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Japan Slammed by 8.9 Magnitude Quake; Tsunami Waves Follow

Aired March 11, 2011 - 02:00   ET


IVAN CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Those are the initial arrival times of the first tsunami wave. There could be additional waves and if you're watching this from places that are under a watch and I didn't name you that is because you have several hours to prepare yourselves. We'll continue to update this list as that initial wave continues to get closer, Rosemary.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Ivan, we're looking at these pictures. We can see something is ablaze there on the ground as this very strange wave of mud and debris with boats included and cars and all sorts of thing.

It is when you see something like this unfold before your very eyes. There is nowhere to run when you have something like that coming so fast towards you. And of course, you know, it appears to be fairly slow when you're looking aerially. But if you're on the ground and that is moving at such a fast speed. You can see the boat there, unbelievable.

CABRERA: It's unbelievable pictures. There is a building or a couple buildings that are on fire and are moving with this tsunami. It is just something you have never seen before and there is a pretty big vessel there getting pushed ashore.

The one good thing that I'm seeing here, there are homes now in the way, but generally if you've noticed, Rosemary, this has been through farmland. There's that fire that I've been talking about, a moving blaze along the tsunami. It's just unbelievable stuff here.

CHURCH: Ivan, I'm getting word there is some sound here. Let's just pause for a moment and just have a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Live coverage in the Sendai area north of Japan. For those of you who just tuned into NHK World, a major earthquake hit Japan Friday afternoon about an hour ago, 1:10 ago. Japan's meteorological agency says the quake measured magnitude 8.4. They have revised it upwards to 8.4.

The agency has issued a tsunami warning for Japan's Pacific coast. The tsunami waves of up to four meters were observed soon after the quake. The agency is warning that the tsunami could reach between six and ten meters.

We're getting reports of several buildings on fire. We don't know the exact amount of damage at this time, but we are soon to get a report from the Japan's meteorological agency. They are setting up to find out the extent of the damage. All transportation systems in Tokyo as well as northern Japan have been stopped. Airports closed in Tokyo as well as Narita Airport.

A great earthquake has hit Japan, a magnitude 8.4 in northern Japan. The agency has been warning the tsunami ever since the quake and a tsunami has hit the Miyagi Sendai area as our live helicopter camera crew are up covering and showing you exactly what is going on at this time.

The deputy chief cabinet secretary told reporters on Friday that the governor of Miyagi Prefecture where it has hit hardest has asked the government to send self-defense force units to deal with the situation and aid the situation. The defense ministry officials say south defense force personnel are currently contacting local governments and related agency to assess the extent of the damage.

Earlier Prime Minister Kan and his cabinet ministers have gathered at the prime minister's office where an emergency task force has been set up to respond to the earthquake. The task force will gather information on damage and prepare for more possible tsunamis. Japan's Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto has ordered his officials to start preparing for accept foreign assistance.

He has also told them to check on the safety of foreigners living here in Japan. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has issued a tsunami warning, not just for Japan, but also for Russia, Marques Island, the northern Marianas, Guam, Wake Island and Taiwan. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has issued a tsunami warning not just for Japan where a tsunami has already struck.

You can see some of the damages so far in Miyagi Prefecture, northern Japan in the Sendai area, but also for Russia, Marques Island, the northern Marianas, Guam, Wake Island and Taiwan. For those of you who have just tuned in and living anywhere close to the coastal areas of Russia, Marques Island, Northern Marianas, Guam Wake Island and Taiwan, please, do not go near the waters. Move to higher ground as soon as possible.

You're watching NHK World. A major earthquake hit Japan Friday afternoon. This happened about an hour and 20 minutes ago. Japan's meteorological agency says the quake measured a magnitude 8.4. The agency has issued a tsunami warning for Japan's Pacific coast.

In northern Japan, tsunami waves up to four meters were observed soon after the quake. The agency is warning that the tsunami could be between six and ten meters. You're seeing some of the tsunami damage so far in Miyagi Prefecture in the Sendai area where some of the homes and farms have been flooded.

With the tsunami went upstream the river. According to the transport ministry, the airport has reopened two of its four runways. Haneda International Airport has reopened two of its four runways. The airport had earlier closed all runways. Haneda International airport has reopened two of its four runways. The Japan Road Traffic Information Center, the Japan Road Traffic Information Center and police say expressways around Tokyo and northeastern Japan have been closed.

The Japan Road Traffic Information Center and police say express ways around Tokyo and northeastern Japan have been closed. According to Toshiba elevator, it assumes that most elevators came to a halt in the region affected by the disaster. At the moment, the company has been collecting information about mechanical troubles.

The industry minister's nuclear and industrial safety agency has put into place an emergency center for the earthquake. It will collect information concerning damages caused by the earthquake to nuclear power plants around the country.

For those of you who have just tuned in to NHK World, you're seeing live coverage of Miyagi Prefecture in the Sendai area where a tsunami has struck. A major earthquake hit Japan on Friday afternoon. Japan's meteorological agency says the quake measured magnitude 8.4.

CHURCH: Listening there to NHK coverage there in Japan, they keep talking about an 8.4. Of course, what we're dealing with here is an 8.9 magnitude quake, a great quake. I want to make a point to. I've actually received a tweet here from a person who is in Japan.

I've asked them and sent them a tweet to ask for their numbers so we can talk to them, but they're saying frequent aftershocks, a first time in my life in Japan. So this is a traveler, a tourist in Japan who is tweeting to me.

And anyone else who is in Japan who wants to send a tweet, please take the time. Feel free if it is safe at rosemarycnn. So, you know, do get online if you can and send a Twitter.

Let's go back to these pictures. Get that sound turned down in my ear if you don't mind. It's a little distracting. Thanks so much. Now, we're looking at all of this debris on the ground there just moving right across Japan coming from the coastal areas.

We see the boats. We see cars. We see mud, all the debris moving through there. Thankfully a lot of this is farming area. But it is moving into some buildings there and we saw some blaze on the ground. I want to go back to Ivan Cabrera to see what additional information Ivan has. What are you finding out? What are you learning now?

CABRERA: We just had another major earthquake offshore out of Japan, a 7.1 which would be devastating enough certainly shallow over enough and closer to the shore. Some of these folks in these farmlands and some in these buildings have no idea what is happening right now. They are perhaps 100 plus kilometers away from the shore and they are seeing on a sunny day in Japan, this coming in. Unless you're watching TV and unless you're listening to the radio, you won't have an idea what's coming up here. So this is where we get the casualties, folks not aware of what's coming and not able to reach higher ground. Unfortunately, the tragic thing is we're seeing that wave of mud and debris and buildings and fire just encompass some of those homes there and we hope they're empty.

But certainly some of them probably are not, rosemary. There you see the initial wave coming in. Also we want to keep monitoring folks in the back, the shoreline. Again, this is not happened once. We're talking about a tsunami that comes in.

The first initial wave and then another wave and perhaps even a third wave after that with an 8.9 great earthquake. That shallow, that close to the shore. There are going to be more tsunamis coming in. So we'll have to watch that very closely there. That doesn't look good there. You see the breakers there, an ongoing threat. So this is going to be historic indeed.

CHURCH: And where people can and of course, it very difficult. You need to get to higher ground. In any of those countries we've mentioned, any of the coastal areas, you need to move and you need to move quickly and get to higher ground.

I've got Matt on the line now and he's talking to us from Tokyo. He was there, of course, when this earthquake hit now an 8.9 magnitude quake. Matt Alt, tell us about the situation for you when this magnitude 8.9 hit.

MATT ALT, TOKYO QUAKE WITNESS (via telephone): It was absolutely unlike anything I've ever experienced before. I've been living here for eight years now and this was quite simply biggest, longest lasting earthquake I've ever experienced here.

CHURCH: That's it. Because, Kyung Lah, our reporter there was saying she thought it was four to five minutes. Was that your sense as well?

ALT: Yes, the ground was rolling for an extended period of time. I wasn't exactly sure what to do or where to go. We've never been prepared for anything like this. My wife and I stood outside and basically held on to the outside of our house.

You couldn't even stand up. I mean, literally at the peak of these waves that were washing over the ground, you literally could not stay on your feet. You have to crouch down in a ball or put your back against something so you didn't fall. That's exactly what we did for the length, the duration of it, which I would say it was about probably a minute to two minutes and felt like it was a lot longer than that let me tell you.

CHURCH: Indeed, are you saying that you live there? You're actually traveling there?

ALT: I actually live here. I've lived here for the last eight years and I live on the west side of the city in a little section of Tokyo. And yes, there are earthquakes from time to time, but we've never, ever felt anything on the literal magnitude of what we experienced today.

CHURCH: That's exactly the story we're hearing. Matt, as we are talking, we're looking at this extraordinary wave, another tsunami wave moving toward the Japanese coast. Where are you located? Are you away from any threat of tsunami coming ashore?

ALT: Yes. We're very fortunately located quite far inland. Of course, there are rivers and streams around here, but those aren't being affected by the tsunami. We're kind of -- I would say we're a good 10 to 15 miles away from coastline so we don't have to worry about that where we are.

But with the footage that we're seeing, the video that we're seeing on the television screens is just absolutely, it is heart-wrenching, actually. Because you know that probably a lot of those people did not have a chance to evacuate before the wave hit.

Even though they were telling people, you need to get away from the shorelines. You need to get away from the water. Just watching this wave hit and cars and buildings and houses being swept away and I think we're going to see a significant number of casualties especially in the northern part of the country where the quake was epicentered.

CHURCH: And as you mentioned, you've been there a number of years. I do have to apologize because someone was actually talking in my ear when you mentioned the number of years that you've been there. How long did you say you've been there?

ALT: I've been here for eight years. My wife is Japanese. She's lived here most of her life. I can tell you this was something neither of us, we were completely unprepared for this. It was a beautiful spring day. It was sunny outside. I had just come home from a little errand to the grocery store and all of a sudden, bam.

It just hit. You could tell this was different instantly from other little tremors that we've had before. I mean, it just picked up intensely. It rammed up, the gentle shaking and things started falling off the shelves. Things started falling off our desks.

You could hear this strange eerie creaking sound of all the buildings all around us as they were kind of shaken by the tremor of the ground. It was something I hope I never have to hear again. But unfortunately, we keep getting aftershocks. We've had three or four so far. There's probably going to be other ones as well.

CHURCH: And the reality, I mean, living in Japan, this is something that you're very used to. But as you say and of course as people who have lived there all their lives, they know when this is different and this felt very different.

ALT: It absolutely did. I think this is going to be a tremor to remember so to speak. I think people are going to be talking about this for a long time to come because really Tokyo hasn't seen anything like this in decades, more than half a century. CHURCH: And matt, you mentioned your wife is Japanese. So for her presumably, when this quake hit, she was no doubt a little calmer, perhaps, than you were because she would be used to this situation. What did she say to you?

ALT: Absolutely. You know, the first thing she said was to open up all the doors and the windows just in case. You know, Japanese people have been trained for this contingency since they were children because it is such an earthquake prone country.

The first thing she said was leave the windows and doors open because just in case the building shifts, you don't want to get trapped when the doors get caught in the door jams. We also brought our shoes in the house with us, which is something in Japan you never do. You never bring your shoes in with you. We brought them inside because in case there was broken glass or something like that to be able to get out.

She was the one who said get down, get down on the ground, get down in the corner, put your back against something and wait for the tremors to subside before trying to stand up and walk around so you don't hit your head. She was the cool headed voice of reason during this. I was pretty much running around like a chicken with my head cut off.

CHURCH: The calming influence of a wife that's very much needed certainly in a situation like this. So as we speak, we are continuing to look at these aerial shots. We saw that gigantic wave hitting again towards the coast. We've probably witnessed in live TV and all of our global audience and people in the U.S. have witnessed this.

We've watched it unfold, which I can't remember a situation where this ever occurred, where you actually see this unfold. And of course, Japan and the journalists there are used to covering these things. They have their cameras trained on all these critical shot like the tsunami waves coming to shore.

I don't know if you can talk to some of the pictures we saw a little earlier. We saw all of this mud and debris with boats and cars moving across a farm area. Now I don't know if you were able to talk to that at all. What can you say and tell us about that?

ALT: The earthquake, the epicenter of the earthquake as far as I understand it was in a prefecture called Iwate, which is several hundred kilometers north of Tokyo. And I think the footage we're seeing largely of these waves of debris, it is almost like a monster movie.

Seeing this stuff wiping out entire sections of the coastline is all generally from that area. Also, Hokkaido, the northern most island of Japan is taking a major hit and we've been seeing a lot of footage of what is washing over farmland and other places near to the coastline.

There has even been some really heart-wrenching footage of cars racing away from the water. Unfortunately, we don't know if those people made it away or not. Just watching it, it really is almost, it is terrifying. It is really terrifying. And there are scattered reports --

CHURCH: Please, go on. I wanted to make the point that's what's disturbing about covering this. As we look at the pictures, we must not forget that there are people there on the ground when these waves of mud and debris sweep over the land and this is a big problem.

We don't know the casualties at this point, but of course, that we will learn a little later maybe perhaps even hours from now. But Matt, going back to your description, it is quite extraordinary what you're able to reveal to us as we cover this story.

ALT: Immediately after the first tremors subsided, we went and we turned on the TV because all of the channels immediately switched to earthquake coverage. Official earthquake coverage when something like this happens.

So everybody was told, you could hear on all the TVs, making announcements on the street over loud speakers to get away to evacuate if you're anywhere near water, if you're anywhere near that sort of area, to get away from it.

And it is, we either, there were several minutes before the water actually hit. They can predict it with very, very high degree of accuracy and so there is a good hope, at least I hope that many of the people watching TV and heard about this and know about tsunamis from living in that area were able to evacuate the shorelines.

But you can't tell. When you see thing like cars being swept away in the water, is there somebody in there? I mean, that's something that is weighing on all of our minds right now.

CHURCH: And something that struck me, Matt, when I was talking to our reporter, Kyung Lah, in Tokyo was the time, the delay between the earthquake hitting and the final decision to evacuate people from an underground area.

From the subways there which I found striking. Anywhere else, there wouldn't necessarily be that delay and would you move very quickly. Is that because people are so used to earthquakes hitting that it takes them a little while to assess whether this is a deadly one and they need to move quickly.

ALT: You know, I think absolutely that Japanese people are more attuned to earthquakes. They're more used to it certainly than I was where I grew up on the east coast of the United States, we don't have much in the way of earthquakes.

And they tend to take it in stride a little bit more, but this was larger than anyone expected. It went on for longer than anyone expected and I think there is a high degree of self-sufficiency among people here especially with regards to earthquakes.

Just as my wife showed where she was cool headed and had all of these techniques for dealing with an earthquake hitting, I'm sure that even long before an official announcement to evacuate, people who felt these tremors would absolutely have some sense of what to do and begin to leave the areas.

The real danger right now I believe is that tsunamis that are hitting. I'm looking at the footage right now of the Sendai airport up north, which has been completely inundated. It is completely underwater right now, all of the runways and the buildings are filling with water from what I can see on TV.

So this is a major, major hit to Japan's infrastructure. I haven't heard anything about what's going on with the subways or anything downtown. I know that they are prone in some cases to being filled with water in the event of a tsunami hitting, but I haven't seen or heard any reports of that. But certainly up nor and all of the coastal areas are taking a major, major hit right now.

CHURCH: And Matt, of course, we know as we've discussed that the Japanese are very used to these earthquakes. The cities are built to withstand major earthquakes. What sort of measures are in place to deal with tsunamis on the ground there?

ALT: Well, there are actually quite a few. Most places that are tsunami prone, most of the cities have large walls that are built around them, the townships. Even small places have large flood gates and things like that.

Tokyo has a very, Tokyo has an extremely elaborate system of flood gates that are used to divert tsunami waters. So I think there is actually a high chance that there is going to be less casualties than there might otherwise be in places that don't have these sorts of measures in place.

But Japan has known about the threats of tsunamis for a very, very long time and there is almost no case that I can think of where a coastal city is not behind some kind of wall or built atop some kind of abutment to bring it far higher than the level of -- of sea level.

That's what's so frightening about these photos because the waters look to be overwhelming a lot of these measures that have been put in place and I don't think this is any kind of statement about ill preparedness.

I think it is just a testament to how powerful this earthquake was and how powerful the tsunami is. It is currently hitting Japan even as we speak on the phone right now.

CHURCH: Indeed. I mean, this is unfolding before our very eyes and as we talk the audience through this and of course, we're looking at these pictures now from the airport where people have gone to the highest ground they can possibly find.

And, of course, water surrounds them at the base there and as you mentioned, presumably, that area where the water is sweeping under is a measure in place to ensure that when these tsunamis hit, the water can actually clear the area. But, of course, the problem is for anyone who unfortunately was on the ground at the time.

Of course, Matt, we talk about how hopefully casualties will be low. We keep comparing this to the earthquake back in 2004 that particularly affected Indonesia, the one in the Indian Ocean. Of course, the difference here as you point out are the structures.

We're going to pause. Matt, I want you to stay there if you wouldn't mind. We're going to pause for a moment to listen in to NHK coverage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: North of Tokyo and you can see an inferno, a fire breaking out. An oil, a large fire breaking out on an oil refinery in Chiba Prefecture. Black smoke seen billowing from the refinery. It looks like firefighters are having an almost impossible situation to control that at this time.

A large fire breaking out of an oil refinery in Chiba Prefecture and that fire does not look like it is going to be going out any time soon. Obviously, we are reporting this as we see things and as information starts coming into our newsroom, things fluid, developing as we speak.

Several fires have broken out in Tokyo as well. The fire department says fires have been reported in several places, including Central Tokyo. That is the area where it has been reclaimed land along the coastal areas. Right now you're seeing fire breaking out at an oil refinery in Chiba Prefecture, in Ichihara area, Chiba, northeast of Tokyo.

Our helicopters also at Miyagi Prefecture covering live in Sendai where obviously a large tsunami has hit an area engulfing big parts of the city. The tsunami had moved upstream quickly engulfed the area. You're seeing live footage from our helicopters up in Miyagi Prefecture in the Sendai area where a large tsunami has engulfed farmlands, homes, cars.

We do not know the number of casualties at this time. A major earthquake hit Japan on Friday afternoon about an hour and 40 minutes ago. The magnitude was 8.4, one of the largest earthquakes ever to happen in Japan. The agency has issued a tsunami warning for Japan's Pacific Coast. That tsunami obviously engulfing Miyagi Prefecture, the Sendai area a large amount of that area.

In northeastern Japan, tsunami waves are also recorded. We're going back to live pictures of downtown Tokyo. It looks like cars are moving along right outside of our NHK studios. We're seeing live footage of Tokyo. We're seeing more cars outside. It looks like there could be a bit of a traffic jam.

We're seeing in downtown Shibuya area. We're seeing a little bit more cars than usual during this time. The powerful earthquake has stopped the Shinkansen bullet train across the country and trains around the Tokyo area. Each Japan railway company says the lines, all the northern lines have been stopped.

The major Tokaido line, all trains between Tokyo and to the southwest, trains from Tokyo were stopped for security checks, Central Japan Railway Company later said part of the line resumed operation.

CHURCH: All right, just listening there to NHK TV coverage there in Japan pointing out that inferno from an oil refinery. That was northeast of Tokyo and several fires being reported in Tokyo itself. I've getting a number tweets from people who were there in Japan.

This is from Kevin B. He says, hey, in Japan on teaching exchange. I didn't expect this. Watching your updates. Aftershock not as bad as I thought.

So he is clearly in an area fairly safe, away from all of this. Of course, anyone who is there at ground level, anyone near the coast needs to get to higher ground.

Got, Kyung Lah, our reporter who's there at the bureau in Tokyo there with us. Kyung Lah, an incredible day for you. Of course, it started with -- you shooting a story down at the train station and this unfolded. Take us through that if you would.

KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I kind of get a recap of exactly what happened because we did lose a little bit of track of time as to what happened around 2:40. We were at Tokyo station. It is one of Japan's busiest train stations. In Tokyo, it is where you see many, many people boarding and getting off trains.

Right around 2:40 we felt the very first earthquake hit. It went on for several minutes. All the signs around us were shaking back and forth. The lights were flickering. People were grabbing each other. Children were crying.

There was definitely a sense that in a country that is used to earthquakes, this was very different and this was something that was going to last for a while. After several minutes of trying to stay steady to try figure out what happened, there was an announcement asking people to stay underground, to stay calm.

I just learned the earthquake was offshore and that the tsunami was coming to the northeastern part of Japan. As we're getting a little more information about -- exactly what it was we're learning it's a very large quake 8.8 according to the USGS.

We were last on the phone. We were talking and I was trying to tell you what was happening to the passengers. The people were told to stay put eventually. All the rail lines were stop. People were out of the underground and we started to move up above ground. That's when we lost our cell signals.

Cell signals are getting tough to get here in Tokyo. The phone lines are also very difficult. We have one phone line out of this bureau to try to reach people. It's very difficult to try to communicate. I've got from Tokyo station here with no rail lines, with bus lines interrupted. It is extraordinarily difficult to get across Tokyo. You either have to walk, or if you get lucky -- I got into a cab as somebody was getting out. I got into a cab and came across. Every single sidewalk is packed with people. It is about 3:30. When I was heading back toward the bureau, everybody was pouring out of office buildings. Work is canceled for the day. Children are leaving schools. People are on the sidewalk, trying to figure out how they're going to get home. People have to commute an hour sometimes back home, but they don't have any way to get there. So all the taxis are taken.

It's an unusual sight to see the city of Tokyo, one of the most populous in the entire world, completely come to a halt. From what I can see, every single train line has been stopped. We're not hearing any planes in the air. We're not hearing any choppers in the air. It's all very, very unusual.

And when I got here, elevator, of course, is out, and people are just walking up and down out of highrises, trying to figure out how they're going to get home now, Rosemary.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Indeed. And of course, as you spoke to us, of course, we do need to mention that it is now upgraded to an 8.9 magnitude quake.

We can see there, actually, a person there calling for help, basically, with the white flag. They want to be evacuated from their home. They're in fairly high ground, but you can see they are surrounded in water. So they're calling for help there to that helicopter that's giving aerial coverage.

Just for a moment, I just want to -- because I am being flooded with --


CHURCH: I'm being flooded with tweets here, Kyung Lah. Just for a moment, I want to read a couple because this from Panambeer Bangu (ph) in Japan says, "I'm seeing you on CNN. I would like to say my grandfather has been killed in the tsunami just 20 minutes ago." That was over 30 minutes, in actual fact, because the tweet was sent out 14 minutes ago.

Another one is from Jenny Lupin (ph) in Tokyo, studying abroad, from Wisconsin. "We're still getting aftershocks. Can't contact some friends, though, so very worried."

So getting a lot of comments, a lot of people actually wanting to make contact with relatives. So you can sort of see, as this unfolds, how desperate a lot of people on the ground are who actually want to make contact with loved ones and with friends. So I just want to make that point. So a magnitude 8.9 quake, a major "great earthquake" is what it's classified as.

Kyung Lah, just going back to you, just looking at the situation there because, of course, the big problem, these waves, the tsunamis that are coming in. And we saw the wave of mud and debris very tragically moving across the land there. But glad to say it was mostly farmland. LAH: Yes. And actually, as you were talking, Rosemary, about those tweets, we were experiencing another aftershock. The ground was moving as I was listening to you anchoring there. So to say that this is over is certainly not the case. Here in Tokyo, we're continuing to feel the ground shaking underneath us, and it is a little alarming.

You can see the looks people's faces as we walk around. As they stand still, they can actually continue to feel these aftershocks. And we're almost two hours after that initial quake first struck. So we don't know how long this is going to go. I can tell you that the one we just felt just a few seconds ago wasn't (INAUDIBLE) as strong as the first couple that we did feel. But this certainly is not over yet, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes. Indeed. Another tweet here, Kyung Lah, that I received from one person saying, "Have everything ready in case we need to evacuate. Shaking right now again. Another aftershock as I'm tweeting."

So you know, I do want to make the point, do not send tweets if you are in any sense of danger. You clearly need move to higher ground. But for those people who feel safe and they've found a part of Tokyo or wherever they are that is fairly safe, that you don't have -- there's no threat of a tsunami because this is ongoing. This is not over yet by any estimation. We are covering this as it's unfolding.

We are looking at these aerial shots of what's happening on the ground there, and you can see there's mud, waves of mud, more waves coming across and hitting the coastline there.

Kyung Lah, explain to us, too, what people have been saying to you as you've been passing them, and certainly, when you were evacuated from the train station.

LAH: It was definitely a different feeling among people here. This is a country -- and the people are very used to earthquakes. People are prepared. At every Japanese home, you have an earthquake kit. You know that an earthquake could happen at any time. Children know exactly how to behave. They're prepared from the time that they're very young as to what will happen in an earthquake.

But it was definitely different this time. Just a couple of days ago, we did experience a rather large quake, but what we experienced today felt sizably larger. It's a feeling difference. I don't know exactly how to describe it, other than to say it just felt like a much stronger quake today. And it rose to a level of alarm among the average person who experienced it.

There was a bit more panic. People were reacting in a different way. Children were crying. Older people were aghast, in some ways, and standing still and not sure what to do. And especially in a large area. If you were in a large public area, you just sort of froze with the crowd and looked around because you weren't sure exactly how to escape, especially an underground region. So in the area that I was in, in the underground subway, you know, you heard the announcement. Everyone was told to stay put. But there was certainly much more of the sense of concern. I won't say that it was a level of panic because people in Japan know that if there's an earthquake, the worst thing you can do is panic. But I will say there was a high level of concern as this earthquake struck.

When people were told to leave the underground region, the first thing they did was they tried to find pay phones to try to reach their family members. It's very, very difficult when you have so many people in a concentrated area, an earthquake strikes, to try to get -- to reach your family, to reach your husband or your child, make sure everyone is OK. So people were lining up for the pay phones. People were crowding around the televisions and trying to figure out where was the tsunami hitting. What time? Did my loved one, if they live in that region, get out in time? So there was definitely a higher level of concern.

Now, on the way back, as I was coming back from Tokyo Station back to the bureau -- it's a very short distance, only a few kilometers. You can definitely sense that there was confusion. A lot of people didn't know what to do. When the entire infrastructure of a city of 13 million people basically shuts down, there's definitely confusion. How am I going to get home? How do I get home safely? You know, Should I go home? So there was definitely a bit more confusion and much more concern today here in Tokyo after this quake.

CHURCH: Indeed. Our Kyung Lah reporting there from the bureau. I want you to stand by for a moment. And just very quickly, I want to read a couple of tweets -- because I can hardly keep up with these, in actual fact -- coming in from Japan. This from Ryan, from downtown Tokyo. He says, "City is in absolute disarray. It's as if everyone's lives were paused trying to digest what happened."

And then this from Hector, who says, "I am vacationing in Japan from the USA. I am in north Tokyo." Just need to click on there because he sent a link that shows the rest of it. What he says there in addition to that is, "Aftershocks happening every few minutes. Many buildings on fire."

I'm keeping an eye on all of those tweets that you're sending, trying to stay abreast of them. For those people either vacationing in Japan or who are residents of Japan, we want to get your story out. You are trying to make contact with loved ones. We will do what we can do -- whatever we can do at this point as we're covering this story.

I want to go to Ivan Cabrera now, who's got some more information on this 8.9 magnitude quake. Ivan, what more have you learned?

IVAN CABRERA, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: Yes, we're going to continue to get those stories, certainly, from our friends in Japan and from our correspondents there. But again, this is an ongoing threat that's going to continue. Remember, the tsunami is a series of waves that emanates from the epicenter of this earthquake, which was an 8.9 and occurred about 130 kilometers east of Japan. We've had a series of waves now attack Japan here, and some of which now measured upwards of 10 feet or close to about three meters now. And there's going to be places that it's going to be higher.

What I want to do is update you on the warnings that are ongoing because, again, this is going to be one of those Pacific-wide situations here where the watches have now turned into warnings. If you are a U.S. viewer and you're watching us from the state of Hawaii, you are now under a tsunami warning. Estimated arrival of the tsunami first wave -- remember, they're a series, but the first one should arrive at around 2:59 AM. That's Hawaii Standard Time. So if you're watching us from Hawaii, that is your expected arrival of the tsunami, as we take you into the next few hours.

It is now -- we're coming up on two hours after the initial quake. It is now 7:40 GMT. So what I want to do is read some of these other arrival times from the waves here from the tsunami. Some places here, I'm not going to read to you because the wave, unfortunately, has already arrived. But we'll pick here on Russia, coastal areas of Russia, arriving at 8:34 GMT. Marquez (ph) Island, at 8:53 GMT. In Guam, arriving at 9:09 GMT. Taiwan, you're going to be getting hit in about a couple hours here, so you have a couple hours to get to higher ground, the waves, the tsunami wave, arriving there at 9:30 GMT. Marshall Islands at 10:13 GMT. Indonesia at 10:49 GMT. Papua New Guinea at 11:24 GMT. And we're going down the list here. There's just so many countries here. Australia now under the watch and warning, as well. Arrival there, Rosemary, 15:28 GMT.

So again, we're going to be monitoring the tsunami here over the next several hours here. They travel at 800 kilometers per hour, but it is a big Pacific here. So we're going to continue to monitor that as we obviously are watching these unbelievable live pictures not only from the damage that an 8.9 can cause but also from the tsunami.

And by the way, numerous, numerous significant aftershocks, which themselves could cause significant damage, recording one over a 7.0 magnitude, a recent one at coming in at 6.8. And that 6.8, unlike the epicenter of the earthquake that initiated the tsunami -- that epicenter at 6.8 was right in the heart of Tokyo, so certainly causing additional damage there. So we'll continue to monitor it here.

I think my main thing for you is to keep updating these arrival times as the computer keeps churning them out here. But again, 8.9, this still is the magnitude, and now that has ranked as the seventh worst earthquake, seventh largest magnitude earthquake here ever since we have been recording them, number seven on the list. And certainly, you can see why from the pictures.

CHURCH: You certainly can. And the tweets that I'm getting, people want this focus on evacuation because as people watching across -- across the globe, the best advice that could be given for people that are on lower ground is to get to higher ground. If you know that this is anywhere in the vicinity where you're living, you need to get away from lower ground because these waves of water, these are deadly. They have debris in them, and you must get out of the area. So if we can just go back to evacuation advice because that seems to be what people particularly want to hear because this is not just one country that's being affected. This is a broad area, Ivan, as we've been discussing, when you're talking about Australia, Taiwan, Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Marshall Islands, Russia, Guam. It is extensive. All of those people, if you're near the coastline, you need move away from it as quickly and orderly and calmly as possible.

CABRERA: Absolutely. And there is no question that right now, along the regions that are under a Pacific tsunami warning, there are folks that have no idea what's going on. They're not watching their televisions. They're not listening to radio. And so it is up to local authorities there to inform folks. So if you know someone in your region and you are -- your cell phone is operating, certainly give them a call and let them know what is going on because I think that is how we got the significant casualties last time.

Obviously, Indonesia had no time because of how close that 9.1 was back in '04. But when you talk about a tsunami that is further away, the damage certainly can be significant, but there's no reason we have to lose any additional life because we have hours here now to warn folks that are further away from the epicenter, which was right near the coast of Japan.

Guys, if you can put us in a bit of a box here -- I know we're watching these live pictures, but I just want to give folks the scope of what we're talking about here rather quickly, as far as the epicenter east of Japan and why this encompasses such a large region. And you have to remember, with the topography -- here's the entire region here. Here are the Philippines down here. There's Taiwan. We're talking about China there. There is Japan, Russia to the north. And then you have the islands down here, Hawaii further to the west.

So as the tsunami amplifies, it moves in all directions, 360 degrees. And it wraps around, as well, some of these islands here. So if you're thinking, well, I'm facing to the west and no danger -- not at all. A tsunami will wrap around you and certainly cause extensive damage, as you're seeing there in Japan, Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right. Ivan, I'm going to let you get some more information, certainly, on when those tsunamis are likely to hit. We need some more information there for people right across that region, and more information on evacuations because that's definitely what people want to hear about.

Now, I just want to go now to the prime minister of Japan, Naoto Kan, speaking. Let's just bring that up so people can hear what he has to say in the course of this devastation.


NAOTO KAN, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We'll do everything possible to minimize the damage. It will do its utmost. The government will put its strength together and work hard in tackling this disaster. We therefore ask the people of Japan to exercise the spirit of fraternity, help each other and to act fast and to help one's family and neighbors. We should help each other to minimize the damage. We ask to you action in such a way that it will be possible to minimize the damage.

CHURCH: The prime minister of Japan speaking there, Naoto Kan pleading with people to minimize the damage. Really, the undertone there is to be calm as you move fast and act and help each other. That's his message there.

I want to go to -- back to our Kyung Lah, who's there at the CNN bureau in Tokyo. And Kyung Lah, I mean, important words there, certainly calling on the people to remain calm, very difficult under these circumstances, when you're dealing with an 8.1 magnitude quake and tsunamis still rolling in across the coastline.

LAH: And you still actually -- I can actually still feel the building shaking every once in a while. So this is something that is still ongoing. So yes, people have got to stay calm. But we do want to remind people that in Japan, this is a country that is very earthquake-prone and people are trained to try to be calm in something like this, although this was quite a large event.

Just to give you an idea of what it was like at the -- in many offices, many homes in Japan -- we're on the ninth floor of an office building. And just as the earthquake hit, all the papers went flying. We have a tape library, as well, and the tapes are strewn all over the floor. So what happened in our office -- though I wasn't here. I was at Tokyo Station. Basically, everything was shaking and anything that was piled up fell on the ground. So you know, we're still kind of sorting things out here.

But what we're seeing now is, you know, the aftereffects of a quake event. We are not having very secure phone lines. Trying to get computer Internet access is very difficult. Transportation in the city of Tokyo, as well, has truly come to a halt. I'm still getting information about whether or not there's any air traffic.

But I can tell you from just being at Tokyo Station, one of the big hubs in this city, that the rail lines have completely stopped. And this is a city that truly relies on rail traffic. So as the offices empty out, people are being evacuated out of high rises. We are I think the only ones left in this building. People are walking on the street, trying to figure out how they're going to get home.

So the prime minister urging people to be calm is very important because you have the streets completely flooded with people and they've got to figure out what to do next and how to get home safely. So that's really going to be the challenge at this point.

Tokyo is a city of 13 million people. If you have an infrastructure as vital as rail lines that are not working right now, then you have those people who really are at a loss as to how to get home. I want to remind people, here in Tokyo, it's still the middle of the workday. (INAUDIBLE) 4:00, 5:00 PM. People are normally at the office. They are just about to either pick up their kids in the 6:00 PM hour. They've to figure out how to do all of this safely and calmly, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Indeed. And when you're talking about such a densely populated city, there are many difficulties that come with that. But of course, as we keep mentioning, the Japanese people are used to earthquakes. So what mechanism is in place to ensure a fast but calm evacuation from such a densely populated city?

LAH: Well, the first thing I can tell you is on the micro level, on the household level, people from the time that they're children learn, Here's what I do in an earthquake. I go to my earthquake kit. (INAUDIBLE) no water or food. You cover yourself if you're cold and there's no heat. They learn that at the home, Here is my earthquake kit. Here's what I do. Here's what I practice. Here's where I get my mental space in order to move forward safely.

But on a larger scale, as far as how to behave and how to communicate, there are a number of Internet carriers where you can post information about your -- and send messages to your loved ones. That's something that could at this point start to be activated. But with such a breaking news situation, if you will, where people are still trying to figure out exactly who is impacted and trying to reach their family and friends, that's really going to be the challenge at this

So . We're talking about a population that has got to react on a micro level but also on a macro level. Right now, the challenge is going to be that macro level because we're talking about the middle of the workday and people having to get home, if they are trying to get home right now.

CHURCH: Indeed. I mean, this is the situation, isn't it. I mean, you were there on the subway, in the train station, when this initially hit. But the way you described it, people were very calm in the initial stages, and that does appear to be the overall feeling here, that people have been very careful and thoughtful about how they respond to this.

LAH: Absolutely. But I do have to say, having lived here now for several years, it's not really in the Japanese personality to panic. Especially if it's something that you practice and you know and you live with, such as the possibility of an earthquake, people tend to be calm first, and then they react. So initially, yes, it was very -- you know, pretty calm. There were some women who I saw who were panicking and there were some children who were crying. But generally, I can say, overall, people in the area that I was in in Tokyo Station were quite calm.

Now, as the evacuation order came to get out of the underground, that's where you start to sense a deeper level of concern because when the rail lines stop in Tokyo -- and this is a city where if your train is a few second late, you really feel that something's wrong. So when the train lines completely shut down, people really do get concerned. That's when we saw people lining up at the pay phones, trying to make sure they could reach their loved ones because even though it did feel very different when this earthquake struck, something about losing the infrastructure and realizing the authorities are saying, This is different. The trains aren't coming back on line like they normally do. Yes, you could feel the level of concern rising in the crowd.

CHURCH: Indeed. And the big concern now is perhaps less about the earthquake and more about the tsunami along that coastline because it's not one tsunami, it is many waves of tsunamis. And of course, the problem for a lot of people is trying the move faster than those waves do as they come on land. And what sort of provisions are in place for that?

I was speaking to Matt Alt (ph), who gave an extraordinary description of his situation as he witnessed this earthquake. He is married to a Japanese lady who was able to take him through. He was very unnerved by it. But because she has grown up there, she knew exactly what to do. But this is the situation, isn't it, that people are realizing that this is very different to anything that they may recall in their living memory, this strength. When we heard from Ivan Cabrera, this is the seventh largest earthquake since they have been recorded.

LAH: Certainly. But even if you didn't live in the -- at the time that there was a huge earthquake, a great hanchen (ph) earthquake, you grow up learning that a giant earthquake could possibly happen. So let's talk about the person you spoke with, Matt, the American. He must have felt a very different experience from the Japanese wife because she grew up understanding that the earthquake could happen at any time. You sort of learn that. You learn that from when you're a child.

If I can get back to the tsunami, as well? Along the coastlines, if you've been anywhere along a Japanese coastline, it really is quite different than other coastlines around the world. If you go to a port, even though we're seeing some very, you know, sizable devastation from the tsunami, what's different is that there are structures in places that try to protect the people of the town, even in a town that could face a tsunami. People learn that they could evacuate at any moment if there is a earthquake. There are systems in place to try to help them get out of there.

Certainly, if you have a sizable earthquake like what we just experienced, they can't protect everybody. But people in a small fishing village like the one we're seeing that's heavily being impacted by this particular tsunami, they do grow up learning, At any moment, I could evacuate. There are systems in place to try to help me get out here. You try to be prepared for the worst, and the worst can always happen, but they do try to prepare, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Indeed. I'm not sure -- I just want to double-check with the control room. There's a number of people we're trying to get hold of. If we've got any movement there and we've got some of them coming on, just let me know.

But in the meantime, we'll continue. And of course, as we're looking at these pictures, we're seeing that person again, Kyung Lah, that person waving the white flag, clearly in need of some assistance, in need of some help, wanting to be evacuated from that top room in the house that they're in. That is the concern, too, because at this point, what are authorities doing on the ground? Are they just letting this play out? Is there very much that they can do as this unfolds?

LAH: We have to look at it as -- I believe this is in another section of Japan, and the area that I'm in in Tokyo is impacted in a completely different way. Tokyo as a city is right now going through the aftershocks of the quake and trying to contain its population and try to move its population in an orderly manner, try to keep the population calm because you have such a dense population in a large city, many people who commute, in an infrastructure that is shut down.

There are some issues with some office towers that have caught on fire. There are some -- I heard many ambulances driving around the city. So I would think that there may be some accidents on the ground, as well, here in Tokyo.

But when we talk about what's happening north, where the tsunami is occurring, that's a different sort of crisis. When a tsunami hits, and if it is as devastating as this one appears to be, then you have an entirely different rescue mechanism. It's not about trying to keep people calm, it's about trying to rescue people. So that man we're seeing waving that white flag, he is trying to be rescued. He's trying to alert the authorities that he needs to be pulled out. So it's a very different emergency affair than it is down here in Tokyo.

CHURCH: Indeed. Kyung Lah, I'm going to let you get back and get some more information. All right, I'm getting more information from the control room. We want to go back to Tokyo. There we see the Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, speaking again. Let's listen to what he has to say.


KAN (through translator): No radioactive material or radiation has been confirmed to have been leaked to the outside. There has been no information of those lines so far.

Given the situation, an emergency disaster response headquarters has been set up with myself as the head. We will secure the safety of the people of Japan, and in order to minimize the damage, the government will make every effort possible. And we ask the people of Japan to continue to be cautious and vigilant and keep tuned in to the reports on the television and radio. And we ask the people of Japan to act calmly.

CHURCH: Listening there again to the prime minister of Japan, Naoto Kan, again calling on people across Japan to remain calm, critical in a situation look this. He also mentioned that he has set up an emergency response headquarters that he will head up himself. And we heard earlier that Japan has called for international assistance as this unfolds, as we watch these ongoing tsunamis roll across the land there along the coastline of Japan.

And I hear, too, we have someone on the line. This is Richard Lloyd Parry. He's actually the Asia editor for "The Times." He lived in Tokyo for 16 years. Thank you, sir, for speaking with us under these unfortunate circumstances. Tell us, you were actually in an office on the seventh floor, I understand, in central Tokyo. What happened when this 8.9 magnitude quake struck?

RICHARD LLOYD PARRY, ASIA EDITOR, "THE TIMES" (via telephone): Well, the earthquake began as many such tremors do. I mean, living in Japan, one gets used to these every few months. There was actually one yesterday about the same time which rattled and then faded away after about 20 or 30 seconds.

But this one kept getting stronger. The windows were rattlings. The walls were shaking. I looked out of my window and I could see an adjacent building, a seven or eight-story building, beginning to move from side to side. So I decided then it was time to get under my desk, where I cowered while the earthquake played itself out.

It felt a very long one. It's hard to judge duration in these circumstances, but I think it must have been between a minute or two minutes, which when you're waiting for it to end, seems like a very long time.

CHURCH: Indeed. Certainly understand that. I mean, in actual fact, Kyung Lah, our reporter there in Tokyo, thought it might be four to five minutes. But as you say, it's a very difficult thing to judge the timing of this. Now, what -- what is your situation? Where are you now exactly?

PARRY: I'm in my office, having been for a walk out in central Tokyo to see what's going on. I'm now in my office, monitoring the coverage on Japanese television.

CHURCH: And you --

PARRY: I have to say that central Tokyo is fine, from what we've seen. I walked around for about half an hour. People are calm. A lot of people are still standing outside, not going into their buildings. There isn't much damage. The most I saw was a cracked window and a few cracks in the walls. But central Tokyo seems to be all right. Older buildings, I suspect, may have suffered more damage, but it's not obvious from here. The real dramas are clearly in northeast Japan, along the northeast coast.

CHURCH: Yes, indeed.

PARRY: We're seeing now pictures of large-scale fires. You've seen the waters flooding.