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Japan Slammed by 8.9 Magnitude Earthquake

Aired March 11, 2011 - 03:30   ET


RICHARD LLOYD PARRY, ASIA EDITOR, THE TIMES (via telephone): Central Tokyo seems to be all right. Older buildings may have suffered more damage. It is not obvious from here. The real dramas are clearly northeast Japan along the northeast coast. We're seeing that picture of large scale fires. You see the waters flooding in. That's where the damage is concentrated.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, and we have listened to the Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan appealing to the people of Japan to remain calm. A difficult thing to do, certainly, under these circumstances as you fear along the coastline, the northeast there the approach of yet another tsunami.

What about people trying to get a hold of loved ones, family members because I'm seeing a lot of that on my Twitter account. People trying to make contact with their friends and family.

PARRY: Yes. I think the problem is that the phones are very jammed. Everyone is on the phone, on their mobile. Even the land lines are a bit difficult now. I was able to get through to my family in the first half-hour after that happened.

They were fine. The system I think is overloaded. I suspect that rather than damage to the telephone's infrastructure. So there will be a lot of anxiety. Particularly for people who have family in the northeastern coastal areas.

CHURCH: Indeed. What's interesting is in the midst of this, and all these aftershocks that you're experiencing, and we've been reporting after the initial 8.9 with, we've heard a 6.4, a 6.8.

Even so, people are still able to watch their television. The power lines don't appear to have, the downing of those power lines don't appear to have necessarily had a big impact. Certainly in the Tokyo area as you point out.

PARRY: Tokyo from what I can tell is fine. The damage is really, as I look out my window, I can't see any damage. There is a big oil fire in a steel refinery to the east.

We're hearing reports of an older prewar building where there was some kind of school graduation ceremony going on. Where a ceiling fell in and some people were injured. I don't Tokyo is the problem.

CHURCH, Indeed, you feel comfortable though there on the seventh floor to remain there rather than add to the people trying to make their way home. Presumably it took a while for you to come to that decision.

PARRY: Not really. This building seems to be quite solid. By and large, I mean, if we look at what seems still to have been a more destructive earthquake in 1995. By and large, modern buildings built after 1980, at least, remain standing.

They might have been badly damaged and rendered inhabitable. They might have had to rebuild them, but fingers crossed and I hope these aren't famous last words. The big modern buildings absorb the shock.

The danger, personally I always feel the danger is being on the streets. The air conditioning units, the thing that are loosely put on the top of the buildings could come crushing down. I'll be staying here for the time being.

CHURCH: I totally understand that. As we reported there, Naoto Kan, Japan's prime minister, announcing that he will head up this newly organized emergency response headquarters. How efficient is that likely to be? And tell us, because presumably in the past, a similar headquarters would have been set up. Would that be right or not?

PARRY: Yes, after the earthquake in 1995, the government came in for a lot of criticism rightly because their response was very slow and poorly coordinated. I think a lot of lessons were learned from that.

When I was out just now on the streets talking to people, it was striking how well prepared everyone was. Lots of people have hard hats next to their desks, which they're wearing on the street. And although we can't make the judgment yet, my assumption is that the government is certainly better prepared for this one than it was 16 years ago.

Everyone is trying to assess how bad the damage is. These pictures we're seeing from the coastal areas are very dramatic, but they're quite, quite at a narrow angle you're looking at. I'm not clear yet how far inland this damage has gone or whether we're just talking about a few hundred meters of the very fringes of the sea.

Japan is not a country like Indonesia. It is a very rich country and it has a very active construction industry, which for decades has been concreting over the coastlines to a rather depressing extent.

What that means is that the coast is by and large pretty well protected. There aren't a lot of areas of open coast, certainly not in the towns so plenty of these places do have seawalls in place. They have the pods, which absorb the tides and a big earthquake in Japan doesn't come as a surprise to anyone. So there's certainly no excuse for not being prepared.

CHURCH: Absolutely. Richard Lloyd Parry, editor for "The Times." Thank you for talking with us and explaining your experience there as this 8.9 earthquake struck where you are and you have made the decision to stay safely in that building. Just for a moment, let's listen in to NHK coverage. NHK TV there in Japan and listen to what they're able to report at this point.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Heads of the various political parties, our secretary general and our -- vice deputy president are seeking cooperation from other parties. And the other political parties given the situation, I have not been in could not tack with the other party leaders. But I am sure that we will have their understanding. So what does that mean?

For a while, the deliberations will be suspended? Details about that, our party officials are getting together with other party officials to discuss the matter, the opposition and the people's new party. The details will be taken care of by the party officials who are meeting.

You mentioned the aftershocks and the second and third waves. What you ask the people of Japan to do. First regarding the tsunamis, alerts and warnings are out and until these alerts and warnings are lifted, please do not go anywhere near the coast or rather, please evacuate or he is cape to higher ground or on to the higher levels of very strong high buildings.

Please continue to do so and please do not try to judge by yourself what is safe and what is not. Please keep updated on the information issue by the meteorological agency. They'll be issuing alerts and warnings. So please have a good assessment and information on the situation in order to respond.

And on the aftershocks, as a general rule we cannot ask everybody to do the same due to the aftershocks. There could be building that's could be damaged once again. There are people inside the building and it could be safer to remain inside the building. It is really case by case.

At any rate, there are the possibilities of aftershocks. So therefore, those of you who are inside the buildings, please make sure that you do not be hit by furniture collapsing even inside strong buildings.

And if you are worried about the safety of the buildings, please try to evacuate to a safer place nearby. At any rate please stay calm and act calmly.

Going forward, would you be asking for support from overseas?

Well, already partially we have been having some offers to cooperate from foreign countries to the foreign ministry. So such information is now being sorted out and while we've already had the earthquake a few hours ago, first of all, it is the self-defense forces as well as our police who are trying to cope with the situation, but we are prepared to ask for future requests of relief from foreign countries. Seven years ago we had a earthquake --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was the chief cabinet secretary. Earlier on, of course, Prime Minister Naoto Kan speaking.

CHURCH: Listening there to NHK television. The Japanese cabinet secretary pretty much advising people what they need to do if they live along the coastline. Pleading for people to move to higher ground if at all possible to evacuate that area because more tsunamis are coming in across there.

And of course saying if you're in a building, there is more aftershocks to come. Just beware of any furniture in the buildings if you feel a need to evacuate that area.

I want to bring in Anna Coren now who's in Hongkong who's going to join me now as we continue our coverage of this 8.9 earthquake that has hit Japan. Now of course, the tsunami warnings that have covered a region that takes in more than 12 different countries.

ANNA COREN, CNN ANCHOR: Rosemary, the pictures that we've been looking at that is Sendai, that's the town, the city on our screens as we speak. That's where this tsunami was apparently, a four meter wave that crashed on shore then a ten meter wall right through Sendai.

This is a city of 1 million people. This is northeast of the country on the island, the major island in Japan. It is part of the Miyagi Province. So this is where the devastation has taken place and as you can see, this is the aftermath of that massive wave.

You are looking at ships. You are looking at trucks. You're looking at cars. This wall of water has just gone through all these buildings and we don't know how many people are inside. We don't know whether these people are able to get away whether they're able to take cover. We've seen the pictures. This wave of water went straight through and has hit Sendai. Let's have a listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Japan's meteorological agency says the quake measured magnitude 8.4. The agency has issued a tsunami warning for the Japan's Pacific coast. You're seeing a fire completely raging out of control.

This is live coverage of an oil refinery in Chiba Prefecture, Ichihara area, east of Tokyo. Live coverage of an oil refinery, the fire completely going out of control. You can see firefighters trying to water down just the surrounding areas. Probably as far as they can get close to that fire that looks like bigger than some of the surrounding buildings, completely raging out of control.

Firefighters obviously not being able to contain that blaze at this time. Live footage of the fire under control. Firefighters unable to contain it in the Ichihara area. The meteorological agency says a 7.3 meter tsunami, one of the largest hit, Fukushima prefecture. Tsunami, a 4.1 struck in the north. All hit by waves of four meters.

As this inferno goes out of control, we are feeling aftershocks from the large earthquake. Even the studio as we speak. This is over two and a half hours after the earthquake. We're still feeling aftershocks in our studios. The pacific tsunami warning center has extended the area where tsunami waves may strike. This now includes Indonesia.

Those of you who are watching this program from Indonesia, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, and south American Pacific coast including Mexico, Chile and Peru. Earlier the center issued a warning for Japan, Russia, Guam, Wake Island and Taiwan.

The Pacific tsunami warning has extended the area for tsunami warnings may strike. Obviously the tsunami has already struck these areas. Some of the cars there plunging into the water. The tsunami affecting the prefecture just about a few hundred kilometers north of Tokyo.

For our viewers that are just tuning in, this is a warning out for Indonesia, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, and South American Pacific coast including Mexico, Chile, Peru, Russia, the Northern Marianas, Guam, Wake Island and Taiwan. First tsunamis, of course, obviously not necessarily the largest in some cases, the sea suddenly draws back, a tsunami can hit the coast at a rapid speed.

Obviously of what is happening to many cities in northern Japan. I spoke to an expert earlier this week when a tsunami does hit. Do not climb in the cars. Move by foot. Move by foot to higher ground as soon as possible. This is not just a Japan story anymore. We're talking about tsunamis.

Possibly hitting Indonesia, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Coast including Mexico, Chile and Peru. Once again, that inferno going pretty much out of control in Chiba Frefecture. The city firefighters obviously not being able to contain that large blaze in an oil refinery.

Flooding is rampant in many cities in northern Japan. The tsunami is moving upstream. The rivers engulfing cities, farmland, homes. The earthquake magnitude of 8.4 unprecedented in Japan. One of the biggest quakes ever to hit the country was the Hanchin Earthquake on January 17th, back in 1995.

That had a magnitude of 7.3. It left 6,434 people dead. Another powerful quake occurred in the Indian Ocean in December 2004 with a magnitude of 8.9 at the epicenter. The death toll came to 220,000 in 10 countries.

In more recently a devastating earthquake struck New Zealand last month. Japan's meteorological agency says the quake registered an estimated magnitude of 6.3. But today, about two hours and a half, 2:30 ago, a large earthquake, magnitude 8.4 hit northern Japan.

It has led to fires and that fire, an oil refinery, completely under control. A large inferno in Chiba Prefecture. The oil finery up in blaze. Lighting up the whole area in yellow. You're seeing live footage of an oil refinery in Chiba refinery in Ichihara. Hundreds of thousands of people in Tokyo have been left stranded after train and subway services were suspended.

East Japan Railway Company says it stopped train operations, including the bullet trains though no major damage has been reported so far. The Tokyo metro subway company has also suspended all operations. Company officials say it will take time to check the safety of all tunnels before resuming operations.

The magnitude 8.4 earthquake that hit northern Japan leading to secondary disasters, including that inferno, blaze. Where firefighters have yet to be able to contain the Chiba Prefecture in the area. The oil refinery has been set, has been on fire, the blaze not being able to be contained.

In Miyagi Prefecture, the intensity of seven maximum was recorded. I say maximum. That's the maximum on the Japanese seismic scale of zero to seven, the same intensity as the great earthquake back in 1995.

The welfare facility has collapse in the north eastern prefecture. Five people have been confirmed dead and several people are still missing. Meanwhile, in neighboring Tokyo, a woman reported to have died after a building collapsed on her. A woman once again reported to have died after a building collapsed on her in neighboring Tokyo.

Obviously this figure is without a doubt going to be revised. We are only getting information as we speak. You're watching the blaze in an oil refinery in Chiba prefecture east of Tokyo. The Ichihara area, the firefighters having a very difficult time, obviously to contain that large fire there.

Police in Miyagi Prefecture say an unknown number of people are missing in several cities where the tsunami waves swept through coastal areas inland. Many buildings and cars have left, been left submerged. The prefecture says eight people have been confirmed dead in four prefectures in northern Japan.

Prefectural police say at least eight people have been confirmed dead in four prefectures in northern Japan. In the northeastern prefecture, a local fire department says a welfare facility has collapsed. It says five people have been confirmed dead and several people are missing. We are feeling the aftershocks of the quake in the studio as we speak.

In Miyagi Prefecture, one person has been confirmed dead after being struck by a fallen object. We are feeling the aftershock of the earthquake in the studio as we speak. And there you can see, that is a live shot of one of our lights inside the studio. We are feeling the aftershocks of the large earthquake that happened over two hours and 30 minutes.

One person has been confirmed dead after their car was swept away by a tidal wave. Neighboring Tokyo, two people are reported to have died after a building collapsed on them. We'll turn our camera, live camera to a few hundred kilometers north of Tokyo. It looks like a tsunami has engulfed parts of that prefecture as well.

You see cars floating from our live camera there. We're back to that footage of that fire. It looks like more smoke now in explosions from that fire. That oil refinery in. That refinery in the north causing several damage done not only to buildings, but to this oil refinery where firefighters have been having obviously a hard time being able to contain that blaze.

They are saying the country is ready to offer any assistance to the Japanese government to deal with the aftermath of the quake. Japan's police agency is dispatching 900 strong emergency teams to the quake hit zone. It is also gathering disaster information from the urgency security headquarters.

Local police are evacuating sea side areas using helicopters, patrol cars, and traffic signs. Japan's Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto has ordered his officials to start preparing to accept foreign assistance. He also said - he also has told him to check on the safety of foreigners living in Japan.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan and his ministers have gathered at the prime minister's office where an emergency task force has been set up to respond to the quake. The task force will gather information on the damage and prepare for possible tsunami.

The chief cabinet secretary spoke earlier in front of the press, in front of media explaining the situation and on the plans going forward for disaster relief. He is calling on the public yet about the dangers of aftershocks.

The aftershocks, we are feeling right here in the studio along with tsunamis that can follow and to stay vigilant. They needed to stop the plans to attend to emergency plans.

They're now looking at our coverage in Sendai. Our live camera in Sendai, northern Japan. The governor of Miyagi prefecture in Northern Japan has asked the central government to send self-defense force units to deal with the situation.

Defense Ministry officials say STF personnel are currently contacting local government and related agencies to assess the extent of the damage.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan held a press conference and called for the cooperation of everyone.

COREN: We've been watching NHK's dramatic footage there. I think that's Naoto Kan, the prime minister who is about to address the media. I beg your pardon, he addressed the media a little earlier. The government has said there will be tremendous damage in Japan.

That is the warning that they issued a short time ago. Now we must mention that this story. This is going to affect so many other countries. Tsunami warnings have been issued in 19 countries. And we believe just a short time ago that civil sirens went off in Honolulu in Hawaii.

So this is a story that has a huge, huge consequences, far- reaching consequences. We know that countries like Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand, Taiwan, they've all issued tsunami warnings. So it's something that everyone is wondering so closely.

There you are looking at pictures from Sendai. These drama images came to us a short time ago. This is that wall. That massive wall of water that is just going through these cities. It is just so much force there as you can see.

It is pushing ships, trucks, cars, anything in its way. The government is saying so far they can confirm eight dead. Looking at that, we know the death toll is going to rise. Dan Sloan is a resident in Tokyo and he witnessed the quake. Dan, tell us what you experienced.

DAN SLOAN, RESIDENT IN TOKYO (via telephone): Well, the quake struck about 2:46 this afternoon. We are about 300 kilometers from the epicenter in the northeast in the Sendai area and could feel very strongly the movement here in Tokyo.

To put things into perspective, though, Japan has a lot of experience with its earthquakes and its alarm system is actually triggered on telephones and across TV signals. So we had a large heads up that a large earthquake was coming in the large geographic area was put on TV screens.

So we knew it was a big one that in some cases, I'm certain gave people a bit of a heads up that they could take protective or evasive action. Again to put things into perspective, where this earthquake struck, it has a large sea coastal community. The city of Sendai has a population of about 1 million, but overall northeastern Japan is rather agrarian and really not kind of a population-dense place like Tokyo.

Nonetheless, as you're hearing, we have started to see from the government some early casualty report, the breadth of the tsunami that struck later in some cases over 7.3 meters and estimates that could be as high as ten meters really have more or less just crushed the coastline and any kind of area that could be exposed to those large waves.

Here in Tokyo there have been sporadic fires. I think one you're looking at is in Chiba in -- east of here at an oil refinery in Ichihara. But nonetheless in addition to the aftershocks that we continue to feel, there will be tsunamis that are spreading down the coast all the way to Okinawa and certainly throughout the entire Pacific rim.

COREN: Dan, we're looking at these amazing pictures of this water. It just hit the coast and just kept on going and we don't know when it will stop and it's just picking up everything in its path. As you say this is farming land, but we have seen buildings be taken away, cars you know, trucks.

And I think that's the really frightening footage of those trucks and those cars on that road watching this wall of water head towards them and they -- and they can't do anything. They can't do anything so maybe, Dan, you can tell us a little bit more about that area that has been so hard hit. SLOAN: Indeed, in addition to the description that you just provided obviously the northeastern part of Japan has a fair number of nuclear power facilities and some of those had been shut down in the wake of the earthquake and obviously tsunami, some of them are in coastal areas. One plant said there was some damage but obviously it is telling us --

COREN: Dan, because we are looking at live pictures and it would appear that in an aftershock is occurring. The camera there is -- has been shaking quite violently and as you can see a fire there. This, of course, is NHK Japan's public broadcaster.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fluid, and the situation is fluid and as soon as we get more information, we will be able to provide it to you. In the northeastern prefecture of Fukushima, a local fire department says a welfare facility has collapsed. It says five people have been confirmed dead and several people are missing.

In Miyagi prefecture, police say one person has been confirmed dead after being struck by a falling object. In Iwati (ph) prefecture, one person has been confirmed dead after their car was swept away by a tidal wave. In Ibaraki (ph) and Tochike (ph) prefectures -- neighboring Tokyo, two people are reported to have died after a building collapsed on them. Police in Miyagi prefecture, where the earthquake hit hardest, says an unknown number of people are missing in Ishinomake (ph) and Kissen Noma (ph) cities. Where tsunami waves swept through coastal areas inland, many buildings and cars have been left submerged in the cities after the waves hit.

The earthquake with a magnitude 8.4 was unprecedented in Japan, one of the biggest quakes ever to hit the country. (INAUDIBLE) back on January 17th, 1995. It had a magnitude of 7.3, left 6,434 people dead.

This is what it looked like in our Sendai newsroom when the earthquake hit, obviously, monitors, things rolling off the desk, staff trying to assess the damage and what's going on when that large earthquake hit, 8.4, in the Miyagi prefecture.

This large earthquake follows another powerful earthquake occurring, of course, in New Zealand last month. Japan's meteorological agency says that quake estimated a magnitude of 6.3, this one being, of course, a lot bigger at 8.4.

Numerous people are having various or serious trouble communicating with their family members and friends with their cell phones in the wake of the quake. This is what it looked like in our newsroom in Tokyo, in Chiota (ph), close to the Japanese diet. In some areas, the speed of the Internet communication has been slow. Japan's communication giant NZT (ph) has created special headquarters to check the damage of their systems. According to Toshiba Elevator, assumes that most elevators...

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: All right, we have been listening in to NHK television there in Tokyo. Of course, some terrifying situations unfolding there, as you see. Inside the newsroom, inside buildings, people just running for cover. This 8.9 magnitude quake that hit about three-and-a-half hours ago now -- in actual fact, two-and-a-half hours ago, and we've been along watching what has been happening. And NHK has delivered some extraordinary pictures as they have covered this.

And as we've seen, the people in Japan very used to earthquakes hitting, but not of this magnitude. I mean, this is one of the highest magnitude quake that has hit Japan. Indeed, we have learned that it's about the seventh largest quake that's hit since we've started recording earthquakes.

And just want to go over some of the information we know at this point. We were hearing there from NHK confirmation of at least eight people who have been killed, but sadly, that number is more than likely going to rise. So we will continue to follow this.

But of course, residents across northeastern Japan are in shock this hour, the island rocked by an 8.9 magnitude quake, just extraordinary strength in a city and a country that is used to these sorts of quakes, built very sturdily. A tsunami washed ashore shortly after that, and of course, that's where the big damage comes. That's the deadly aftermath of an earthquake like this. It washed up cars. It washed up boats. We can see there -- this is older tape, but we can see that tsunami rushing towards the shore, and of course, people being given advice to make sure they can seek higher ground.

Now, the tsunami watches and warnings are in effect for this entire region. We were reading out a list, over 12 different countries affected -- Taiwan, Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Hawaii, Marshall Islands, Russia, Guam, of course, you know, an atoll like (ph) Kirabass (ph). It's under a tsunami watch, too. The problem there is people have no higher ground to seek.

So we're watching now this again -- this is taped material that we had a little earlier from NHK, that debris, the mud rolling in across the land there. Thankfully, in most instances, this was across farmland. So at least we are dealing with a situation where there are fewer people. But there are still people on the ground there affected by this, and the worry is them trying to rush and evacuate ahead of that roll (ph) of mud and debris that brings cars and boats all collected together.

Now, back on land, of course, the quake rattled Tokyo residents, who -- they're used to these kind of events, as we've said, but smoke was seen rising from a port (ph) building. People poured out into the streets from their office buildings.

We spoke to one witness to this, who chose remain in his building. He works for "The Times" there. He's the Asia editor. He decided that he felt safer inside the building. But the advice given by authorities there is if you can possibly get out of those buildings, it might be a better idea. There's furniture. There are going to be aftershocks, and they can be deadly, especially when everything has been unsettled after that 8.9 magnitude quake.

Now, Japan's Kyoto News Agency reports there are a number of injuries, and we have spoken to you about these confirmed deaths of eight, at this point. There's been at least one major aftershock since the original 8.9 quake. In actual fact, there've been a few. There was a 6.4. There was a 6.8. We're keeping an eye on that. And as we were talking to our reporter, Kyung Lah, she was actually -- when we were talking to her live, experienced an aftershock there and sort of stabilized herself as she spoke to us.

Let's go to our Ivan Cabrera now, who's there at the International Weather Center, keeping an eye on all of this. And of course, you know, I mentioned, Ivan, Kirabass, an atoll where, you know, there is nowhere to run here. There's no high ground.

IVAN CABRERA, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: Each government is going to have to really get the word out and let folks know where they have to go, head inland and at least 15 meters high, 50 feet, if you can do that. This video is just -- continuing to see this, it's just unbelievable to me, some these structures -- it looks like some of the buildings are intact. They were just essentially lifted off their foundation as the tsunami came in.

Here are two things that are going on in Japan. We are continuing with an earthquake threat in Japan. We have now had a stronger magnitude quake than what we had in Haiti, and that was just an aftershock of a 7.1. We're going to continue to get these aftershocks. When you get a great earthquake of an 8.9, you're going to get these aftershocks that are going to be into the 6 magnitude, into the 7 magnitude, which in themselves can cause significant damage. That's threat number one. That will continue for several hours, perhaps days, perhaps weeks as they get a little bit weaker.

The second threat that is ongoing is this tsunami threat. If you're wondering, yes, it's hit Japan, but the reason they're still under a tsunami warning and a major tsunami warning is because we are not done. A tsunami's a series of waves that will continue to come in. It is not going to be safe for the folks of Japan until two hours after the last tsunami hits, and we are not there yet. So again, an active tsunami threat and an active earthquake threat as far as those aftershocks continue for Japan. That is for Japan, where we've already confirmed a measurement as far as the wave heights of 7.3 meters. That is unbelievable, a 24-foot-wall of water coming in to Sendai there. Sendai airport is gone (ph) from this 8.9.

I want to go through the rest of the -- essentially, warnings. The entire Pacific Rim is now under a tsunami warning or watch. We are now at the most severe level from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. If you are near a coast and it is near the Pacific coast, get away from the coast and move inland and move to higher ground.

If you're watching us from Hawaii, that includes you, where you have about two-and-a-half hours before, essentially, the first tsunami arrives. And all of the islands in Hawaii are going to be impacted. The tsunami, remember, wraps around the islands here, and it will approach in two-and-a-half hours, at 3:00 AM local time.

Remember, the Indonesia tsunami hit further to the west, so Hawaii was not hit hard because we had all of these land masses that essentially buffeted (SIC) from them getting the hardest hit. But you are not going to be protected if you're watching us from Russia, where the tsunami is about to arrive now. Marcus Islands at 8:53 GMT. If you're watching us from Taiwan, very near there, 9:30 GMT is your arrival. If you're watching us from the Philippines -- I know that you are -- it is now going to arrive in the Philippines, northern Philippines, at 9:55 GMT. Further to the south at 10:26 GMT.

These times are crucial because we are running out of time, the closer you are to that epicenter, to get you to higher ground. Marshall Islands at 10:44 GMT. Indonesia 10:49 GMT. Papua New Guinea, as you see on the map there, arrival at 11:30 GMT. Solomon Islands, a few minutes thereafter. Kiribati at 12:28 GMT. Again, as I mentioned, Hawaii 3:00 AM local time, as we have been hearing the sirens, these tsunami sirens have been ongoing there, warning folks of the impending potential catastrophic tsunami that is going to arrive.

Australia, you're in on it, as well, 16:20 GMT. Mexico -- Rosemary, now we're getting into, again, on the other side of the Pacific here -- Mexico. Oregon is now under a tsunami watch, into Alaska, New Zealand, as well, further to the south. Chile in on it, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru. We're talking about the arrival there literally 24 hours from now. So plenty of time for folks to be warned.

But the region that I'm most concerned about, obviously, in Japan here, further to the north into Russia. There is Taiwan, arrival in just about an hour, then the Philippines and the southern Philippines. And then we get into Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and into Malaysia, as well. We'll continue to track it. Again, the tsunami travels at about 800 kilometers per hour, so it's a pretty simple program that we punch in and that we're able to determine exactly the arrival of the first of many waves to come. We'll keep you posted on that.

CHURCH: Yes, thankfully, there is some predictability involved in these tsunamis as they attack the coastline there. Thanks so much for going through that.

I want to go back to Anna Coren, who, of course, is in Hong Kong, part of that same region that's being affected here. Anna, back to you.

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Thank you, Rosemary. We're now going to bring in, actually, Carter Evans, who is in Honolulu. He's our correspondent on the ground there. And Carter, I believe that sirens have gone off in Honolulu. What can you tell us?

CARTER EVANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Yes, Anna, we've heard the civil defense sirens going off for a little while. I was going to Waikiki when the warning was first issued. And basically, a lot of people don't know what's going on. A lot of tourists who are in the area right now not too familiar with what a civil defense siren means. We did see several fire trucks and police officers staging, getting ready to evacuate people from the low-lying areas.

I spoke with some people at some of the hotels along the beach in Waikiki. What they're planning to do right now is to put some of their emergency plans into action. They're planning to evacuate people to higher floors, floor six and above. That is the plan right now. They were waiting for the official word from the governor's office before getting in touch with people in their hotel rooms, but that is the plan right now, as far as I understand.

Now, I was driving around town to try and get an idea of what's going on and how people are reacting to this and are people are beginning to evacuate. And the first thing you notice, at every single gas station on the island, there is a very long line of cars. People are filling up their tanks. They're going to grocery stores right now. They're preparing. What people are being told is to evacuate inland about a half mile and to get to higher ground. We're expecting the first waves to hit the Hawaiian island chain at 3:00 AM this morning.

COREN: Carter, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has said that -- it estimates the tsunami could cause a wave magnitude of up to two meters above normal sea level. So what would that mean for places in Hawaii?

EVANS: Well, you know, there are a lot of low-lying areas right along the shore, and there are several areas in Waikiki Beach, a heavily tourist area, would be one of them that's fairly low lying and for quite a distance back, as well. And as you've seen with prior tsunamis before, where these waves come ashore, they tend to just keep going and they envelop everything in their path. And that's what the concern is right now, trying to get people out of those areas.

And again, Waikiki would be a big concern right here where I am in Honolulu, because it is a heavy tourist area right now. There are a lot of people here this time of the year, and again, a lot of them still don't know what's going to.

COREN: Carter, how many people are we talking about will have to evacuate those coastal areas?

EVANS: Well, you know, it's up to a half mile from the shore. That's what they're telling people. There are a little bit over a million people, as far as the population goes in the Hawaiian island chain right now. As far as the number of people that could be affected by this, we're not really sure right now. But we do know that every single coastal area on all sides of all islands will be affected when these waves come ashore.

The question now is, how big are these waves going to be? How strong are they going to be? And the Tsunami Warning Center and the civil defense in this area, what they do is they have a series of buoys offshore, several miles to several hundred miles. So as the tsunamis and the first waves begin to get a little closer, they'll get a better gauge of how powerful these waves are and how high they are and what sort of damage (INAUDIBLE) But again, what we're being told is 3:00 AM this morning -- that's when the first waves will start to arrive.

COREN: OK. And what is the local time now, Carter?

EVANS: The local time right now is 10:45 PM, so we've still got about 4 hours and 15 minutes.

COREN: OK. And what are authorities saying? Do they think they can, you know, get everybody out of those low-lying areas, everybody can get to safety? Or are they concerned that they won't be able to get that message to everybody?

EVANS: Well, you know, this is something that people who live here are familiar with. They hear the civil defense sirens and they know what to do. This is something that the authorities in the area train for all the time. The great thing, if there is a good thing about this right now, is that there is a long lead time here. We do have a good amount of time, a good lead warning right now before these first waves arrive. So that does set people up for success, if you will. But it is a big job right now. There are a lot of people to notify, and it is late at night so a lot of people aren't going to have their TVs on and know what's going on.

COREN: Yes, as you say, Carter, it's just gone 10:45 PM. Have people obviously turned on their televisions and seen what's taken place in Japan?

EVANS: Yes. People are turning on their televisions right now and seeing the devastation in Japan, and I think that that's what's really concerning people right now. I talked to several people in line at the gas station, and basically, what they say is they feel like this is the real deal. I grew up here in Hawaii and I've been through this before. In fact, this time last year, there was a tsunami warning very much like this. And when the tsunami actually came ashore, it was only a couple of inches. This time, people feel a little bit different. They think this is the real deal.

COREN: Yes, well, Carter, I mean, they're saying meters. They're talking, you know, two meters this wave, that could hit all those countries. And I think we're talking about more than 20 countries. But you know, Hawaii's certainly in the firing line. Tell us about previous tsunamis that have hit Hawaii. You say the one last year was only a couple of inches, but what about in previous years? Any larger ones that have (INAUDIBLE)

EVANS: If I'm correct in my Hawaiian history here, I believe the last devastating tsunami to hit the Hawaiian islands was back in the 1950s, and that struck part of the big island of Hawaii, a town called Hilo and it...

COREN: I think we have just lost our Carter Evans, who is reporting live from Honolulu. But as he said, it has just gone 10:45 PM. People are hearing the news of what has taken place in Japan. They know that the sirens have gone off and that they're being told to go to higher ground.

Well, let's now go to Christy Lusalle (ph), who's going to explain exactly where the earthquake struck.

CHRISTY LUSALLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, let's map out this ongoing disaster for you. And we want to show you exactly where all this is unfolding. The epicenter of the quake was right out here in the sea. It's about 130 kilometers to the east of the city of Sendai. It took place at a depth of about 24 kilometers, which is very shallow indeed.

Now, the site, it lies about 373 kilometers from the capital of Tokyo. That's where we've been watching all these images of the buildings shaking in the capital and the population there forced to take cover. The quake -- it was even felt in Beijing, China. But there is no doubting where the greatest impact has been.

Tsunami waves have affected much of the east coast, with areas around Tokyo submerged. The most dramatic scenes you've been watching have been playing out along the coastline and farmland near Sendai, local media reporting a tsunami of up to 10 meters. That is 33 feet, 33 feet in height. That wall of water pushing through is clearly going to have a devastating impact on everything in its path.

Now, I want to show you some video out of Tokyo as the earthquake struck earlier today. Now, this was the scene in our Tokyo bureau. We'll bring up the video for you. You can see our CNN producer, Chungo Gura (ph), running to her desk. Let's take a look at it.

The tremors lasted for several there in Tokyo, but Tokyo again, 373 kilometers away from the epicenter -- Anna.

COREN: Yes, Christy, we've just heard from the U.S. Geological Survey that said at least 18 aftershocks have occurred since that 8.9 quake shook Japan. All those aftershocks were 5.4 magnitude or above, the strongest being 7.1. Let's go back to Rosemary Church at CNN Center -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right, thanks, Anna and Christy. Yes, we do want to just recap you now on the tsunami disaster that's still unfolding in northwestern-eastern Japan. It's too early to say how many people are missing, dead or injured, of course, at this point, although we heard a number there from authorities, that the scope was perhaps around 8. But the fear here, of course, is that that number will, unfortunately and sadly, rise.

An extremely powerful 8.9 quake struck about 150 kilometers off Honshu province. And that was just a few hours ago. That's an unprecedented quake for Japan. They're used to many quakes but not of this magnitude, when you're talking about 8.9. And there've been half a dozen or so serious aftershocks, some up to 6.8. So that is an earthquake in itself as an aftershock.

Now, a tsunami -- of course, that's that great speeding wall of water -- slamming into the coastline. That was just a short time ago, and a number of waves following that, too. It rolled over towns and farm fields. And of course, there were many -- just not just the one, but this one was the dramatic -- when you see this wave of water and mud with boats, trucks, cars, and indeed, people, too. That is the sad story that we are following here as this unfolds before our very eyes. And you see there fires on the ground.

Now, motorists were hit of (ph) the wave. They're trying to escape, of course, to move faster than that wave as it approached. You can see them there. And just look at that fire. Now, several have erupted across the area that was hardest hit. This is actually an oil refinery in the city of Cheba (ph).

And tsunami warnings have been issued right across the wider region, the Pacific Rim, and we are told more waves are expected for Japan. And while watches and warnings are up in some 20 or so countries, now we're hearing, in the Pacific, from the Philippines to Russia, Guam, Australia, Indonesia, Taiwan, a whole range. In the U.S. state of Hawaii, evacuations are now under way. So we're keeping a very close eye that.

All right, Kyung Lah is on -- on with us now. I'm not sure if you're on the line or there live in the studio. On the line, I'm hearing. Kyung Lah, we haven't spoken for a while now. No doubt you've had an opportunity to gather some more information on this. What are you able to tell us, particularly about the tsunami and the effects there on the coastline?

KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, information actually has been really difficult to gather, Rosemary. Let me explain why. This is one of the only phone lines we have out of the bureau. Phone lines are very difficult to get right now, whether it be a mobile line or it be a land line. The system is simply jammed, as people are trying to reach their loved ones, especially if they're trying to reach up north. So the infrastructure right now is simply overloaded.

It's only three hours since the initial quake struck. Information is starting to seep in. The local authorities and the local media are reporting a vast array of numbers that at this point, we just simply can't confirm, including a number of deaths, how many fires there are. And there are reports of injuries, you know across, the country. But at this point, trying to confirm that information, trying to get -- really understand what's happening up north has been extraordinarily difficult.

I can tell you that we are still feeling aftershocks here in Tokyo, that they are certainly nothing like that first one we felt, the first quake we felt three hours ago, and they have seemed to lessen in strength as the day progresses. But the aftershocks are continuing.

Here in Tokyo, the rail line does not appear to be back up yet, as we last checked. People are still kind of walking around in the streets. It's a bit of an extraordinary sight. If you go by any of these parks, these parks are simply filled with people who are standing around, trying to figure out what they're going to do next. So it's really been a bit of an unusual day in Tokyo as people try to sort of gather their thoughts and try to remain calm and try to respond and in a calm manner.

We want to make clear the situation in Tokyo is vastly different than what's happening up north. Up north is the impact of the tsunami. It is the immediate emergency, trying to rescue people out of that region, trying to collect (ph) the lives there, trying to make sure that people are OK and try to respond to that initial emergency.

Here in Tokyo, because you have such a dense population base -- you have 13 million people here in this city, and if you don't have effective public transit, you really are going to have a serious problem. But people for the most part are behaving very calmly. A lot of the buildings have been evacuated. We're the only people left in this particular building. And at this point, it's the evening commute home, but there's no easy way to get home now.

CHURCH: Yes, and Kyung Lah, you mentioned something earlier, that when the rail line stops, that's when people certainly in Tokyo know that this is a serious situation because they are used to earthquakes all of the time. But once the railways stop, that's a different story, isn't it.

LAH: Once the railways stop, and then they announce that they will be shut down for a while, that is extraordinary. This is a country where if your train is maybe 10 or 15 seconds late, you start to question it. You start to wonder, What's wrong? So when a rail line -- and this is -- there's an extensive rail system here in Japan -- when it's completely shut down, that signals that there is a national emergency going on, and certainly, that's what Japan is experiencing right now.

CHURCH: And as you mentioned, too, it is very difficult to confirm information in a situation like this that's ongoing. This is not over yet. People are still waiting for more waves, more tsunamis there in Japan, and right across the Pacific Rim. But we were hearing information a little earlier about confirmed deaths, eight confirmed deaths. But unfortunately -- I mean, this -- that number will rise in this sort of situation.

LAH: I can tell you from listening to just the various national newscasts here, many people are saying that the number is much higher. We have not been able to confirm any numbers. But certainly, when we're talking about a magnitude -- an earthquake of this magnitude, an impact region that is so wide, we're expecting that there could be a rise in those initial numbers.

CHURCH: And of course, the witness reports we've received from people there in Tokyo, as you point out and as they pointed out, too, a very different situation for people in Tokyo. It's a very sturdily built city, 13 million people, as you said. And for those people, they're very calm. But of course, it's along the coastal areas because of these ongoing tsunamis where the danger is. What sort of mechanisms are in place for people when those waves do come ashore?

LAH: Japan is built with an emergency broadcasting system, and as soon as there is a tsunami warning or alert issued, there is an immediate bulletin issued, whether it be via mobile phone, television, radio. This is one of the most plugged-in countries in the world. There is vast wireless access. Almost every single person you meet has wireless phone. So if that alert goes out, it is a message that is received. And this country prides itself on getting the word out very quickly.

The problem that we have here is because we're talking about such a large tsunami, such a large earthquake, it's -- it's very difficult to respond to a very large emergency like that. So the country can try to be prepared as possible, but you can't prepare for everything.

I can tell you from being along the coastline, that when you stand on the coastline, something that you notice in Japan is that there are actually gates built into the concrete. The are not the wide sandy beaches that you might expect in an island. There are huge concrete walls. There are concrete gates that immediately close once there's a tsunami alert issued.

So this is the country that tries to prepare for a tsunami, that has been affected by tsunami, that has had people die from tsunamis in its history. So it does try to prepare for that. But again, what any emergency personnel will tell you is that we can prepare for the worst, but we can't prepare for everything, especially when you talk about a large -- you know, a large event like this.

We're just starting to see even more devastation, more pictures coming through, and we're expecting much more of this to come in, what you're watching on your screen here, because everybody has a camera. Everybody has a mobile phone. So we're anticipating this is something that we're going to see being shared across the country. Many, many people felt this earthquake here in Japan today.

CHURCH: Most definitely. Kyung Lah reporting there from Tokyo, our correspondent there covering the whole of Japan.

Want to just recap you very quickly on what we know. We don't have confirmed figures of casualties at this point, although we did hear from NHK television a number there thrown around of eight people. But the problem here is, of course, that will rise. And we know at this point that hat the tsunamis keep rolling in on the coastline.