

We are standing with the people of Libya, and we will not waver in our efforts to protect them.


ALLEN: Let's get more on Europe's response to Libya and what's happening. We have our Jim Boulden standing by in London. But first let's go to Paris and senior international correspondent Jim Bittermann.

Jim, what's the reaction there in Paris?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Natalie. Well, we are not seeing a whole lot yet this morning. But, in fact, one things we have seen overnight, after the decision was taken yesterday, is a fairly wide consensus across the political community here on both sides of the aisle.

There seems to be pretty widespread agreement politically that this is justified. In fact, a number of people have complimented the French on the success themselves of their diplomatic aplomb at putting this coalition together, because, in fact, it was put together fairly quickly. And the French were the driving force behind this.

So I think -- from that standpoint, I think there's a wide agreement about things. Now, as this goes on, it may or may not be popular here, depending. We saw a poll -- the last time we saw a poll, not especially an accurate poll, an Internet in poll a couple of weeks ago that indicated the vast majority of the French did not want their country involved in a war with Libya, any kind of air strikes or anything else.

However, like I say, there hasn't been an accurate poll done any time recently. So that could change as well, especially once French troops are committed.

One of the things that's interesting is that the foreign minister here, Alan Jupai (ph), seemed to be preparing the French somewhat for a long involvement here yesterday when he said that, in fact, there should be no hope that Gadhafi is just going to collapse, that the regime is going to collapse. It could take some time before the rebels are able to bring that about.


ALLEN: It will be interesting to see how long this does take, whatever the end will be. Jim Bittermann in Paris.

Now let's go to Jim Boulden in London. Same question for you, Jim. Reaction to Britain being involved with this.

JIM BOULDEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, I think it's fair to say the opposition parties here have been supporting what Prime Minister David Cameron has been doing, really taking a lead in many ways on the U.N. resolution to begin with.

Also, the British people are waking this morning to find out that it was a two-pronged attack so far last night. We knew that it was Tomahawk Missiles fired from a submarine during the Saturday evening, but then we found late Saturday night that also cruise missiles were fired from Tornados that had flown out of an air base in Norfolk, north of London.

Now, these Tornadoes had flown some 3,000 miles round trip to Libya and back. And the Royal Air Force is saying this is the longest bombing raid that these planes have had since the Falklands War in 1992. So you can see the kind of assets being used by the British.

Also, they say that they also have a number of other planes standing by if necessary. As I said, David Cameron came out last night of Number 10 and made a very strong statement, saying this was necessary, this was legal, and this was right. Natalie?

ALLEN: All right, Jim Boulden for us, another perspective there from London, as this assault on Libya begins. Thank you.

Tomahawk missiles fired from allies ships hit Libya's defense targets. We will talk with an expert on Libya's politics, and ask him why he thinks enforcing a no-fly zone could prove very effective. That's next.


ALLEN: Explosions and anti-aircraft fire, thunder in the skies above Tripoli. It's not yet clear if Sunday morning's attack resulted from another round of cruise missiles fired by allies determined to stop Libya's leader.

A defiant Moammar Gadhafi says Libya will fight back against what he calls naked aggression.

Shashank Joshi of the think tank Royal United Services Institute calls the U.N. resolution authorizing the mission against Gadhafi historic. So who is in charge.

Let's ask him. He joins from our London studios. Mr. Joshi, thank you for being with us.

So who is in charge and what do you think -- what's your assessment of the early on of this assault on Gadhafi's military?

SHASHANK JOSHI, UNITED SERVICES INSTITUTE: Well, command of this operation has begun with United States' command, apparently African command. And the bulk of the cruise missiles launched yesterday were launched by the Americans, although some by the British.

Now that's going to evolve, because every sign coming out of Washington suggests there is a desperation to distance the United States from this and put the Europeans and ideally the Arab States in the driving seat. There's an intense concern about perception. And that's going to govern how these operations are conducted in the coming weeks.

ALLEN: And now that this has started, you say weeks. You see this happening for weeks, with the end goal being what? To take out Moammar Gadhafi, just to keep him pushed back from areas where civilians have been fighting him?

JOSHI: Well, so many of these international interventions in the past have begun with the expectation they will last a matter of days. The targeted air strikes and patrolled zones will not only save civilians, but also cause the government to fall precipitously. That's almost never been the case. And it's exceedingly unlikely to be the case here.

So I certainly see a prolonged effort to degrade Gadhafi's forces, stop him from attacking civilians. But even once that's achieved, there's no stable outcome.

Who's to say we don't see two Libyas divided, each in controlled by a different party, upheld by a precarious international coalition who doesn't really have the stomach for an extended commitment. How does that end?

ALLEN: That's the question. You mentioned that the U.S. not wanting to take a lead in this. Why is that? JOSHI: Well, a host of reasons. They spent the past ten years engaged in two prolonged, bloody and expensive wars in the Middle East and Central Asia. And in addition to that, they have judged that those wars and civilian casualties in those wars have fueled anti- American sentiment and fueled extremism, causing terrorism against the United States.

So there's a sense that, although there's a humanitarian objective, and the United States should be part of this effort, it should not be at the forefront. And it should be led ideally with a certain degree of Arab cover, to show this is not a crusade, this is not an imperial venture, but this is a widespread, multilateral effort to oust a seriously repressive leader.

ALLEN: And speaking of Gadhafi, what tactics might he try and use to gain support against this coalition attack, if much of his military is taken out? What could he do?

JOSHI: Certainly. Well, there are two sorts of tactics I think we'd expect to see. First of all, he'll consolidate his own support. And there's a propaganda war that is already under way. Gadhafi has claimed extensive civilian casualties.

Now, cruise missiles and air strikes do cause civilian casualties. There's no denying that. But the numbers will be exaggerated and the scope will be used to paint the interveners as sort of aggressors and belligerents.

And second, by forcing civilian casualties, by trying to down western planes, by killing civilians, he will try and force a greater and greater commitment, thereby breaking up the coalition by splitting up its committed members like Britain and France from its more uncommitted members like perhaps Washington or the Arab states.

And he'll try to split that group of states and make them weak in their resolve for a long campaign.

ALLEN: We hope to speak to you again as this pushes on, Shashank Joshi of the think tank Royal United Services Institute. Thank you very much.

JOSHI: Of course.

ALLEN: Well, nine days after the devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, workers at a nuclear power plant are still trying to bring it under control. We will show you also ahead new video of the tsunami taken out at sea. That's ahead.


ALLEN: Just when you think you've seen a tsunami at every angle, we have a new one. Look at this. Video taken aboard a Japanese Coast Guard vessel. There it is going over the wave, shows the captain steering the ship directly it into the giant tsunami caused by the massive off shore earthquake. There it is. We're showing it to you twice. What that crew must have been thinking as it geese right over the top of the wave, as they saw it heading for shore as well, knowing there was precious little time for anyone back on shore to get to safety.

And there's been more unsettling developments from Japan's nuclear power complex today. For the latest developments, Brian Todd joins me live now from Tokyo.

Brian, where are they in trying to control this and trying to get the power back on?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, the effort goes up and down as far as their efforts to fight off a possible nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. What we know now is that today, Sunday, there was pressure in that most troubled of the reactors.

That's reactor number three. Pressure in that reactor today. They considered forcing open some holes to relieve that pressure, let some of the gas or even possible radioactivity out, just in order to prevent an explosion.

But fortunately, the pressure did recede, so they did not need to force any openings in that number three reactor. This is the reactor that has caused them the most trouble. It's got the exposed fuel rods. It's been heating up and there have been fires at this reactor all week long.

They've been spraying it with water continuously for days. That actually had some success on Saturday when it cooled down a bit. But, again, this particular reactor and its situation just kind of ebbs and flows by the day.

There's one positive development regarding the electricity hook-up. They've gotten lines through -- electric lines through to reactors one and two. That means if those electric lines work, they might be able to pump water in with those into some of these reactors and not have to spray. That would be a good development, of course.

They're check whether -- to see whether those lines actually work.

Another key component in all of this is the effect on the food supply in that surrounding area. We've been reporting that some abnormally high levels of radiation were detected in milk and spinach supplies in Fukushima Prefecture.

Officials have said today they're trying to give the public some perspective and prevent widespread panic. Trying to appeal to the public to understand that these levels, while they were abnormally high, are still far below the standard of concern where they would think that there's a grave public health threat.

They're trying to make people realize that. They say they will decide by Monday whether to ban consumption and shipment of those particular products from that area. Natalie?

ALLEN: Much going on as the crisis continues. Brian Todd for us live in Tokyo. Thank you, Brian.

While the authorities try to get the situation at the power plant under control, many people in regions devastated by the tsunami are trying to pick up the pieces of their lives. Kyung Lah sent us this report from the village of Kamaichi.


KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The question for people in the tsunami zone more than a week after the tsunami is how do you rebuild from this?

(on camera): This appears to have been a residential area, right near the downtown, a fishing village. If you take a look through this rubble, what towns people are trying to do is figure out what they can salvage.

But there's not really very much. You can see utensils. There's damaged cars all along the background. As far as you can see, this downtown is no longer a town and neither are the houses.

As you can see, there are cars inside this house. There's even a vending machine.

It's simply overwhelming if you live here.

Another part that's overwhelming for this town is still trying to locate the dead and the missing. At the town center, people are still registering the missing. They have signs posted all over the walls. It's almost like wallpaper. It's messages saying, have you seen my father? Have you seen my elderly grandparents?

And the question is not if they have survived, but if they have survived the tsunami, have they been found somewhere else? Are they some place where they simply haven't located them yet.

It's not a question now of whether or not they I've lived through the tsunami. It's a matter of miscommunication. So this town now trying to rebuild, figuring out what they can do next.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Kamaichi, Japan.


ALLEN: And the storm surge advisories continue for parts of coastal Japan as high tides move in. Ivan Cabrera, our meteorologist, is watching that part of the story for us. Ivan?

IVAN CABRERA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, we've added that angle, unfortunately. We continue to monitor conditions that are not terrible right now, but every time the tide comes in, they are going to have some minor splash over, because literally Japan has sunk 1.2 meters.

Let's check in on the winds, though. Important that they now have decided not to vent steam from reactor three. And that's key because that radioactive steam would be blown inland, as opposed to offshore, because our winds have now switched directions on us here.

So anything on the ground, whether it be radioactive material or smoke or anything really, is going to blow inland with that onshore flow. That will continue, mind you, heading into the next 12 hours.

Not only will we have easterly winds, but things are changing on us as well as far as the weather. You see the front moving in? That's going to bring some rain. In fact, within the next few hours, we'll begin to see the rain moving in to Sendai.

And then we're going to see some colder temperatures move in. As that happens, and leftover moisture here on the back side of this -- now our computer model forecast beginning to hint now at a little bit of a mix, perhaps some light accumulations as far as snow in Sendai. That would happen in about 48 hours.

We'll continue to monitor that. Accumulations would not be as significant as they were when we first had the earthquake, of course, with upwards of 18 centimeters in some area here.

The rain continues over the next few days. Temperatures are going to turn cooler and not dramatically so, but certainly cooler than they have been. We have been in the mid teens. Now we're going for temperatures below average. This time of year, we should be about ten degrease.


ALLEN: Ivan, thank you.

If anyone wants to help people in Japan, we can make it easier for you to do that. You can find a list of vetted charities on our website. It is being updated daily with information about organization responding to the disaster. Just log on to

I'm Natalie Allen at CNN Center. The headlines are next.