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CNN Live Event/Special

IREPORT FOR CNN: Video From the Disaster Zone; Super Moon Brings Rising Waters to Japan

Aired March 19, 2011 - 01:30   ET



COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Imagine being caught in a devastating disaster. Japan had become used to earthquakes, but this one was different and the terror was felt around the country.

Hello and welcome to IREPORT FOR CNN. I'm Colleen McEdwards. This is our international citizen journalist half-hour.

Well, it was one of the most powerful quakes the world has ever seen. And cameras were rolling when the ground started shaking. In the moments after, much of the country's telephone and cell services were unavailable, but wireless Internet systems remained largely intact. As a result, people uploaded their videos to iReport and YouTube and connected with us via Skype.

Let's watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Oh, my God.



MATT ALT, WITNESS (via telephone): The ground was rolling for an extended period of time. I wasn't exactly sure what to do or where to go. I have 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 had to kind of crouch down in a wall or put your back against something so you didn't fall.

HARRISON PAYTON, WITNESS: The whole ground was shaking so much. It was -- is was unreal. I can't describe it. It's just -- it was -- it felt like someone, was just pulling you back and forth like side to side, as hard as they could.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just blew up. Whoa! Whoa! This is crazy. Look at it. Do you all see this? Too much.

RYAN MCDONALD, WITNESS: Oh, my God. That is the biggest earthquake. It is still going. Oh, my God, the building is going to fall!

It got considerably worst. This is the biggest one yet. And then it didn't stop. And then it got a little bit worse. So, I went to stand outside in between the two buildings and the clanking you hear is actually the canisters of natural gas banging against each other.

And that's when I said, oh, my God the building -- the building is going to fall. I said that just before because it had never made that sound. It sounded like a shotgun or a freight train going off, just boom.


MCEDWARDS: And that last video right there was from Richard Dong at the Narita Airport in Tokyo, Japan.

We received many iReport uploads from people who were there when the earthquake struck.

Scott Goldener turned the camera on himself and described the situation in the terminal. Have a listen.


SCOTT GOLDENER, WITNESS: During the quake I was just got my gate and was getting ready, just sitting down, waiting my flight, when the quake started.


GOLDENER: I thought it would be a small quake like we had the last few days. Then it just kept going and going, and stronger and stronger, and that's when we knew it was a serious earthquake.

We had quite a few strong aftershocks. And then after about half hour, they evacuated us to the tarmac where we stayed a half hour, 45 minutes before bringing us back in.

Airport evacuation.

Delta agents have been here all night long giving people information, blankets, food, snacks, water. Other than that, the airport authorities had everything under control and kept everything pretty orderly. Everybody is working together and working with the situation that we have.


MCEDWARDS: Not a normal day at the Narita Airport. And an update on Scott Goldener for you -- he was able to get on a plane and he has since landed safely in the United States. Well, we also saw a tragic story from a Canadian living in Tokyo. Aaron Lace was attending a graduation ceremony at a theater. This was in Kudanshita (ph) when the earthquake struck. Lace said part of the roof actually did collapse. People were killed in this location. Many more were injured.

You see in this video, here, many Japanese, really working together. That's the debris right there. They are trying to get the debris that fell out of there.

We talked to Aaron lace about this absolutely horrific experience. Listen to this.


AARON LACE, IREPORTER (via telephone): It was an absolute horrific event, obviously, because lives were lost. And something that I think, I am hoping that the entire world community can help in trying to help the Japanese people with.

The aftershocks are coming extremely regularly. And because they are regular, they're coming literally every hour at least. And they're coming in doses that are extremely strong. And it's something that you would not wish upon your worst enemy.


MCEDWARDS: And near Tokyo, Brent Kooi was recording the situation in Chiba City, which is reclaimed land, an area that used to be part of Tokyo Bay. This video is incredible.

Kooi filmed not only the cracks that were happening in the earth but you can actually see them moving and water coming up through the ground. Just watch this.


BRENT KOOI, WITNESS: The crack is just moving. There is water, I don't know if water lines are broken. But this water was not there a minute ago.

The buildings are making a racket. Water lines are broken. But this water was not there a minute ago. The buildings are making a racket.

I seriously thought I was sick first. I didn't know what was going on. I could just feel like I was disoriented. Step over another crack. We have a little lake.

Here is a huge crack. And it is still moving. It's just going back and forth, swaying.

It's making me kind of nervous especially since this is -- reclaimed land I am on right now. This used to be part of Tokyo Bay. And they created this land by throwing, land fill, mountains and rocks out here. So, we -- this land could just go potentially, I don't know.


MCEDWARDS: Wow. Unbelievable. Brent, I just wanted to tell you to step back there. But thank you for that, Brent. Incredible footage right there.

And those are just some of the chilling accounts recorded on mobile phones, uploaded by eyewitnesses to share the immediate happenings during and after the quake struck.

Now, many of the videos were from Tokyo, of Fukushima, Sendai, but not in areas affected by the tsunami. The devastation in some of the northern fishing towns was so complete, few who witnessed it were able to actually record the catastrophe. Thousands certainly did not live to tell about it.

But CNN's Thelma Gutierrez has the story of one American who managed to document the horror as it happened.


THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It took him three days to get out.

BRIAN BARNES, SAVE JAPAN DOLPHINS: It looks like literally a bomb has gone off around here.

GUTIERREZ: When Brian Barnes has landed in Los Angeles, the Florida native showed us what he went through.

(on camera): How did this town fare?

BARNES: There's just nothing left.

GUTIERREZ: So, all these people walking around?

BARNES: Are probably dead.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Barnes and a team of environmental activists were at Otsuchi Harbor monitoring the porpoise hunt for the organization Save Japan Dolphins, when the 9.0 earthquake hit.

It was a split second decision to drive through the town, past stunned residents up a hill, 50 feet above the harbor.

BARNES: There's a hill outside of the town that we're going to try to get to.

GUTIERREZ: He grabbed his camera and seven minutes after the ground shook, the first surge of water.

BARNES: There it comes.

GUTIERREZ: Then minutes later, a wall of water slammed through the town, taking everything in its path. BARNES: About 1:00 in the afternoon. And, we spent the whole day trying to get out of the tsunami area. We took shelter up on a hill. And everything between that hill and several miles to anything that even resembled civilization at this point was completely destroyed.

GUTIERREZ: After the tsunami, Barnes said he saw maybe a dozen survivors as he walked through town.

BARNES: There were several dead bodies behind us that a couple villagers covered up.

GUTIERREZ: Barnes took pictures of the dead who are recognizable in the hopes that one day, the missing might be identified. And he is still haunted by the screams of a woman floating on a piece of wood in a sea of debris, a victim he couldn't save.

BARNES: She was in my mind sort of representative of what was happening.

GUTIERREZ: Barnes says he and the team were lucky they were able to leave with their lives. But they won't forget what they left behind.

Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Los Angeles.


MCEDWARDS: And we will hear from another quake survivor who managed to get out of one of the areas that was hardest hit. Plus, we are going to see the days that followed this quake and tsunami, videos and images of struggle and resilience as well.

And I am going to show you the useful tools on the Web that have helped find missing people and have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in aid. Don't go away.


MCEDWARDS: Welcome back.

IReport video and images have played a big role in capturing Japan's earthquake. And they continue to pour in day after day from many different areas.

In Misawa, Japan, August Brown sent several photos of damage there. Look at that. He says it was just shocking to see so much of the area gone, large boats toppled on their sides. Debris piled high, vehicles stacked on one another.

Now, Bridget Beaver, an American teacher working in Gunma Prefecture shows us damage at her school. Papers scattered everywhere. There you see it right there. Bridget Beaver says she was at the high school during and after the quake.

In Ishioka, Sarah Feinerman's images show residents standing in a huge line here. This is people waiting to get water from supply trucks. She also shows us the inside of a convenience store and says the stands were empty except for office supplies.

We spoke to Sarah on the phone about the struggle to find food and water.


SARAH FEINERMAN, ENGLISH TEACHER (via telephone): By the late evening of the second day, they had a system where they had trays and tables from inside the store. They didn't let people go in. So, they brought in -- they brought the food out to them.

And they would hand out baskets. And people would go and take what they offered. But it was like tea and noodles basically your option. Everyone around was wonderful.

I could use water. But other than that, I can't really complain. At least I just got a house.


MCEDWARDS: And you can tell by her voice there, Sarah Feinerman has remand upbeat through it all.

Now, in Sendai, Japan, an English teacher wanted to share the resilience of his fellow Japanese neighbors. Steve Hakkarainen lives in Minami Yoshinari, that's about 20 kilometers from the affected area. And his video shows lines at a supermarket -- this is three days after the quake.

Even though people had to wait two to four hours for items there, Hakkarainen says they remained orderly and people did not panic.


STEVE HAKKARAINEN, IREPORTER: The people are so, you know, organized and they have high sense of morals. Nobody breaks into things. Well, not nobody. But his part is very organized. And it just works like a clock.


MCEDWARDS: All throughout the country, people are trying to remain optimistic. But, of course, they're still dealing with aftershocks, there are blackouts, and still the possibility of a nuclear meltdown.

We spoke via Skype to some residents of Tokyo, four days after the earthquake, to hear a little bit more about their concerns.


AI KAWASAKI, TOKYO RESIDENT: I am from Sendai, my family lives there. And they're luckily OK. And I think -- yes, things will be better, not so soon, but it seems they are trying to be normal and not, not like try to, avert panic and also try to help each other.

So, I think things will be OK soon. It's difficult to describe it. It's just really sad. And -- I still cannot believe that happened.

And -- but I think things will be OK. And, yes, also, they can do and also we can do, you know. So, I just hope so.

JONATHAN HAMMILL, TOKYO RESIDENT: That is a pretty mixed situation actually. There is -- you get the sense that a lot of people really want to get on with their lives and kind of, you know, go back to work. And, people are going to back to work and everything, but you, you do get a sense that people are worried about the nuclear reaction situation going on. That's always in the back of the mind.

KEN TANAKA, YOKOHAMA RESIDENT: I did try to actually call Red Cross and to see if I could do anything to help. But they said that, you know, at the current time they're only accepting professional help. For instance, military and stuff like that.

So, you know, there was nothing for me that I could do per se. So, I even tried to, you know, get my mind off things which is obviously pretty hard, you know, seeing all of the destruction.


MCEDWARDS: Shock and disbelief and people trying to help as well.

Well, we have also been in touch with the CNN iReporter who got out of the hardest hit area and is now in Osaka -- that's almost 600 kilometers south of Fukushima. Payton Harrison says he is hopeful that authorities can control the reactors there, but he is concerned for friend still in the area.

He talked with us by Skype on his mobile phone.


HARRISON PAYTON, IREPORTER: I'm not going to say I am not worried about those friends. I know a friend of a friend of a friend, I think, that it was kind of a reposted on Facebook. But -- there is a guy, a Japanese guy with his wife and his kids and I think they're in the 15-kilometer mark. So, they're not a safe zone. But they couldn't get out in time. And they're just -- have all their doors and windows closed and they're just waiting it out.


MCEDWARDS: We spoke with Payton on March 15th over the Internet, which has become a life line in this disaster.

When we come back, social media's response to Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami. The Web has been a tool to locate survivors, help relief workers and also raise thousands of dollars. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MCEDWARDS: Web sites are helping out.

This is Google's People Finder. Thousands have been searching for missing people, entering information about loved ones. If you look right here, here's an example of just a very common Japanese name, Watanabe. And as you see here, there are just hundreds of examples of one name, people trying to find out something about them.

These little green bars you see here are updates. Some say that a person is alive, but others, unfortunately, do not have such good news. And do confirm the worst.

Now, here's a look at another group that is trying to help coordinate response online. And this is Ushahidi. Now, this is a Web site that maps reports of incidents so that aid agencies can actually target there resources where they best need to go.

It's the same technology that is used in the response after earthquakes in Haiti and Chile.

We spoke to Patrick Meier from Ushahidi to learn more about it.


PATRICK MEIER, DIRECTOR OF CRISIS MAPPING, USHAHIDI: The map that was set up in Japan uses a very simple technology, created by Ushahidi, which allows you to map on a web based flat form, events that are taking place around the word, or in a particular country or in a city in near real time. There are various ways you can add information to the map. You can do this by e-mail, or by web form. You can also do this by Twitter. We have dedicated smartphone apps that allow people to publish to the map as well and you can integrate SMS which is what happened back in Haiti last year.


MCEDWARDS: Ushahidi, a great tool.

And we have also been monitoring Japan's most popular social networking site and that is Mixi where the attention is very much on the nuclear emergency that has been underway.

But the blog's getting the most hits are not talking the fear of radiation exposure. What is being read are posts expressing, I should admiration for the nuclear plant workers who are risking their lives to keep the nuclear crisis from getting any worse.

Eight agencies and relief organizations are also making good use of Facebook here. The popular Facebook app Causes reports that its users have raised more than $150,000 since Friday to help Japan. The money goes to various nonprofits in Japan, things like the Oxfam, the Red Cross, Save the Children also reachable on here.

And people all across the globe are showing that they care by posting pray for Japan on Twitter.

And CNN has a new high-tech way for our global viewers to help the victims in Japan. This special black and white code that you see on the screen now can be scanned using your smartphone. When you do, it loads our "Impact Your World" Web site automatically. No typing required. There, you'll find links to charities that are helping disaster victims in Japan.

IReporters are sharing reporters in London, a show of sympathy for the victims of the tsunami and earthquake in Japan. IReporter Kyle Myer (ph) sent us this photo in Piccadilly Circus signing flags and donating money to help out.

And to say thank you for all the support, a university student from Yokohama, Japan, uploaded this video to iReport. Go Umichi (ph) says he was too deeply moved to hear global reaction that he asked friends and people on the street to contribute to his video, holding signs of thanks.

According to the Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan has received offer of assistance from more than 90 countries and regions and six international organizations.

If you have images to share and can do so safely, go to To do so, or use that free CNN iPhone app.

I'm Colleen McEdwards -- thanks for watching.