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CNN Saturday Morning News
Special Coverage: Quake Tsunami Disaster; U.S. and World Respond With Aid; 9,500 Missing in Miyagi Prefecture; Japanese Government Continues Focus on Damaged Nuclear Plants; Was This Earthquake Predictable?
Aired March 12, 2011 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: The day after the most powerful earthquake ever to rock Japan, we are just getting word that 9,500 people are missing in one northern town and a 6.4 aftershock just hit. Japan's prime minister putting the call out for help and the United States responding. We'll tell you how.
BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: The precaution after an explosion and leak at one of Japan's damaged nuclear power plants. We've got new details on that, as well.
KAYE: From CNN Center in Atlanta, it's March 12th, I'm Randi Kaye.
ANDERSON: And I'm Becky Anderson in London. We'd like to welcome viewers in the United States and around the world to our coverage of the disaster in Japan.
KAYE: It is 11:00 at night in Japan, but the aftershocks just keep coming. Just within the hour, another hit Japan; this one 6.4.
Most rescue operations have stopped for the day, but the concern over those aftershocks even more tsunamis remain. There have been more than 180 aftershocks since the 8.9 earthquake and massive tsunami struck Japan's northeastern coast. At least 900 people dead.
In one city alone, 9,500 people missing, an undetermined number are injured. Early rescue efforts were difficult because of all of the aftershocks, as you can imagine. Highways in that part of Japan are damaged and utility services, water, electricity; they're out for hundreds of thousands. The quake triggered a tsunami more than 23 feet high that washed over the Japanese coastline, traveling about six miles inland.
This is the largest quake in recorded history to hit Japan and the seventh largest worldwide since recordkeeping first began.
And at this hour, one of the government's biggest concerns is damage to a nuclear power plant in northeast Japan. The plant damaged earlier today by an explosion that collapsed the roof over one reactor.
ANDERSON: Well, another city in Japan we are keeping a close eye on is Sendai. It's so close to the epicenter of the earthquake and the heart of the disaster. And that is where CNN's international correspondent Anna Coren is live and on the phone.
Set the scene for us. How bad is it?
ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Becky, I just want to touch on that distressing news that Randi mentioned. It's called the (INAUDIBLE) that would be the township that is several hours north of where we are in Sendai. And (INAUDIBLE), the news agency, which is the official Japanese news agency is reporting that 9,500 people are missing, are unaccounted for. This is a town of some 17,000 people, so they're talking about half the township missing.
This is part of a death toll which is expected to surpass 1,000. That is what we knew before we received that news about the 9,500 people missing. We (INAUDIBLE) in Sendai that a couple hundred bodies have been found. This monster tsunami, this 10-meter wave that hit the coastline has just devastated so much. And Sendai, yes, it was hard hit in those northern areas, which has just been absolutely engulfed. Becky.
ANDERSON: It's very evident, Anna. And there are very few people around.
This is more than 24 hours after the quake struck. What are rescue workers doing at this point?
COREN: From what I understand, Becky, rescue operations have suspended for tonight. They start as the sun went down, they will resume first light tomorrow morning.
We know that they're trying absolutely everything. Helicopters were going into these areas, rescuing people who were stranded in their homes, they were plucked from their rooftops as well as survivors.
We also know that the search and rescue teams are going through the rubble. They are going through the remains of the weight of this tsunami.
It is not the earthquake that has affected this part of the country, but it is the tsunamis. Once a wave hits the - so much of this coastline, you know, some 15 to 20 minutes after that quake hits.
ANDERSON: I'm wondering, then, just how big of a fear there is this tsunami may have washed away so many more. What sense do you get that the numbers are sort of up to date at this point?
COREN: Well, I think that news that we had of the (INAUDIBLE) just north of us, I think that is probably where the death toll stands.
You know, it's hard to fathom, that amount of water hitting so much, and people being able to survive. Particularly knowing that the quake struck and literally 15 to 20 minutes, that wave came and so much of this area is low lying, but the people could not escape.
They got in their cars and got driven away. But you're talking about a wave that came from five, six, seven kilometers away. You saw the reports, you saw the strength. It picked up everything in its path -- houses, cars, trucks, ships, and threw them around like toys. So how people would withstand that, it's virtually impossible, Becky.
ANDERSON: Yes, you can see the scenes around you, absolutely devastating. Anna Coren in Sendai for us.
At least 45 countries have pledged rescue teams, supplies and financial help. Japan has accepted offers of search and rescue teams from Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and the United States.
And the U.S. has also sent Navy ships to help Japan with relief. It's also helping with what President Obama calls lift the capacity. That means heavy lifting equipment. The U.S. also sent supplies to help cool nuclear reactors there.
Poland is offering to send firefighters. President Medvedev says Russia has offered rescuers and sniffer dogs and all possible aid. And Thailand offering about $165,000 in aid and says it will consider offering more when the extent of the damage is known.
And the International Red Cross and Red Crescent say they've mobilized 11 teams to heavily damaged areas. They have 20,000 tents, and other relief supplies ready to pass on to local Red Cross teams.
KAYE: And let's get more on the situation with that nuclear power plant now. CNN's Stan Grant in Tokyo.
Stan, you've been talking with the nuclear energy agency there. Just how serious is this as we get word now that this explosion may have been more related to hydrogen?
STAN GRANT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, didn't involve the reactor itself, Randi. And that is the good news. The explosion happened in the outer wall. This is a wall that surrounds the casing of the reactor. So it wasn't the casing of the reactor, it wasn't the reactor, it was the outer wall and destroyed part of that wall and also the roots.
Now, they're saying no harmful material was released into the air. In fact, the nuclear safety agency here is saying that radiation levels have been steadily decreasing throughout the day. There has been some radioactive material seeping into the atmosphere. At one point that was about eight times normal levels, but they have said it is not yet at a harmful level for the public. And, in fact, has been decreasing.
It hasn't stopped the government increasing that exclusion zone, though, that is now out to 20 kilometers, about 12 or 13 miles they've evacuated people, thousands of people from around that area and some elderly people have been helicoptered out of there, as well. An investigation, of course, continuing into that situation while they also continue to try to cool the reactor, which is at the cause of this.
That is where the fear comes that if it continues, if they can't get enough water in there and cool it, then we could see more pressure exerted and then the risks increase of perhaps even something more dangerous and more radioactivity spilling out into the atmosphere. And they've been working on that now for more than 24 hours and still unable to cool that reactor, Randi.
KAYE: Yes, and those 24 hours from what I understand, that is the critical deadline as far as I understand it in terms of trying to contain this.
GRANT: Well, certainly every hour is crucial. You know, this is a nuclear emergency, they are certainly into unchartered territory. When you have a situation like this where the quake knocked out power and then affected their ability to cool the reactor. It just raises the stakes continuously. The government has been aware of that, but it's also been playing down the risk saying it is not as yet posing a risk to safety.
And the prime minister, Naoto Kan, spoke directly to this and said that no one has been affected by radioactivity at this stage. But we've heard many analysts and many here on CNN saying this is, indeed, a race against time. And the inability to bring it under control continues to raise the stakes in this and raise that threat level, that danger level that there could be a much, much more significant problem at its core if they can't cool the reactor, Randi.
KAYE: I'm sure they're working hard to cool that. All right. Stan Grant, thank you.
Let's find out how you can make a difference in Japan, this is our "Impact Your World" page. You've seen all the images. I'm sure you're thinking about trying to help. Well that is at CNN.com/impact. There are organizations there that you can join with to try and help the victims in Japan. -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Absolutely. All right. Randi, they survived what seemed like endless shaking and swaying. Hear from the iReporters who lived to tell the tale about Japan's 8.9 magnitude earthquake.
And Reynolds Wolf will give us a look at the science behind the tsunami triggered by the wake.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Narita Airport Ground Floor. Nothing is moving. It's about 12:00 a.m.. (INAUDIBLE) You never think you'll ever experience it. It's really cold.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: Before the tsunami struck, Japan was shaken by a massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake. ANDERSON: CNN iReporters were on the scene right after the first tremors hit. Here is what they saw.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ground was rolling for an extended period of time. I wasn't exactly sure what to do or where to go. I'd 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 are washing over the ground, you literally could not stay on your feet. You had to kind of crouch down in a ball or put your back against something so you didn't fall.
HARRISON PAYNE, CNN IREPORTER: The whole ground was shaking so much. It 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. Woo! Woo! This is crazy. Woo! Look at it. I'm back. Do you all see this? It's too much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my god. That is the biggest earthquake to date. It is still going. Oh, my god, the building's going to fall!
RYAN MCDONALD, CNN IREPORTER: But it got considerably worse. So I said 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 buildings, the building is going to fall. I said this before because it had never made that sound. It sounded like a shotgun or a freight train going off. Just, boom!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: Amazing. Very strong aftershocks felt in close proximity to a power plant.
And we also want to remind you of the latest numbers that we're getting of those unaccounted for in just a single town in the Miyagi Prefecture, 9,500 people unaccounted for. Those people are missing.
What's so remarkable about this is that that is more than half the population of that entire town. The population is 17,000, and more than 9,500 are unaccounted for.
Reynolds Wolf, this is really incredible. You know, as we see these pictures, as we hear these reports of those missing and those iReports are really something to listen to.
REYNOLDS WOLF, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Oh, just devastating. Terrifying to see. And the numbers you mentioned are truly mind boggling.
The problem is, we might see those numbers increase over the next couple of days. Certainly hope that's not the case but certainly a distinct possibility. Something else is very possible that we may be dealing with more aftershocks. We've had plenty of them over the last 21 hours.
If you happen to take a look at this map, you see, of course, Japan, Japan actually is a little bit smaller than the state of California. As we zoom in a couple of kilo occasions, I'm going to step out of the way. You see the original earthquake, the big one, and of course, farther to the south, one of the many shocks, one of the most latest and one of the latest strong ones was this 6.4 aftershock.
Now, moments ago, I got this information from CNN international Pedram Javaheri, just over the last 21 hours, there have been 84 of these, 84 of these that have occurred, five of them have been at least a six or greater. And you see the close proximity is the Fukushima One Nuclear Power Plant. And of course, the big one that just occurred moments ago, 6.4, very close proximity.
The thing that's really frustrating and caused a great concern about this is whenever you have the earthquakes and then you have tremors, this creates many buildings in a very weakened state. And some of them are just barely standing at this point. So when you have an additional aftershock, it puts them into a further weakened state.
And knowing there is some concern about the structural fortitude of the power plant, the nuclear power plant, any time you have an aftershock, anytime there's any kind of shaking, there's a potential of further damage.
And of course, we're going to watch very carefully. But you have to keep in mind, though, this kind of activity, this kind of seismic activity, not unusual at all. You have the Pacific plate, this part of the ring of fire and to have earthquakes along parts of these islands is very common place, all around the Pacific.
It happens in North America, it happens in parts of South America, wherever it's in contact with the Pacific Ocean, the world's greatest, largest geographical feature, you're going to have this type of activity.
And unfortunately, much of this is happening in a place and certainly that is not needed. So we're going to watch for you very carefully. This story is certainly far from over.
We're going to have more updates coming up shortly. Let's send it back to you, Randi.
KAYE: All right. Thank you, Reynolds.
WOLF: You bet.
KAYE: And, Becky. ANDERSON: All they can do is watch and wait. Family members outside Japan are struggling to find out more information about loved ones back home.
And we'll talk to a scientist who has studied the fault lines beneath the 8.9 magnitude quake.
That's coming up. Don't go away.
ANDERSON: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world.
Now the fear in Japan right now that tremors could cause more destruction or worse, there could be another big quake. Purdue University geophysicist Andy Freed helped predict the earthquake in Haiti. He was also in Sendai just last year, studying these fault lines. He's joining us now from West Lafayette, Indiana.
Was there any way to know that this enormous quake was imminent?
ANDY FREED, GEOPHYSICIST, PURDUE UNIVERSITY: Well, Japan is one of the most seismic, active zones in the world. So you know, that you're going to get earthquakes and going to get big earthquakes.
But no, there's no way to know that a big earthquake or any size is imminent. There was no warning before.
ANDERSON: You were in Japan last year studying this specific fault that one of our colleagues was alluding to earlier on, tell us about that.
FREED: All right. Well, it's a subduction zone. So it's a place where two tectonic plates are coming together. You actually have like the Pacific plate is actually subducting or going beneath the plate that Japan is sitting on.
These are areas in the earth where you build up a lot of stress because these plates are moving fast and eventually the fault can't take the stress and it breaks. They don't always break. Obviously with this size, it's not unprecedented. It would be about the fifth biggest earthquake that we've recorded. But Japan knew that - and has prepared for very large events to come.
ANDERSON: All right, talk to me about aftershocks. What is actually happening when they occur, and how do they differ from the actual earthquake itself?
FREED: Well, as you can imagine, if you build up a lot of stress on a fault and you break it, you don't break every single part of the fault. And stresses and pressures move around. So after the earthquake, parts that didn't break eventually they break, and that leads to aftershocks.
The big danger is that with the magnitude 8.9 earthquake, you can actually expect a magnitude 7.9 aftershock to occur. We've already seen at least a dozen aftershocks at greater than six. One was probably close to magnitude seven, which was the same size that hit Haiti. It's not unexpected that an even larger aftershock will occur in the weeks to come.
ANDERSON: That's remarkable. And that was my next question, when would you consider yourself in the clear as it were after such an episode like this? We've seen activity both tsunami warnings and aftershocks, as you say, for more than the last 24 hours.
FREED: Yes, I would say it's going to be quite a few months before you can consider yourself in the clear. Even in New Zealand, you saw the aftershock occur quite a bit of time after the larger previous events and caused a lot more damage.
I would say that there's another danger here too is that any time you have a very large earthquake, relieving a lot of stress on one part of the fault, it actually loads the neighboring sections of the fault to the north and to the south in this case.
We saw that in Indonesia in 2004. You had a very large 9.1 earthquake, that was followed a year later by an 8.5 earthquake to the south and several other 8.0 earthquakes in the years after to the south.
So for years to come, this area is going to be highly, you know, hazardous, especially to the south in the Tokyo area along that fault.
ANDERSON: Question marks remain. Andy Freed from Purdue University, we thank you very much, indeed for joining us here on CNN -- Randi.
KAYE: Watching horror in her native land. One woman said it looked like the world was coming to an end. Just ahead, Japanese- Americans in Los Angeles react to the tsunami devastation.
KAYE: We want to welcome our worldwide audience back to our special coverage of the disaster in Japan. I'm Randi Kaye.
ANDERSON: And I'm Becky Anderson. Thank you for joining us.
KAYE: Let's get you up to speed now on the quake and tsunami that has devastated northeastern Japan.
Just within the last 90 minutes, another aftershock hit the quake-damaged country, this one, a 6.4 magnitude.
It is 11:30 at night in Japan, most rescue operations have stopped for the day. There have been more than 180 aftershocks since the 8.9 earthquake and massive tsunami.
At least 900 people dead, but as search efforts resume in a few hours, the toll could rise dramatically. In one town alone, 9,500 people missing, that's more than half of the town's population, an undetermined number injured.
Highways in that part of Japan are damaged and utility services, such as water and electricity, they are out for hundreds of thousands.
The quake triggered a tsunami more than 23-feet high that washed six miles inland. This is the largest quake in recorded history to hit Japan and the seventh largest worldwide since recordkeeping first began.
And at this hour, one of the government's biggest concerns, damage to a nuclear power plant in northeast Japan. The plant damaged earlier today by an explosion that collapsed the roof over one reactor. It was caused apparently by hydrogen building up.
Japan's prime minister commented on those concerns, earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NAOTO KAN, PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Have also evacuated 20 kilometers away from the first nuclear reactor and would like to give careful attention so not one citizen is affected by the radiation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: Right from the onset, CNN began deploying our worldwide resources to bring you the story and we are not stopping.
Over the next couple of hours, we will talk to CNN correspondents covering all angles of this tragedy, including Stan Grant, he's in Tokyo, Kyung Lah is in Sendai, Japan; CNN International correspondent Anna Coren is there as well.
Plus, senior State Department producer, Elise Labott is in Washington, D.C. watching things for us and Josh Levs, here in our Atlanta headquarters. We will get to all of those reporters in a moment.
But first, amid the heartbreak and tragedy in Japan, residents are intently following the latest developments on a nuclear plant where an explosion occurred. Residents have been evacuated from a 12- mile zone, but earlier this morning, the prime minister assured that it's all merely a precaution.
Well, one American isn't so convinced, and he says the government has done nothing to build confidence. Steven Nagata joins us from Tokyo.
Steven, how are you holding up there and how is the anxiety level in Tokyo?
STEVEN NAGATA, AMERICAN IN TOKYO: Well, it varies from person to person. I have not been able to sleep for basically very much since the earthquake hit. We're getting these aftershocks that continue to hit Japan and they'll wake you up about every 10 to 15 minutes if you're sensitive to the earthquakes. So, yes, it tends to make you a little anxious with what's going on.
KAYE: And what does it look like on the streets, there?
NAGATA: Well, I went out this morning to get kind of a lay of the land. In Tokyo -- again, in Tokyo, the earthquake was not nearly as strong as it was up in the north where you're seeing all the devastation on the videos. There's very little structural damage at all apparent in Tokyo, basically we just got rolled around and bashed -- you know, shaken up a bit, but that's about it.
Still, it was a very subdued Saturday morning. Went to a busy shopping district that's usually full of people and there were very few people on the streets today. Not many people coming in to town for fear that the trains will stop running or that they should be with their family or near their homes.
KAYE: And getting back to the situation with this nuclear reactor, you don't have a lot of confidence in what the prime minister said earlier saying that nobody, not one resident has been affected by anything that's happened, the explosion that we've seen, which now we're being told was caused by a hydrogen buildup.
What are your concerns as we look at some of these pictures of that explosion? You can see the white smoke spreading into the air. They have evacuated the swag, but that doesn't sound like enough for you.
NAGATA: Well, there's now been several press conferences that have dealt with this incident in Fukushima, the first that came out really didn't give any information as to what was going on and the news was coming out about an explosion.
So there was a lot of anxiety and apprehensions to what was going on. The lack of information coming from the government just kind of set some wheels in motion and everyone becomes very, very concerned.
It should be particularly noted that this reactor is a Tech Co reactor and I believe it's actually one of the reactors in 2002 that caused a big scandal because of safety concerns that really kind of blew out of proportion, again, because the government wasn't releasing information quickly and transparently.
This has caused a lot of people, not so much to doubt what the government's saying, but to really feel that they're not getting enough information about what's going on. They're just getting some vague points like 10 kilometers or 20 kilometers away, but no reasons as to why or what actually took place.
KAYE: Right. I'm sure people are still very jittery between what's happening at the nuclear facility and the aftershocks and warnings of even more tsunamis possible. We can certainly understand that. Steven Nagata, appreciate your time today -- Becky.
ANDERSON: A Tokyo resident describing life in the capital there. Let's get you a different picture. Our international correspondent Anna Coren is in Sendai for us. And just describe, just firstly, how far away you are from Tokyo, and then what you see around you.
ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Becky, we're several hundred kilometers north of Tokyo. We are in Sendai, which is the city closest to the epicenter of the earthquake that hit Friday at 2:46 p.m.
Now, it is pretty deserted here at the moment. Obviously it's extremely late, but as we drove in, you could not fly into Sendai because the airport was completely (INAUDIBLE) with water, hit by that tsunami.
As we drove in, there were cars banked up for kilometers. They were obviously heading out trying to get out of the city, trying to find petrol. There is no power, there is no water in most of Sendai.
So we are here in the city's center. There are pockets, as you can see, lights around us, but it is a complete blackout.
But, Becky, I should add that the death toll from this major earthquake tsunami is expected to go into the thousands. We know it stands at 1,000 at the moment, but we heard word from the Sendai News Agency, which is the first Japanese news agency, a short time ago, and it said that the town of Minami Sanriku, which is a couple of hours north of where we are, that half the population is of that town is unaccounted for.
So that is what we're looking at. They are the numbers, they are staggering, they are frightening. We cannot tell you how huge this is, particularly when we're hearing more and more reports of these towns that crews are getting to are assessing and finding out that half the village is missing.
ANDERSON: Yes, and as you get a chance to report from there, I know that you'll update us on what's going on there. We've been looking at pictures until darkness, and of course, it is now 11:00, with you, so it is dark.
But the pictures that we've been showing our viewers while you've been talking are of the area that you're in during the day and there was an enormous black cloud of smoke or something behind you for a period of time.
Is it now obvious what that was?
COREN: I understand my colleague, Paula Hancocks, said there was a gas facility that was a light, so she said that she could see the smoke, the billowing in the distance. She wasn't able to get close to the facility, but it was understood that was a gas facility.
I mean, this tsunami has just caused so much havoc here, not just to this city, but also to so many parts (INAUDIBLE) of the country. It's hit some 15 to 20 minutes after the earthquake, and you know, Japan is known for its preparedness for these sort of events, it is earthquake-proof. But when it comes to tsunamis, there is really nothing that can protect you. Yes, sirens go off, yes people know that they need to get away from the shore, but at the end of the day, when that wave comes in, that monster wave, some 10 meters, you know, high, hits the coast, there is nowhere to go -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Yes, beware, you ain't seen nothing yet. Our reporters on the ground and I'm afraid as the days go on, the numbers will get worse and worse. Anna Coren is in Sendai for you. We've seen so much remarkable video of the destruction in Japan.
KAYE: And here's just that little bit of what we've seen so far. This one first -- this first video is an airlift rescue. I mean, As you know, Becky, we've seen so much incredible video over the last couple of days, but we just wanted to take a look.
I mean, look at that, you can see, you know, because there's been so much water, we were told earlier by our Barbara Starr that really the only way to rescue people, many of them being rescued from rooftops, is by helicopter. The U.S. military and the Navy heading in there because this is what they've trained for and this is what they're going to need to help with.
ANDERSON: That's right. We've had an awful lot of iReports into CNN Center and do keep those coming as long as you're safe to do so. Let's take a look at the moment when the quake struck. This is one of our iReporters and it needs no description.
What many of our iReporters said, as they narrated the films, was that it just went on and on and on. Many of them say they've been in earthquakes in the region before, but this just went on and on and on.
KAYE: Yes, and a lot of them really build up. I mean, they start, in some cases, they start kind of quietly and then I think the people realize that they really are at risk and it builds.
We've also seen plenty of flooding, practically a river running through the streets, in some of the pictures, you can see you have the water overtaking the town. We know that the water went in about six miles inland after this 23-foot high wave, the tsunami, and you can just see how the power, I mean bringing down power lines and telephone poles and just imagine trying to rescue the people who were in these communities as this water poured through.
ANDERSON: That's right. And there is absolutely no stopping the water with a force like that and our next video will show you just the remains of a town, the muddy remains of a town, once the water had passed through. And again, you know, those who were able to escape, (INAUDIBLE), but these things happened so quickly and the devastation -- well, for your eyes.
KAYE: And think this might not be the end of it as the aftershocks continue and the warnings still of the tsunamis continue. To think we're going to see more pictures like that is certainly cause for concern. To find out how you can make a difference in Japan. As you look at those pictures, you're probably moved to try and help. Well, you can do so by visiting our "Impact Your World" page. We can take you there. All you have to do is go to CNN.com/impact, you'll find a bunch of organizations and certainly can help the victims there of that earthquake and tsunami.
ANDERSON: That's right. Well, the major worry right now in Japan, of course, is the condition of the nuclear reactor where an explosion occurred. So many questions have been asked this morning.
Can reactors survive in quake-prone regions? An expert weighs in for you, right here on CNN, after this.
KAYE: As we continue to watch developments in Japan, we wondered how did the lay of the land in northern Japan contribute to the force of the tsunami. Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri is here with a look at the connection between geography and this tragedy.
PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Randi.
You know, the layout of the land here across northern portions of Japan, as fascinating as to gets when it comes to how this topography is laid out and again, you take a look at the aftershocks, over 180 in the past, let's say, 36 or so hours, and we're talking about an area that's seen a 6.4, we've had five greater than six.
But, going for a closer look, and Japan is as mountainous as it gets. You take a look at it, we're talking about an area now that has some 70 percent of its land that are mountainous. But the majority of the region that is not mountainous is right around along the coastal region where we have a lot of the plains, about 29 percent there, of the country of Japan are the plains.
And you take a look at the mountains, right there in Sendai, we get plenty of snowfall in the city, annually speaking, and of course around the mountainous regions, but the mountains are only some 12 miles or about 20 kilometers from the coast.
So you go from sea level to some 12 miles inland and we go up to 5,000 feet, about 1,500-meter elevation gains. So, very extreme topography.
And right along the coast, we have those rice patties, a lot of the areas, of course, when the water comes in at some 500 miles per hour, 800 kilometers per hour, that's going to cause much of the decimation that we've seen along the coastal regions.
But again, you get within the city, you're betting the area here that has the land laid out, where we have the mountains that begin to build in that area.
Now, you take a look at the temperatures and you know, the temperatures in this part of the world typically it's a humid subtropical region, it tops about 50 degrees Fahrenheit here for the next 24 hours or so. And again, we're looking at high temperatures of partly cloudy skies, but certainly better than the conditions we saw in Christchurch. We had the quake in Christchurch, New Zealand just a few weeks ago and we had rain showers in the forecast.
Right now looks like Tokyo will have temperatures in the 60s, mild temperatures in Sendai will go up to about 59 degrees, and then we see a chance of showers in their forecast come Tuesday night into Wednesday and believe it or not, snow showers possible, so cold enough to accumulate some snowfall as early as Wednesday into Thursday.
So, that's the concern that a lot of the rescue efforts, a lot of the operations right now need to be done as quickly as possible because the temperatures will be going downhill and certainly when you're sitting close to 60 degrees, that's not too bad, but then we're going to be back down closer to zero Celsius, or the freezing mark, so that's what's going to be the concern here in the next couple of days -- Randi.
KAYE: Yes, that certainly is concerning. All right, P.J., thank you.
Japanese authorities are trying to prevent another potential disaster and that's securing the nation's nuclear power plant, specifically, one facility that is very close to the earthquake's epicenter, the Fukushima nuclear power plant, part of it exploded earlier today. And according to Japans' chief cabinet secretary, the mishap was manmade.
I want to talk with Joseph Cirincione, he's the president of the Ploughshares Fund, he's also author of the book "Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons."
Sir, tell us about your concerns about this nuclear facility and the possible leak of caesium material.
JOSEPH CIRINCIONE, PLOUGHSHARES FUND: If this accident stops right now, it will already be one of the three worst accidents we have ever had in a nuclear power plant in the history of nuclear power, the other two, of course, are Three-Mile Island in 1971, and Chernobyl disaster of 1986.
There are 55 nuclear reactors in Japan. One out of every six nuclear reactors in the world is located in Japan. Japan is heavily invested in this technology. Eleven of them went offline yesterday after the earthquake, five of them have had coolant problems.
At this time yesterday, Japan had never declared a nuclear emergency before. Now they have declared five nuclear emergencies for each of these five nuclear reactors. The most serious one is the one we're looking at, reactor number one at the Daiichi facility.
This is going to go down in history as one of the three greatest nuclear incidents, if it stops now. If it continues, if they don't get control of this and we go from a partial meltdown to core to a full meltdown, this will be a complete disaster. The release of caesium, that you mentioned, was the indication yesterday that we were starting to get a core meltdown. Caesium was detected in the venting, the steam that was vented yesterday to relieve the pressure inside the reactor --
KAYE: And it's well above the levels that it should be.
CIRINCIONE: Well, the only way caesium can get out there, and also radioactive iodine, is from the fuel rods themselves, so that told the operators that the fuel rods had been exposed, that the water level had dropped below the fuel rods and the fuel rods were starting to burn, releasing caesium, so that's when people really started paying attention to this crisis.
KAYE: So, we know what the problem is, we've talked about that but what can they actually do to contain it and to stop it? What should they be doing right now? We know they're working on it from our Stan Grant, who's been in touch with the people there, but what needs to happen, right now?
CIRINCIONE: Well, one thing they can do is better inform the public and the media about what's going on. We've been getting contradictory, partial information, they've been downplaying the threat and yet events have evolved in a very grim and disturbing directions, as one of your guests just said. It's led to more suspicions about what's going on. May or may not be justified. So first thing, tell us more about what's actually happening at the plant.
No. 2, they've already taken some several emergency measures. We understand that they may be pumping sea water into the containment vessel to try to bring down the temperature of the reactor. They have to be working to make sure they get more power to back up. But the big unanswered question here is whether there's structural damage to this facility, now.
We saw the explosion early this morning. Are there other structural damages that may make a meltdown all but inevitable? We don't have any information from the power company on that. That's what we need. And if there is structural damage, we should be extending the evacuation zone much further than the 12 kilometer limit that has been declared.
KAYE: Right. Certainly keeping people there on edge. We appreciate your time this morning, sir.
CIRINCIONE: Thank you.
ANDERSON: Well, in a moment, images from inside Japans' biggest- ever earthquake by the people who lived through it.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ANDERSON: All right, you're with CNN worldwide and special coverage of the aftermath of the Japan earthquake. I really want to get to one other story for you, though, at this point.
I want to get to Libya and to the oil town of Bin Jawad. CNN International correspondent, Nic Robertson is there and he joins us by phone -- Nic.
Nic, can you hear me, it's Becky Anderson in London.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): I'm here.
ANDERSON: Nic, what are you seeing? What are you hearing?
ROBERTSON: Well, we're seeing this is a town that the government forces took control from the rebels in the last few days. This is the first time the government's brought (INAUDIBLE) down to the east of the country here to show them that they are defeating the rebel forces.
What we've seen in this town, Bin Jawad, a police station blown out, holes in a nearby school, damage to nearby houses, Katyusha rockets fired in the area, some of them landing in houses occupied by families.
People here tell us that the rebels were pushed out of the town just under a week ago. But it's now pretty clearly in government control. Not a lot of destruction in this town, many of the stores closed, some of them looted. This of course, Bin Jawad, on the edge of this important oil area, an area next to Ras Lanuf and Brega, as well.
ANDERSON: Nic, it is clear that Gadhafi is using air power on civilians at this point?
ROBERTSON: We've not been able to see evidence of air power used on civilians. What I was able to see was a Katyusha rocket which is fired from a large flat bed truck and it's a long distance rocket, it can fly five to 15 kilometers sort of distance. It was imbedded in the wall of the house and underneath the rocket that sticking out of the wall were a pair of children's shoes. (AUDIO GAP) it gives you a clear idea that in this environment civilian are getting mixed up in the fighting.
We landed at an airport in Surge (ph) on the coastline. Fighter jets were taking off from that airport and flying over our heads from west towards east to where the fighting has been going on. So we've certainly seen fighter jets in action flying over our heads (INAUDIBLE) -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Nic Robertson, keeping you up to date with what is happening in Libya, as we continue our special coverage of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami here worldwide on CNN.
Do stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)