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Japan Hit by 8.9 Magnitude Quake; Tsunami Warnings Across Pacific, Including Hawaii, West Coast of US. World Markets Fall After Japan Quake. Large Wave Hits Maui

Aired March 11, 2011 - 09:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN GUEST ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM": Hello and welcome to our breaking -- continuing breaking news coverage of the earthquake in Japan and the fallout rippling truly across the world. I'm Kate Bolduan, everybody.

HALA GORANI, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Hala Gorani. And we'd like to welcome our viewers in the United States, on CNN USA and around the world on CNN International.

Some startling images have come into us over the last few hours after this 8.9 magnitude quake.

Right now some live pictures for you. The West Coast of the U.S. in the crosshairs bracing for tsunami waves. A California emergency spokesman says Northern California near Crescent City could see the largest waves reaching six feet within the next hour.

BOLDUAN: Watching that very closely.

And tsunami waves have already reached Hawaii's shores. Sirens have been going off across the island. And a full-scale coastal evacuation has been underway.

You're seeing early morning hours there. The waves a bit kicking up as you can see.

GORANI: Now, Kate, we want to show our views some of the most dramatic video. It all started with a historic tremor, 8.9 magnitude. One of the most powerful in recorded history.

BOLDUAN: It's really, truly amazing. And cameras were rolling when the ground started shaking.

We want to just stop and listen for a moment to the moment the earthquake struck.

Terrifying to even hear what that person was going through. This video was shot inside a home and posted on YouTube. The alarm and panic likely repeated across much of Japan.

GORANI: That was the moment the earthquake struck in a private home. This inside an office building.

You see the cabinets violently shaking and people, understandably -- they are used to this, Kate, in Japan. They are used to earthquakes. Not something this big but they are used to it, they know what to do. They are ducking for cover.

BOLDUAN: And right now, dozens of people are confirmed dead. We actually just did receive a bulletin.

And I want to make sure we get this right, Hala, because it is a startling number starting to come in from the police in the coastal city. They say that they have found 200 to 300 bodies have been found in the coastal city of Sendai. That was the nearest city to the epicenter which was off the coast of Sendai.

GORANI: Let's continue to look at these pictures.

And this, Kate, that 200 to 300 bodies discovered in Sendai in addition to the 60 confirmed dead already. We're likely to see this death toll climb tragically and dramatically.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

GORANI: Well, for millions of people the greatest concern after all of this is yet to come.

Much of the west coast in the U.S. is in the striking zone this coming hour.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers, he is here with the latest.

There is so much to cover, Chad. What are you seeing?

CHAR MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: This is a big quake. This is large. This is the biggest quake that has a potential to affect the West Coast of the U.S. that you've probably heard about in your lifetime, especially in my lifetime.

So this quake, even though it's in Japan, is -- has sent a wave. And we know that the bulk of the wave maybe centered and push down toward Hawaii and maybe even toward the south coast of South America but there is a significant portion of this wave propagating toward the western coast of the U.S.

Now I have seen a 12-inch wave in Crescent City become a five- foot wave because of the way the Crescent Beach is shaped. This could happen in any of those beaches along the west coast of the U.S. It's about an hour to an hour and a half away.

We know that by the colors of the bands and how many hours it would take. It took about 7 1/2 hours from the quake and the disturbance to get to Hawaii.

Now if you look at the lines, that's another hour to get to about Vancouver, maybe an hour and a half to get to Seattle, Portland, and then all of those coastal cities up and down the East Coast. We've been monitoring Twitter and we're saying -- we're hearing now that a lot of those sirens are going off on the West Coast. That means you must get to higher ground. I know a five-foot wave doesn't sound like much but when a five-foot wave comes on shore just because of the wave goes, from Charleston to Crescent City, at 7:23 a.m., even San Francisco at 8:00 Pacific Standard Time, two hours away.

But you have time to -- when that -- when five-foot wave comes on shore it has so much force and so much mass it can go many miles inland at five feet tall. Not just to the five-foot level. It can keep right on going and that is what Japan saw. That's why there's so much devastation.

Rob Marciano is here talking about and looking at Hawaii as well. We now know that there were some big waves in Hawaii. We'll get to that in a few minutes.

GORANI: All right. Chad Myers, thanks very much. We'll get back to you and Rob with more on what to expect as far as the tsunami waves are concerned.

BOLDUAN: It's just the anticipation -- it's such a horrible disaster because it's just the waiting and the waiting and the waiting for what could possibly come.

We got our eyes on that. And so many people as we've been talking about are really bracing for what's next. But in Japan, they're trying to grasp the true magnitude of what has happened. A disaster still unfolding.


BOLDUAN (voice-over): 2:46 p.m. in Japan. The ground shakes. An 8.9 magnitude earthquake strikes about 80 miles off the northeast coast of Honshu, Japan's most populous island.

It unleashes a monstrous tsunami, a wall of water roaring toward the shore as debris filled waves churn. It crushes homes and cars, sweeping boats inland. Near the city of Sendai, muddy waters surged, carrying parts of buildings with them. An airport building becomes an island as survivors head to the roof waiting for rescue.

Along the coast, fires triggered by the quake burn. These flame flames at an oil refinery rage out of control, all of this as the government tries to take stock of the destruction and coordinate a response.

There are a number of confirmed deaths. Dozens of injuries. But it's just too early to know the full scope of this disaster. In bustling Tokyo, a city of 13 million, about 230 miles away from the epicenter, they felt powerful aftershocks. Train stations shut down. Commuters panicked, babies cried.

Though earthquakes are common in Japan, people who live there say this is unlike anything they've felt before. MATT ALT, JAPAN QUAKE WITNESS: My wife and I stood outside and basically held on to the outside of our house. You couldn't even stand up. We have never, ever felt anything on a magnitude -- literal magnitude of what we experienced today.

BOLDUAN: According to the U.S. Geological Survey this is one of the most powerful earthquakes of the last century. It's triggering dangerous aftershocks and tsunami warnings across much of the Pacific. Alarms alerting people of the possibility the waves may be coming.


GORANI: Well, there are several angles to this. There is the devastation, there's the loss of human life as tragic as it is. There is also another fear.

Authorities are focused now on the safety of four nuclear power plants near the disaster zone. The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, says all three were safely shut down but officials are not taking any chances. Two thousand residents near one reactor have been told to evacuate and officials are warning that not everything is going according to plan.


YUKIO EDANO, JAPANESE CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY (Through Translator): The emergency shutdown has been conducted but the process of cooling down the reactor is currently not going as planned. Yes, as of -- 4:36 p.m. we received a report that the water cannot be pumped in. We are currently working on how to obtain enough electricity so that the water can all be sent or pumped into the reactor's coolers. So we're using all the backup electricity systems that are available there.


GORANI: Well, Japan's prime minister says there's still no reported leaks of radioactive materials from the power plant but there is a cooling system that was damaged in one of the nuclear plants and that's something authorities are keeping a very close eye on -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: And Hala, I want to bring in CNN's Kyung Lah. She was in Tokyo when the quake struck which was just -- which was about 230 miles away, but really felt it. She's now traveling north.

And, Kyung, are you there on the phone?

KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Yes, I am. We're trying to get out of Tokyo and what we're getting is a taste of the gridlock because the city has virtually shut down.

It is trying to cope hours after this earthquake and tsunami. Here in Tokyo it's really the impact of the earthquake that we're feeling. It's shut down much of the city's public transportation.

The rail lines, which are so vital to transportation for the -- city of 13 million people. Most of it is off. Some of it is starting to come back online, but people are really just stuck on the roads trying to figure out how they're going to get home.

This quake happened in the middle of the afternoon here. And I was in Tokyo station underground and we felt the earth swaying and moving underneath us. The signs up above were shaking back and forth. You could hear people reacting as they're clutching each other. We can hear children crying.

A different sort of reaction than what you normally experience here in an earthquake because people are so used to earthquakes. This was something that was an entirely different event. It was sustained, it was several minutes long that we felt. And the aftershock came very quickly. We felt a number of aftershock after aftershock. So it has been a very disconcerting afternoon here in Tokyo.

But certainly nothing like what we're seeing up north. Up north is where we are seeing an entirely different crisis altogether. At this point, we simply cannot fathom what the scope of that devastation is going to be.

We were speaking to a news colleague who is from that region. He said the images that you're looking at, where you're seeing that water, that wall of tsunami debris coming ashore, that is unimaginable that water should simply not be there and so for the people who live in that region, it's something that wasn't even in their scope. It was something that they didn't even think was possible.

That's how far inland it was. So at this point until there is daylight it's really going to be very difficult for any of us to truly grasp what's been happening up there.

GORANI: And Kyung, this is Hala Gorani here at the CNN center. I want to let our viewers know what they are seeing. There was a whirlpool. These are images of a whirlpool created by that earthquake that struck off the shores of Japan.

We saw images of cars. Just like toy cars essentially being dragged inland miles it seemed.

Kyung, what are people doing right now? I mean, what is their state of mind? Is there still panic or are they sort of in an orderly fashion trying to get home, get to their families?

LAH: We have to break it down into two different segments. In the area where I'm at in Tokyo, it really is quite orderly. It's -- yes, people are frustrated. They are trying to figure out how to get home. Many people commute an hour outside of the center of the city to their homes.

So if there are no rail lines, if there are no taxis and the roads are jammed, there's simply nowhere for them to go. So what we're seeing are people camping out in public subways.

I actually got a note from a Twitter follower who said all the bicycles in the bike shops are sold out because people are trying to bike their way home. So that's what it's like in Tokyo.

Up north, we are getting very different reports. Certainly that is a crisis. That is going to be a humanitarian crisis. Right now, it is simply a search and rescue operation, a completely different experience up there than what we're seeing here in Tokyo.

GORANI: OK. Kyung Lah is reporting to us from Japan. She's heading north.

We're seeing images from the northern part of the country there of just --

BOLDUAN: Startling.

GORANI: It's just utter devastation. I mean it just looks apocalyptic. I mean you can imagine --

BOLDUAN: And when you --



BOLDUAN: When you see it on TV it almost looks like a small wave but then you take a closer look, it's a boat, a car, a house just --

GORANI: An entire house, slamming up against the highway. And goodness only knows what happened to the people driving those cars who were also submerged by the water.

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

We will have much more of our breaking news coverage of a -- really a disaster that's still unfolding right before our eyes. We're seeing it with you. We're going to have a live report from Hawaii where they're feeling the ripple effects there. Stay with us. We'll be right back.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BOLDUAN: For all of you waking up just about now in California and, really, across the country, we want to get you caught up on our top story -- our breaking news coverage of a tsunami racing across the Pacific Ocean. And "racing" is almost an understatement toward the West Coast of the US. The wave was unleashed by an 8.9 magnitude earthquake that struck off the coast of Japan earlier.

GORANI: And listen to these figures, here. Police in Miyagi Prefecture are saying that between 200 to 300 bodies have been found in the coastal city of Sendai alone. Closer to the epicenter, of course, than the capital city of Tokyo. But they're still -- it's important to underline this. There are still no casualty counts from the hardest- hit areas. We haven't gotten those numbers.

BOLDUAN: We don't really even have people on the ground there, yet.

GORANI: Exactly, and that's why our teams are racing as fast as they can to those hard-hit areas. And also, dozens of countries and territories are under tsunami warnings still this hour.

Well, just about 45 minutes ago, those tsunami waves began hitting Hawaii, and Carter Evans is live on the phone in Honolulu. What was it -- we're seeing an image, here, Carter. Now, it doesn't look like much. But what does it like when you're there, when you see these waves hitting the coast in Hawaii, Carter?

CARTER EVANS, CNN CORRESPONDET (via telephone): Well, one of the things that's difficult about this is that you really can't see it too well right now because most people have moved inland. What we're looking at is a few web cams.

But here's what I have. This is the official word from the Tsunami Warning Center. Waves as high as six feet are hitting Kahului, Maui right now, causing damage in that area. Waves as high as three feet are hitting Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii, causing damage there.

They're saying here now that it was a very good decision to evacuate these coastal areas because they expect to see damage. They expect to see waves continuing about every 15 minutes for the next couple of hours. They say that this tsunami event really, right now in Hawaii, is just beginning.

In a few hours, they may take down the warning. They may remove the tsunami warning. But it will definitely not be an all-clear. They're telling me, basically, that the damage cannot be assessed right now, and cannot be safely assessed for several hours.

So, it's not known the significance of the damage. But we do know from the sea level observation stations that the waves hitting certain parts of the islands right now are as high as six feet.

What you're going to see, and I believe what you're seeing in some of these web cam shots, is what looks like shallow water, low tide. Exposed reef in some areas. And that is very, very common in a tsunami.

If you're a surfer, as I am, you know when the waves come in, just before a big set comes in, the water recedes and then, it comes in with the wave. And that is what we're seeing in this case with the tsunami.

So, what you may see first is a draw-out of the water. It may become very shallow. It may be over a period of 15 or 20 minutes. And then, over the next 15 or 20 minutes, the water will slowly come back in until it reaches where it was on the shoreline, but it will continue going and go in further. How far inland right now is still a question they cannot answer.

BOLDUAN: Carter, it's Kate Bolduan here with Hala Gorani at the CNN Center. If I -- If I understand this correctly, you're from Hawaii. What does -- what could this mean for the people there, for Hawaii, and what you're all going through right now?

EVANS: Well, yes, I grew up here, and this is something that they prepare everyone for. We have civil defense sirens that they test monthly on a regular basis. They taught us in school what to do. The authorities regularly train for this, to help evacuate people.

And if there is any good news to come ahead of this tsunami, it's the fact we got a good heads-up on this, a good several hours. So, people did get warned to go to higher ground.

The significance of the damage is unknown. What could happen is significant damage. Basically, everything that comes into these islands either has to come by sea or by air. Most of it comes by sea. So, there's always big concern during a tsunami event that the ports may damaged, that some of the offshore pipelines where the oil tankers offload their oil to run the electric plants here, that those might be damaged.

That's why we saw such a big rush to the gas stations when this warning was initially issued this evening. People were going to fill up their cars, not because they had to escape half a mile inland, but because they're afraid that if there's any significant damage, that they may not have access to gasoline, fuel, or food for several days.

BOLDUAN: You have to prepare for all of that, at this point. Carter Evans for us in Honolulu. Thanks so much, Carter. Stay safe. We'll check back in with you.

EVANS: Sure.

GORANI: And interesting, Kate, that he said that the authorities are saying this tsunami event has just started, which means that we have several hours of monitoring potential very high waves on the islands of Hawaii --

BOLDUAN: And you were making --

GORNAI: And the impact they will have --

BOLDUAN: Hala, you made a great point earlier --

GORANI: On them.

BOLDUAN: Which was that it's not necessarily the first wave.


BOLDUAN: That is the big wave, which is, obviously, logical thinking, you'd think it'd be the first big wave that's coming in. So, you have to watch it.

GORANI: It's not necessarily the first big wave, the experts tell us. And what Carter also said was important is that this time people got a heads-up.

BOLDUAN: Right. GORANI: And the 2000 -- end of 2005 tsunami, people didn't get a heads-up. So, that's important, as well, that authorities really sounded the alarm bells on this one.

BOLDUAN: That's exactly right. The ripples of a disaster, we're talking about it all. Japan is the world's third largest economy.

GORANI: And, right now, it is assessing huge losses, potentially, and the impact is stretching around the world. We'll take a look at how the stock market is reacting, and what economists say might be the impact on the country. We'll be right back.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BOLDUAN: Welcome back. And if you're just joining us, our breaking news coverage of a disaster -- ripple effects of tsu -- of an earthquake in Japan. And I think what you're taking a look at, Hala, if I'm right, is live pictures off the coast of San Francisco. Why San Francisco? That's a part of the coastline that we're keeping an eye on right now for the potential of a tsunami wave to hit there.

GORANI: And Kate, it looks calm. You can see that it's a bit windy, it's not the best weather, possibly, that that coastal area has ever had. But definitely you are not seeing any kind of big waves.

However, the concern is that the tsunami warning that has affected the entire Pacific coastal area of the United States is going to create the kind of waves that will cause, potentially, damage. People are urged to go inland. And if you're just waking up in that part of the United States, bringing you up-to-date on a massive earthquake in Japan causing ripple effects around the world.

BOLDUAN: And as you can see on this video as it's going in and out, this is KTVU. Obviously, that is in California. I think we're actually taking a look at raw footage, and that's why you're seeing it kind of scrambled a little bit.

GORANI: Right.

BOLDUAN: But California, as well as Oregon, all across the Pacific Coast, they are preparing for whatever may come their way, and that's exactly what they need to be doing at this moment, Hala.

GORANI: And you briefly saw some of those images of the destruction in Japan itself. "Apocalyptic" is the only word that comes to mind.

You're seeing ships, huge ships, overturned. You're seeing cars that were were just flung in the waters against busy highways. Cars that looked like toys when you look at these images from aerial shots that came in to CNN.

Look at this. This looks like some sort of boat, some sort of ship, overturned. We're hearing in Sendai alone, closest to the epicenter, up to 300 bodies discovered. Look at this. This is the moment the earthquake struck in a supermarket in Tokyo, Japan. Tokyo Japan is 400 kilometers, 250 miles or so, away from the epicenter.

BOLDUAN: And they're used to earthquakes.

GORANI: And Kate, they may be used to this in Japan, but even by Japan standards --

BOLDUAN: Which gets a lot of earthquakes.

GORANI: This was something very much out of the ordinary, 8.9 magnitude earthquake. Very scary scenes.

BOLDUAN: Our Kyung Lah was there, and she describes the scene saying it was nothing like anyone that lives in Japan has seen in quite some time. The reaction was very different, as you can see right there.

GORANI: Even as the tsunami waves roll across the Pacific, the disaster is already rippling through the world's economy because Japan is the world's third largest economy. The Nikkei 225 is the index for the Japanese stock market, it plunged in the aftermath. And Wall Street is poised for more losses just minutes from now. Christine Romans is part of the CNN money team. Christine, what are we expecting when the markets open in the United States?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: We're expecting losses for stock markets, Hala. We're also expecting to continue to watch oil prices fall here. They fell below $100 a barrel and, why? Because Japan is the third largest consumer of oil in the world. It is the third largest economy. And by all accounts, it is paralyzed right now.

Demand for big commodities from this country is expected to stop, essentially, in the very near term. Of course, it will recover when there's reconstruction, but it's just another reason why people in the commodities market are saying those prices are all down.

I want to talk to you a little bit about the Nikkei, what happened when its stock market index got -- when it was open when this earthquake happened, and the stock market index fell quite sharply, and then closed. It didn't have an awful lot of time. Investors there didn't have an awful lot of time to react. And when you talk to people in the markets, you guys, the phones weren't working. They couldn't even hardly place orders.

So, Nikkei futures continuing to move lower, here, this morning, watching as the futures market is forecasting more losses, there, for Japanese stocks and for US stocks, and global stock markets were all down, as well.

A couple of things, here, we're watching on the oil front. A burning oil refinery, trying to put that out, in the country. Very difficult. They've closed down refining capacity in a lot of different places because they're very concerned about the infrastructure. Closely watching the nuclear power plants, they're closing down four of those. Step-by-step, the IEA and others, International Atomic Energy Commission and others, trying to figure out exactly what the extent of the damage is, there, on the infrastructure.

Also, roads are closed. Access to a lot of this infrastructure is closed. The Sendai airport is closed. Actually, flooded quite badly with thousands of people stranded.

Some of those pictures quite interesting from Sendai airport, where you can see people on the roof. You're seeing those fires breaking out, and some of those other oil refinery fires, there, in those pictures right now.

People also stranded at Narita International Airport, as we reported earlier. That's the Sendai airport, there. You can see that the runway and the parking lots are full of water from the tsunami. That airport is closed for the foreseeable future.

Narita Airport, which is the big international airport, it had been closed earlier and, then, they had so many people stranded there, they did reopen, you guys, for some outgoing flights. But the rail service and the highway service to Narita are closed, so there are some outgoing flights, but that airport is closed for the day to ingoing flights. They're rerouting everything to other airports in the region. Back to you guys.

BOLDUAN: Thanks so much, Christine. We'll be watching the markets. And we'll be watching it with you.


BOLDUAN: We want to get right -- we want to get right over to Rob Marciano who, I believe, has some news coming out from Hawaii. Is that it, Rob?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. We're looking at Maui, now, and some of the gauges, there, on the North Shore showing significant rise in water. We've seen a rise in Kauai, on the island of Oahu, now, as this wave propagates further to the south and east. We're seeing rise across parts of northern Kauai.

Kahului, that harbor gauge, has seen a rise of six feet, OK? So, that is significantly higher than what we have seen the past couple of measurements, which have been mostly on southeastern facing shores of the other two islands.

Here is the harbor gauge. Typically, going up and down by a foot or two and then, boom. The wave comes, it jumps up six feet. Then recedes six feet. So, you've got a 12-feet difference from crest to trough there. And then it comes up again -- I don't know, about 20 or 30 minutes later -- back and up and over six feet and still rising.

So, this particular -- the second wave looks to be a little bit higher here in this harbor gauge. And when you are talking about a gauge or a rise of that much, you're going to see some damage. Certainly going to see some damage in there on the north shore of Maui.

Here's how it looks. We are looking north. There is the harbor. All of these waves coming in, and this is a good example of how the local geography can funnel and amplify the tsunami as it comes further inland. So, a significant wave increase here on the northern shores of Maui. And we will be looking at this probably for the big island, too, in the next several minutes. We will get reports to you as we get them, but likely damage on the north shore of Maui.

BOLDUAN: All right. We will keep tracking that very closely. We are keeping our eyes on the coast on Hawaii. We're also keeping a close eye on the west coast of the U.S. as tsunami waves ripple away from Japan heading that direction.

GORANI: Well, if you're watching us on the West Coast, it's expected to hit next hour. We are live from the Weather Center and also from Tokyo, straight ahead. Stay with CNN for our breaking news coverage of the Japan earthquake. We will be right back.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BOLDUAN: Welcome back to our breaking news coverage of the earthquake in Japan and the tsunami threat that is now extending all the way to northern America. Thank you for joining us.

GORANI: And it was more than a tsunami threat in Japan because it ended up causing a lot of damage and many deaths.

We want to show you some of the best video we have. Some of the video that shows you the extent of the devastation. It was 8.9 magnitude quake. Historically very, very rare to register that kind of magnitude quake.

And look. This is inside a private home. It went on for a long time, Kate. And it was sustained. And that is what people who were in Japan at the time the quake hit said was unusual about it. It felt different.

BOLDUAN: In Tokyo, they could feel it - in Tokyo, which is 230 miles from where the actual epicenter hit. We are looking at some video within Japan, of course. Just look what they are facing in this office building you can see. The devastation following it when you look at the tsunami wave that come in. People call it a wall of water. Ten, 13 feet, a wall of water -- absolutely amazing.

Right now, dozens of people confirmed dead. But to be quite -- thousands are looking for shelter. But to be quite honest, you look at the devastation, Hala and no way yet to calculate the extent of the devastation.

GORANI: And Kate, let's just take this video, and this is from an iReporter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God. That is the biggest earthquake to date. It is still going! Oh, my God! The building is going to fall! (EXPLETIVE DELETED).


GORANI: All right. What do you do? What do you do when you're hit with that? "Oh, my god, the building is going to fall." Do you run out? Do you go under a table? Do you go under sort of -- I don't know. A window frame?

BOLDUAN: Right, right!

GORANI: What do you do? This is someone who said, "Oh, my God, the building is going to fall." I mean, that feeling is very, very scary. I remember even in Haiti when I was covering the Haiti earthquake aftermath, there were a few aftershocks. I'm talking 6.1, 6.2 aftershocks. Your heart pounds. You think you are going to get trapped in a building. There's no worse feeling.

And you saw there from our iReporter the emotions that course through your body as you think this might be it for me, this building might fall on my head.

BOLDUAN: There've been more than a dozen aftershocks since then, and these are not small aftershocks. They're basically earthquakes in and of themselves.

There is so much going on. We are tracking that and we are tracking, of course, the tsunami wave that is extending all the way to North America at this point.

GORANI: All right. Well, evacuation orders are in effect now for thousands who live near Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant. It's one of at least four nuclear facilities that were crippled by today's massive earthquake.

And by the way, I just want to give you a statistic and our viewers as well. 30 percent of Japan's electricity is nuclear. So, this isn't just a potential safety hazard and issues they have within the nuclear plants how to keep them safe, but it's also where most Japanese - not most, I should say. A sizeable portion of Japanese people get their electricity from.

Matthew Chance is live in Moscow with more on the International Atomic Energy Agency's response to what has happened in Japan and what impact that earthquake has had on the nuclear plants there. Hi there, Matthew.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Hala. Obviously, it's very concerning when you hear that a country with 55 nuclear reactors has just been hit by one of the biggest earthquakes in a century. Obviously a great deal of concern being expressed around the world, but particularly at the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency in Vienna, the IAEA. They said they are watching very carefully, the situation with the various nuclear reactors there. Four Japanese reactors near the disaster zone, in and around it, have now been safely shut down, according to the IAEA., the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog. But there's still a great deal of concern concerning that one reactor at Fukushima Daiichi, where 2,000 thousand people have been evacuated from the surrounding area.

The Japanese government say there's been no leak of radiation, but the big problem is even though the reactor has been shut down, the nuclear fuel inside the reactor core is not being cooled sufficiently because you have to cool the nuclear fuel constantly to stop it from melting. If that doesn't happen, if the water isn't pumped around the cylinders to cool the nuclear fuel, you could be looking at a much bigger kind of disaster when it comes to these nuclear reactors.

And so, that is what the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency is focusing on at the moment, Hala.

GORANI: And what is the IAEA -- are dispatching people to Japan to help out? What is their next move now?

CHANCE: There are already teams from the IAEA on the ground based in Japan, of course, monitoring the various Japanese facilities. Japan also has a nuclear and industrial safety agency which oversees all of these issues on the ground itself. And, of course, it's very much aware of the problems that the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor. And according to Japanese officials, they're working as hard as they can to try to bring that issue with the reactor core and the very hot nuclear fuel in that reactor -- working hard to bring that under control to try to avert a much bigger problem with the nuclear reactor there, Hala.

GORANI: Matthew chance, live in Moscow. Thanks very much.

BOLDUAN: We're going to have a live report from California next. California and the West Coast of the United States bracing for what could potentially be a tsunami wave heading right for their shores. We'll have a live report from California right after this. Our breaking news coverage continues.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

GORANI: Welcome back, everyone. I'm Hala Gorani, alongside Kate Bolduan here. Continuing coverage of the breaking news out of Japan. That 8.9 magnitude quake. It spawned the killer wave that struck 130 kilometers, 80 miles from Sendai, Japan.

You're seeing scenes of distruction there on the right side of your screen. Just cars toppled over buildings, damaged - look at this. This is a regular street in northern Japan. An ordinary street where people would have been walking. The earthquake struck at 2:46 p.m. local time. You're seeing mangled cars, the wreckage of homes. And here, some sort of area in northern Japan that may have suffered flooding. Somebody waving a white sheet there asking for help. Asking for rescue. BOLDUAN: And as we're now learning, Hala, it was the earthquake -- one disaster. Second disaster especially in Japan in the coastal areas. Then the tsunami wave. And we are talking a wall of water as it's being described. Not an understatement, not an overstatement at all. Ten -- 13 feet of water rushing in. We saw cars, boats, even homes just being swept away as if it was a toy.

Let's get more on the tsunami threat for the West Coast of the United States. CNN's Casey Wian joins us from Seal Beach, California. Casey, from what we saw this morning, it looks beautiful in California at the moment. But what are you watching for?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is beautiful at the moment, Kate. But what you can see behind me off in the distance is the "USS Dubuque" which was has just left Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station just a little south of here as a precaution. Because there are so many ammunitions being loaded on to that ship here at the Naval Weapons Station. The military has decided as a precautionary measure to pull that ship out of its dock and get it up to sea away from any potential damage to those weapons.

Here at Seal Beach, the beach has been closed. I'm standing on top of a sand berm which protects some homes over here behind me but officials at about 2:00 local time this morning closed Seal Beach and it closed the pier as well.

Throughout Orange County, south of Los Angeles, beaches are closed and there's a heavy police presence trying to keep people away just in case the tsunami turns out to be a significant event.

What we are hearing though, from the Los Angeles County Fire Department through Santa Monica Police Department who we spoke to that's a little north here, they're not expecting a significant surge there. They're expecting about seven tenths of a meter or about two feet but they are still very nervous and trying to keep people away from the coast -- Kate.

GORANI: This is Hala, Casey. I'm going to ask you a question probably many viewers are probably asking themselves. Should you be there? I mean, if there is an expected tsunami potentially hitting that part of the coast?

WIAN: We're about an hour and a half away from when the tsunami is expected to hit this area and right before we came on to talk to you, some police officers came up and politely told us that the beach is closed and we should leave and we're going to do that.

But like I said they are not expecting a major surge, but as CNN has been reporting all morning, these things are very unpredictable so we're not going to stay here for much longer.

GORANI: All right, great. Casey Wian reporting live there from Seal Beach along the California coast. Residents having to -- having to sort of make some sort of preparation, I imagine, not spending any time on the coast. The beaches are closed for safety reasons, so heed that advice. BOLDUAN: Do not go to the beach. Our Casey Wian is there but he'll be leaving shortly as everyone is being told the beaches are closed and they are preparing. As Casey said, it could be -- it could two feet, maybe less, maybe more. And that's the danger and that's the uncertainty of a tsunami -- of a tsunami wave. You don't know. It's hard to judge how big a wave it will be and that's why you have to take such precautions and be so careful.

GORANI: It all started with that 8.9 magnitude quake in Japan. We'll take you live to Japan after this.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to our breaking news coverage of the earthquake that hit Japan and the ripple effects coming afterwards of one being a massive tsunami wave that has leveled parts of coastal Japan.

You're seeing these pictures. The wave coming in, ships, fishing boats, vessels, large and small, all, you know, as you can see, being swept away. The wave though is now bearing down on the U.S. West Coast.


BOLDUAN: The West Coast of the United States, and it could hit in the next hour or so, Hala.

GORANI: And you know what, Kate.


BOLDUAN: Just look at this.

GORANI: Water has no business being here is what some of the residents said. This is a tsunami wave carrying debris, homes, cars, anything else that it could sweep in its way, on to fields. And by the way, this wave ended up hitting a busy highway.


BOLDUAN: Just look at that.

GORANI: With cars trying --


BOLDUAN: That's a road. That is a highway of some sort, everyone, that you're looking at. That's not a coastline at all, it doesn't seem, and look. You see boats, cars, I think we've even seen some kind of home or some kind of structure, and some of it burning as its flowing.

GORANI: Right. So you have the water. You have the debris. Presumably you have sort of gas and tanks. Things like that, and that was set on fire, so that was also being carried through some of these coastal villages.

And by the way, just to update our viewers on the death toll, we can report that the police in Japan are saying that at least 200, up to 300 bodies have been found in Sendai alone in northern Japan.

BOLDUAN: And as you know, these numbers are so sketchy early on and will only, we can only, unfortunately, anticipate, they will only rise as we start to get through some of this devastation.

Let's get the latest though and let's talk through this with CNN meteorologist Chad Myers. Chad is over at the CNN Weather Center. Chad, what are you -- what are you watching at the moment. There's so much to talk about.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I'm concerned about people thinking that is a -- Category 1 hurricane that one to go to the beach and look at it. You cannot go to the beach. This is a big event. This is the biggest event for the West Coast in many, many years.

This was an 8.9 earthquake. This moved a lot of earth. It moved it in Japan, and it has moved water all the way along the Pacific Ocean, and in the next hour, probably within the next 30 minutes for places like Crescent City, the waves will begin to crash on shore.

We do know that there was a seven-foot wave inside Maui where the two pieces of Maui come together. Kahului, the little bay in there, seven feet up, and then the water went out seven feet down and then seven feet back up again, so this is a 14-foot wave or surge coming in or slosh, if you will; 7:15 a.m. Charleston, 7:23 Crescent City.

This is now different because the waves are coming in like this, and as the waves come on shore, it's not a glancing blow. This is a full-on shot for the West Coast of the U.S. You need to be out of the way. If you want to watch this, you need to be 100, 200 feet up on a bluff to watch this wave come in. Nobody on the beach because we'll lose you, literally -- guys.

GORANI: All right. Take no risk. Thanks very much, Chad Myers.

BOLDUAN: Thank you Chad.

GORANI: Well, speak with you a little bit later. We'll have a live report from Japan after this.


GORANI: We continue our breaking news coverage of that massive earthquake off the coast of Japan; 8.9 magnitude. We're talking historic strength here for an earthquake, even by Japan standards. This rattled nerves and caused massive amounts of damage. And the death toll, as far as we can tell you, and we're expecting it to rise tragically, at least 200 people, if not 300 in one village alone, Sendai on the northern coast of Japan. BOLDUAN: As we're learning, one of the closest -- kind of closest to coast to the epicenter of where it hit. It was hit about 80 miles off of the coast. We were actually just looking -- you're looking at more pictures from Japan. As you can see, we're seeing now on some of the raw videos coming in kind of scrambled, we're seeing it here.

Rescue efforts under way. You can just imagine kind of the chaos that's happening right there, happening there, and happening all over the country.

GORANI: This is NHK, the Japanese network showing images of the devastation. We will be right back with more.