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Earthquake Rocks Japan; New Earthquake Hits Nagano, Nigata Areas; Building With Disasters in Mind; Gadhafi Forces Pound Ras Lanuf; The Science Behind Tsunamis; Historic Quake, Horrific Damage

Aired March 11, 2011 - 14:00   ET


ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm Ali Velshi.


The world is not only watching a historic disaster, much of the world is feeling it as well.

VELSHI: It's been a rough morning in some California harbors, and beaches have been closed all night. Waves have been higher than normal, but so far we haven't heard of any damage other than to boats and docks.

GORANI: Here is where the damage is.

Northeast Japan, monument damage. The known death toll, in the hundreds, and it is certain to climb.

VELSHI: The 8.9 magnitude earthquake that struck a little more than 13 hours ago was followed by a wall of seawater. Check this out. It pushed inland for miles and then retreated with equal force.

Police in the coastal city of Sendai, one of the hardest hit, say they have found as many as 300 bodies in the tsunami's wake. Some 50 miles to the southwest, a dam has broken and 1,800 homes by the government's count have washed away.

GORANI: More images there for you from inside an office building the moment the quake struck. This is the biggest earthquake Japan has ever recorded, and that is saying something in a land where earthquakes and earthquake precautions are a way of life.

VELSHI: Remarkable footage.

The earthquake was centered about 200 miles northeast of Tokyo in a relatively shallow 15 miles below the sea floor.

GORANI: Well, on land, the destruction is taking many forms. This is a refinery fire in the city of Chiba, just east of Tokyo, and a good distance south of the worst-hit areas.

VELSHI: Now, we're also watching a nuclear plant. You can see it here.

It was shut down, but it couldn't be properly cooled because of a power outage. They need electricity to cool it. The U.S. rushed coolant to the site, but Japanese officials say that a small radiation leak is still possible.

GORANI: All right. That's one of the many angles.

Now, if you think we may be overstating the force that was unleashed here, or you're not sure what 8.9 magnitude means, take a look at this computer image. The dark blue masses are continents. North and South America, on the right; Asia and Australia, on the left. Those currents of red and orange, those are the ripple effects of the earthquake throughout the Pacific Ocean.

VELSHI: CNN correspondent Kyung Lah is making her way from Tokyo to the northeast regions that took the brunt of this disaster. It's not an easy task though. She's been stuck in that traffic trying to get out of Tokyo for a while. She sent us this report just a few minutes ago.


KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm in the back of our news van, and we're actually trying to get to the northern area, the area that's been hard hit by the tsunami. But what we're finding is that it's very difficult to get up there because of the problems that we're seeing with Tokyo still down, really paralyzed by the problems that we've seen from this afternoon's earthquake.

More than 12 hours after the earthquake, you can see we're beginning to move a little bit, but there's still massive gridlock in the city. The highway, shut down. The roadways, they're all backed up.

People could not get out of the city. So what people are doing, trying to get out of Tokyo on foot to their suburban homes, or find a taxi, or get a ride from someone.

For the rescue crews that are heading up north, what they're finding is that it's certainly not going to be easy going, trying to get up there very quickly. So we're hearing from the rescue crews that what they're relying on is some sort of flexible movement where they can get in and out very quickly using helicopters.

But we're hours away from daylight. At this point, we still don't know what the devastation is going to be.

What we can tell you, that, logistically, Tokyo is still heavily impacted. People are still trying to cope with the loss of infrastructure in this city. Up north, though, rescue crews still trying to get up there, still trying to assess the exact scope of the devastation.

(END VIDEOTAPE) VELSHI: And that's the issue, that a lot of the damage has been in more isolated parts of Japan, in some cases more rural parts of Japan, fishing areas. And we don't have sense of what the damage is up there. We'll follow what she's --

GORANI: And still middle of the night. Well, we're almost -- it's almost dawn. It's five minutes past 4:00 a.m. right now.

Paula Hancocks is in Osaka, Japan, south of Tokyo.

What can you tell us, Paula?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Hall, in just a couple of hours' time, it will be daylight here. We'll get a better sense of exactly what the devastation has been.

And we know that the Japanese prime minister, at 6:00 a.m., in just a couple of hours, will be in a helicopter. He'll be going to the nuclear plant.

This is the Fukushima nuclear plant, where the concerns have been centered that one of the reactors was unable to cool down. Now, we understand it may still be an ongoing situation.

The U.S. president, Barack Obama, saying that he was told by the Japanese prime minister that there was no radiation leak. But certainly, that's something that is a great concern to Japan at this point. About 3,000 people were evacuated from that particular area.

But it's mainly those smaller areas that there has been no contact with at this point, that rescue teams will be heading for in about two hours' time, when sunrise happens. The emergency teams obviously have been working all through the night to try and reach the people who need help.

The hope being, though, that many people along those coastal areas did actually evacuate Tokyo. And Japan is no stranger to earthquakes, no stranger to these tsunami warnings. So they certainly take them seriously, and the hope is that enough of them took it seriously that the death toll could be lower.

But, of course, it is in the hundreds already, and we haven't even seen some of those smaller areas. Sendai, we understand, the city of about a million people, seems to be one of the hardest hit at this point. Of course, it's difficult to say without daylight.

But the police say there were some 200, 300 bodies that they found in just that one city, alone, and that was many hours ago. We haven't got an update from that particular city. Phone lines are down. It's very difficult to get in touch with people.

And, of course, the transportation links are appalling at this point. Sendai airport is waterlogged, it's pretty much under water, and the roads up to that area are also cut off. So a very difficult job for both emergency groups and aid agencies. Pretty much, the only way they'd be able to get there quickly is by the air. GORANI: And Paula, you are south of Tokyo right now. Are people there -- I mean, presumably, they have many people in Tokyo, might have friends or family members in the areas that were struck by this earthquake. Are they able to get in touch with their family and loved ones?

HANCOCKS: Well, it's very difficult to get in touch with anybody in the area, the affected area, certainly, but over the past couple of hours we've actually found it difficult to phone out from here as well. And I know there have been some difficulties in Tokyo. So, certainly, the phone lines are a real issue, especially in those areas where people need to phone out, need to get help, need to inform the emergency service of exactly what's happening.

And this is really why we haven't got a clear picture at all at this point of just how widespread this damage is. Now, the Japanese prime minister said it is extremely widespread. But even he doesn't know at this point. He'll be getting in a helicopter first thing in the morning to find out just how many areas have been affected.

Now, we've seen the footage in the daytime. This was, of course, several hours ago now, because it's 4:00 in the morning, past that time. And the devastation seemed extreme. But, of course, it is very difficult to know until daylight and until those rescue teams can actually get on the ground, because much of what we've seen has been from the air at this point.

GORANI: All right. Thanks very much.

So, Prime Minister Kan is going to visit those quake-hit areas. He'll be back at 11:00, after visiting the quake-hit areas, and there's that emergency meeting at 8:30 local.

VELSHI: And as we've been talking about, the difficulty of the moment, despite all of the resources Japan has and all of the infrastructure, is that they need airborne support, they need the ability to evaluate what's going on.

We are just hearing now that the USS Ronald Reagan is part of the mission being deployed to help efforts in Japan. The Reagan is a Nimitz-class supercarrier. So, as Barbara Starr was telling us, what Japan needs is the support of helicopters and airplanes that can go up and see what's going on. The USS Ronald Reagan is being diverted toward Japan as well.

GORANI: All right.

And Chad Myers, Pedram Javaheri of CNN International, as well, join us now live with more on those tsunami warnings and alerts all along the western coast of the United States.

What's the latest on that?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, I bring in P.J., because, one, my voice is leaving, and he has an international experience that I don't have. So we'll go with this. Take a look at this.

P.J., there have been over 50 earthquakes. And I know some are foreshocks, some are aftershocks, over 5, and many over 6. These people are just getting shaken and shaken and shaken in the past four days.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: Yes. And, you know, this kind of event certainly does continue with the magnitude that we saw at 8.9, the depth coming in about 20 kilometers, 10 or so, 12 miles or so. You're going to aftershocks that continue not only for just a few days, few weeks, perhaps few years.

Now, the frequency of these aftershocks, that could certainly taper off. But when we're talking about the magnitudes, that could say at the 5 and the 6 level for quite a period of time here.

MYERS: Two days ago there was a 7.


MYERS: That was the foreshock. We never talk about that, but they should have known that this was coming, this was a possibly, because you think, oh, all we have is aftershocks. Well, when a foreshock comes in, then all of a sudden you have some more significant things to worry about.

We have some video coming in here from KCAL, Marina del Rey. We've been seeing waves coming in and going out.

We talked about Crescent City, 8.1 feet.

JAVAHERI: That's right. That's right. The folks at NOAA were forecasting right around that, at 8 feet, and we got right up there, to 8.1 feet.

The concern now, of course, the intercoastal cities, low-lying areas. These waves could certainly cause a lot of impact from not only right along the coast, but even a few miles inland.

MYERS: Very major damage to Crescent City's marina area, with all the boats bouncing around. But, really, you were talking about the threat more to South America, and maybe your expertise of the international forecast, the way that you see this, the way that the waves came out of this earthquake.

JAVAHERI: Yes. The way you see that this propagates, the majority of that energy, of course, right along the coast of Japan there. But notice how the plume kind of follows south, right towards Central and South America.

MYERS: Now, what is the plume? What is that plume?

JAVAHERI: This plume is the energy, the wave -- the energy distribution right along where the quake zone was, right near Sendai, Japan. That is going to follow right along this region. And inside the next couple hours, Central America, South America, keep in mind this region now, a very impoverished region. We're talking about El Salvador. We're talking about areas -- Nicaragua.

This area of the world, of course, the coastal region is far, far different than what you see from the video that we just saw, the live shots out of California. So the concern, a lot of folks could be dealing with the waves there that they're not typically used to, perhaps.

MYERS: And when we look at this, you see this big push right through there. What's that?

JAVAHERI: The Hawaii islands.

MYERS: The Hawaiian islands. A 9-foot storm surge in Lahaina, and about an 8-foot storm surge around the other side of Maui, itself.

VELSHI: Hey, guys, let me ask you this, just for our viewers who don't know. When we talk about a 8.9 magnitude earthquake, give us a primer, Chad or P.J., on what these magnitudes mean and how they operate. They're not like a hurricane. It's a different scale all together.

JAVAHERI: Yes, the scale rises exponentially, of course. And we're talking about 7, 7.5. That's something significant.

Now, when you go from 7 to an 8, you're not just talking about a 5 percent, 10 percent, tenfold increase. When you get from a 7 to almost a 9, almost a 1,000 time increase as far as shaking is concerned.

So, yes, this is one of the most -- the fifth largest earthquake in recorded history, the largest earthquake that folks in Japan have seen in recorded history for them. The previous one going back to 1707, October of 1707. There was an 8.6 in this general area.

MYERS: And guess what happened after that?

JAVAHERI: Yes. Mt. Fuji.

MYERS: Mt. Fuji erupted after that 8.6 300 years ago.

VELSHI: Wow. Guys, great to have you here. Thanks so much for that.

GORANI: That's really fascinating, this exponential scale. It's not a sliding scale. The difference between 7.9 and 8.9, hundreds of times more powerful.

VELSHI: Right. And this is what makes the story very interesting, because the building codes in Japan are so strict, that they can protect people from earthquakes. So, when you add a tsunami into the mix, it does complicate things.

We're going to talk to some civil engineers about building with disasters in mind. We're going to do that next.


VELSHI: Breaking news. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm Ali Velshi.

GORANI: I'm Hala Gorani.

And we have breaking news once again out of Japan.

We understand that a 6.6 magnitude quake has hit Nagano, Japan, about -- less than 200 miles northwest of Tokyo.

VELSHI: You'll recall, Nagano is the site of the 1998 Winter Olympics. It's a 6.6 magnitude quake, which is a serious quake for an aftershock.

Chad is working on getting some information up on this.

MYERS: Well, it would certainly, I believe, still be an aftershock along a separate seam or a separate part of the fault system still here. It wouldn't be anything other than -- you know, you look at an 8.9. An 8.9 shakes a lot of the world. All the seismographs across all the U.S. were shaking yesterday because of the shake on the other side of the globe.

VELSHI: When you say a separate seam, what -- is that a fault? You mean a separate fault?

MYERS: I'm sorry. Yes, a separate fault. A separate area where crusts and parts of the crusts are still grinding against each other.

Where this was a big subduction zone fault that we had yesterday that lifted up and pushed all the water away causing the tsunami, there are other faults along the main fault that now clearly are shaking. And this is on shore.

Everything else yesterday was well off shore, in the subduction zone, which is where one plate is going under another plate way off in the ocean. Nagano, way out here.

GORANI: So does it have a different epicenter? I mean, if it's related, does it have the same epicenter? I'm a little bit confused by what we're talking about here.

MYERS: It very well could be a separate quake, a completely separate quake. But probably triggered by an 8.9 less than 200 miles away.

When things shake, other seams that would have maybe taken two more weeks to move, other faults can move because it's been shaken by the 8.9. That's not that far away.

And we just talked about this. Three hundred years ago, the 8.6 that was there caused Mt. Fuji to erupt 35 days later. Thirty-five days later.

VELSHI: Right.

MYERS: So it's not immediate. So you didn't say, oh, well, that didn't happen right after it, so it must not be related. Two days in the scheme of the age of the world is a pinprick.

VELSHI: You go back to 1995, the Kobe earthquake was 7.6, as I recall, and killed about 6,500 people or something like that. But in the days after that, they had about 50 aftershocks.

And they can be very damaging, particularly if -- I mean, again, if you hit in areas where your engineering is set up for it, it can minimize damage, but these things, at a much lower magnitude than 8.9, can be very damaging.

GORANI: And a perfect example is the Christchurch earthquake, where some of the structures were weakened by an initial earthquake, and then those that weren't tended to -- right away ended up collapsing.

VELSHI: Right. They had to evacuate because they thought things would disappear -- Chad.

MYERS: A 6.6 in almost any other city is a big quake. Already it's a quake.

Now, we call it an aftershock because there was a much larger earthquake before it. I will see if there is a connecting fault to the Nagano area.

Other than that, there's going to be damage with 6.6, depending on the depth below Nagano. If it was 300 miles into the earth, that's 300 miles of padding.

We're almost 300 miles away. If it's only 6, 10, 12 miles deep, there's a lot of shaking going on. That's a violent rattling of that city.

VELSHI: I'm just -- we're just getting some more information in, Chad.

Kelly (ph), go ahead with that.

There are no tsunami alerts issued as a result of this, but two reactors are in the area of Nagano, and they continue to operate. Everything is OK at this point with the two reactors in the Nagano area. No tsunami alerts, although tsunamis are not just triggered by big earthquakes.

We're going to take a quick break. I have got a tsunami expert with us right now who's going to tell us about how these tsunamis are triggered, because it affects a lot of the rest of the world as well.

GORANI: And we'll continue to keep our eye on Nagano, what happened there, whether or not there was any damage and if anyone was hurt.

We'll have all the latest after this.


VELSHI: OK. We've got breaking news. More continued breaking news for our U.S. viewers and our viewers around the world on CNN International.

A new quake, what the U.S. Geological Survey is calling a 6.2 quake. But we have been seeing it reported as a 6.6 magnitude quake as well. A new earthquake, not the same one that we've been reporting on.

GORANI: Right.

VELSHI: This is centered around Nagano, which was the site of the 1998 Winter Olympics.

Again, the first estimate of the magnitude was 6.6. U.S. Geological Survey now putting it out at 6.2. Still, a strong quake. It's about 4:00 a.m. now over there.

GORANI: It is 4:23 a.m. in Japan. And this hit about, what, 25 minutes ago?

VELSHI: That's right.

Now, here's the thing. There are two nuclear reactors in Nagano. They -- at the moment, our initial report is they continue to operate. As we spoke to a nuclear expert earlier, there are many nuclear facilities.

GORANI: Over 50.

VELSHI: Over 50 of them.

No tsunami alert is being issued right now, but we're keeping an eye on this. The interesting thing is this is not being described at the moment as an aftershock. It's a different earthquake.

GORANI: It would be a separate earthquake with a separate epicenter. So that's very interesting. Whether or not it's related in the sense that that bigger earthquake provoked this, that's, of course, something that needs to be explored.

Well, this 8.9 magnitude earthquake, one of the most powerful in reported history, that struck Japan on Friday is the biggest on record in Japan, but Japan has led the way in designing buildings. We saw it in those videos, right, swaying back and forth, those buildings that can withstand strong earthquakes.

It's the type of engineering that's been in place in Japan for years, that has some of the strictest building codes out there.

VELSHI: Now, making buildings tsunami-proof is a different matter. Earthquake engineering is one thing, tsunamis operate very differently.

Joining us now to discuss disaster architecture, Hermann Fritz. He's an associate producer of civil engineering at Georgia Tech. And Philip Liu, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Cornell.

I understand, Hermann, that you and Professor Liu have worked together. You worked together in the tsunami in Sri Lanka.

PROF. HERMANN FRITZ, GEORGIA TECH: Sri Lanka, that's correct, in 2005. I was happy to join a team led by Professor Liu from Cornell.

VELSHI: Tell us about tsunami architecture. I mean, we understand it, and we're going to talk a little bit more about earthquake architecture, which means deep, big foundations and shock absorbers.

Can you build architecture to prevent tsunamis?

FRITZ: Well, again, tsunamis, you have to try to reduce your drag resistance. You have to try to make your building more transparent so that the water can flow through it.

So you try to have your lowest structure -- your lower floors be sort of open so that water can rush through it sort of like a pier on the beach. And you have the more solid information higher up.

And this, of course, works only as long as the tsunami is not any bigger than you expected. If it's bigger, of course, then your building is eventually going to collapse. There's a limit to that.

GORANI: What about the power of the water as it rushes in? That has to have a huge impact and determines whether or not your structure can withstand the force.

FRITZ: Yes, that is directly dependent on the flow depths of the water as it rushes in. Typically, it's about the square root of gravity. And as the water rushes in, and particularly in those cases that we've seen in these videos with these boards (ph) that form these white waters that you see on the horizon approaching, and this debris- laden roll of water rushing in, typically the water is moving that the speed of the wave is moving, which is very different to what you witness when you go swimming on the beach, because there the water is moving slower than the wave is moving.

GORANI: Right.

VELSHI: And this is important. And I've had some tweets about this.

Professor Liu, help us understand this. A three-foot tsunami wave can be much more devastating than a 15-foot normal wave.

Professor Liu?

PHILIP LIU, PROFESSOR, CORNELL UNIVERSITY: I guess the difference is really that in tsunami, you have very strong currents, and that carries a lot of momentum of forces which will be an impact on the structures.

I might also add another consideration is the foundation issues. When tsunami comes, it can carry or erodes a lot of sentiments from the building foundations. That will also cause the collapse of the buildings.

VELSHI: OK. Let's talk about Japan, which has worked itself -- Professor Fritz, you've worked in Japan. You've seen how they do things. They build around earthquake protection. Do they have, particularly in these rural areas in the north, do they have sufficient tsunami protection?

FRITZ: Well, I was fortunate to visit the Sendai area in 2009, and I was really impressed. And I thought the best prepared in the world.

They have very good signage, so evacuation signs are everywhere. People know where to run. There's exercises to evacuate people, which is very important. That's really your first time spent is getting people out.

And in some cases you might not have enough time to get people out. And what they've done there, for example, in the fish markets is they've built elevated platforms where people can climb up to and then be safe there and have the tsunami rush underneath there and rush back out while they're sort of evacuating vertically.

GORANI: But look at -- you saw the images. I mean, what was your initial reaction, having studied this phenomenon for so many years? When you see these images of these massive tsunami waves slam against the coast, what were you thinking when you saw that?

FRITZ: Well, even for me this was some of the most impressive footage I've ever seen of a tsunami rushing ashore. And in this area of northern Japan, we sort of expect tsunamis in the area of mid 7 to lower 8s in earthquakes, but not an 8.9. So this event may have been bigger than anybody had predicted for this area, and sort of also bigger than probably the disaster preparedness was building for and all the evacuation plans were made for.

VELSHI: Gentlemen, I know you both work on tsunamis, but you both have some understanding of earthquakes. I want you to see this video. It's called "Base Isolation."

Kelly (ph) and Michael, I wonder if we can show this "Base Isolation" video.

It's a crash table test in the University of California, San Diego. Take a look at this.

And I don't know if you can see it, Professor Liu.

I know you can, Professor Fritz. This is what Hala was saying earlier. Buildings built to withstand earthquakes do this when there's an earthquake. They sway back and forth.

The one on the left you see just collapsed. The one on the right, which is much taller, continues to stand, even though it looks like it's absolutely going to fall. This is an architecture and engineering that they've used in Japan quite successfully.

Professor Liu, do they do it the right way in Japan?

LIU: I think so. I mean, really, what you need to figure out is the natural frequency of a building. And you can change the center of mass in the building so you can shift away the frequency, natural frequency of building, from the earthquake frequency. So I think there's a way of designing even high-rise buildings in the earthquake zone, probably.

VELSHI: What do you think, Professor Fritz?

FRITZ: Well, I think that in Japan, they're the best prepared at doing this very well with these action dampers, that we try to control that --

VELSHI: Action dampers are like shock absorbers at the base of the building.

FRITZ: That's correct. Yes. They allow the whole foundation of the building to move back and forth.

GORANI: You have to ask yourself, if a quake such as this one had hit any other city, we would have been looking at massive casualties.

FRITZ: It could have been a lot worse. Yes, tsunami preparedness and evacuation readiness, the population of Japan is the most prepared in the world. I think nowhere else we would have that kind of preparedness.

VELSHI: When they have a tsunami and earthquake, all of the radio and TV stations move over on to a warning system. And there's no chance you're not going to hear that there is a tsunami and people get drilled on how to escape and do things like that.

GORANI: Our even colleagues at the CNN bureau in Tokyo all go under the desk, all go under the door frame.

VELSHI: Good to see you both. Hermann Fritz is an associate professor of civil engineering at Georgia Tech. Phillip Liu is a professor at Cornell University. Thanks to both of you.

GORANI: Well, a big aftershock. Or is it a separate earthquake? We're looking into that, minutes ago in Japan.

Next, we look at the ongoing quake activity with Chad Myers.

VELSHI: Stay with us.


VELSHI: Our breaking news continues. We now have what appears to be a second earthquake, a different earthquake, not necessarily an aftershock. The U.S. Geological Survey is calling it a 6.2 magnitude earthquake in Nagano, Japan. This is northwest of Tokyo.

GORANI: And Chad Myers is joining us, I believe, Pedram Javaheri is with you as well, for more on this.

So, aftershock or separate quake?

MYERS: Well, if you notice, not every aftershock that we've already had is in the same spot. They have been moved around. This shock -- we'll just call it that -- is about 250 miles away. I know you looked at some of those other fault lines. There is another one back out to the west, isn't there?

JAVAHERI: That's right. Fault lines across this entire region. I mean, again, you notice how the concentrated area here with the main quake -- the aftershocks, the foreshocks and then you get the separate one in this region. Now, a lot of folks, a lot of questions saying, is this associated with the initial quake?

That remains to be seen. but we know the amount of shaking associated with that quake certainly could have sparked other faults around that same region to act up.

MYERS: Guys, look at how many dots. This is 5.0 or above. Now, there have been over 50 earthquakes, call them foreshock s or aftershocks because with this earthquake, we had earthquakes before the big one. They were called foreshocks, almost foreshadowing what was to come. There were 10 of them in the past two days. And all of a sudden, the big earthquake came.

So, here's where all the earthquakes have been. This is the newest one, although it's only one kilometer deep. That's about half a mile.

That's suspect to me. I don't like that, because very few earthquakes happen that close to the top of the crust. They may move this around a little bit when seismologists look at it, they're going to say, no, it wasn't really there, we triangulated it a little bit wrong, it might be here and it's deeper.

We'll see. This is brand new. This literally just happened in the past five minutes.

JAVAHERI: Yes. And we've seen this kind of an event like you said being suspect because of how shallow it is. And we've seen that play out many times before, being that we just heard about this occurring in the last few minutes, certainly is a possibility.

MYERS: You know, the most shallow earthquake I can remember, Ali? VELSHI: How shallow?

MYERS: In Utah, when the mine was collapsing.


MYERS: Right? They were 0.3, 0.2 kilometer deep and we thought, there's no way that can be an earthquake.


VELSHI: OK. We appreciate that. I know you guys will. We'll make some sense out of this. Thanks, Pedram and Chad.

GORANI: All right. We're not going to get far away from Japan at all. But there is some news developing in Libya. A live report from Libya after this.


GORANI: Welcome back. We continue to follow the devastating impact of that 8.9 magnitude quake in Japan. We go to Tokyo right now.

Michiya Sumitani joins us on the phone.

Michiya, what did you go through? What was your experience going through, living through that quake?

MICHIYA SUMITANI, TOKYO RESIDENT (via telephone): Just, you know, we were very surprise. You know, suddenly, you know , the earthquake happened. So, very, very beginning, it's not so, you know, severe. But, you know, it continued almost 15 to, you know, 25 minutes. All shelves, you know, the glasses -- everything is shaking and drifting, like, you know, the (INAUDIBLE). So, then, you know, I and the wife, we put, you know, the desk and shelf and so on and so on. And kind of, you know, very, very terrible and horrible time for us.

VELSHI: You in Tokyo get a fair amount of preparation for earthquakes. Do you -- were you frightened when this happened or did you know what to do?

SUMITANI: Yes, before earthquake was coming, you know, a little bit, you know, short notice. You know, the notice was (INAUDIBLE) through the radio and TV. My wife caught up with the information and she screamed, hey, papa, you know, the earthquake is coming. Then, you know, we were prepared a little bit.

GORANI: So, you got some advance warning that something might be coming your way?

SUMITANI: Yes. But it's not enough. But, you know, better than nothing.

VELSHI: How much warning did you get? SUMITANI: I think, just, you know -- I don't know, but probably be, you know, 15 or, you know, 15 seconds before.


GORANI: All right.

VELSHI: Not much. We're not talking about hours. You weren't really able to fully prepare.

Is everybody you know OK? Have you been able to account for everybody and communicate with everybody in your family, your family and friends?

SUMITANI: No, no. We don't have any time to communicate with other people. Just, you know, catch up, you know, through the media, then, you know, just to prepare by ourself. That is the only one way.

GORANI: Do you have electricity? Do you have landlines? I mean -- or are you right now sort of in the dark?

SUMITANI: Yes. That was, you know, (INAUDIBLE) afternoon of, you know, Friday, so, you know, so --

VELSHI: We are getting reports of the second earthquake centered around Nagano about -- that's about 120 --

SUMITANI: Right now, we are now affected by the Nagata area?

VELSHI: Yes. Do you feel that? Did you feel the second quake which would have been 45 minutes ago?

SUMITANI: The second one is pretty big.

VELSHI: You felt it?

SUMITANI: Second one is pretty big. (INAUDIBLE), right now, you know, the 4:00, very early morning. So, then, you know, the second one, probably the -- I wake up by the second one.

VELSHI: All right. Michiya Sumitani, great to talk with you. I'm glad you're safe. We wish you all the best. We'll stay in touch with you to find how things are going. Michiya Sumitani is in Tokyo.

GORANI: And like so many in Japan, hasn't been able to get in touch with every member of this family, doesn't know if all of his loved ones are OK. It must be a difficult time for so many in Japan worrying about loved ones at this point.

All right. We're going to get back to Japan quickly. But now, let's turn to the civil war in Libya. President Obama minutes ago said U.S. actions against Moammar Gadhafi -- according to him -- are slowly tightening the noose around the Libyan leader.

VELSHI: At a White House press conference that aired on CNN, Mr. Obama repeated that all options aimed at stopping the bloodshed are on the table. He said that NATO is going to meet on Tuesday to consider whether to impose this no-fly zone over Libya -- a very contentious matter in the United States.

On the battlefield, Gadhafi's forces unleashed a heavy bombardment of the key oil port of Ras Lanuf that, until yesterday, was in the hands of rebel forces.

GORANI: And CNN's Ben Wedeman is in eastern Libya and he joins us now.

Ben, so, it seems as though the government has retaken Ras Lanuf. You were reporting this morning heavy bombardments of rebel positions in Ras Lanuf.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hala, it's not altogether clear of who's in control of Ras Lanuf. We were on the outskirts of the town today and we heard three different versions, that it was a no man's land, that half was controlled by the government, half by the rebels. And the third version was that it's controlled by the rebels.

But what we saw on the eastern edge of Ras Lanuf and what's known as the residential area, there was a relentless bombardment going on hour after hour after hour. I have not seen that intensity since about last week we've been covering this area. We saw air strikes as well to the east of the city, targeting opposition positions. And we also saw Libyan air force jet fly over, drop a bomb near one of the outposts of the opposition and shortly afterwards, thick, black smoke coming up from the oil refinery in Ras Lanuf.

It's not all together clear if it was from a bomb or stray RPG from one of opposition fighters. But this is the second time one of these huge storage tanks has been hit.

We also saw lots of the opposition fighters heading back in the direction of Brega away from Ras Lanuf. It appears that the intensity of the bombardment is simply more than they can withstand. It appears that the front lines may be moving further westward -- Hala.

VELSHI: Ben, it's Ali.

Let me ask you about this. Is there any bolstering to the opposition movement in the acknowledgement or the acceptance by the president of France that they are the legitimate government or the legitimate body with which France is going to communicate?

This obviously has not been picked up by the rest of the world; the United States hasn't made those moves. But is that affecting any of the momentum on the ground?

WEDEMAN: Not really, because whatever diplomatic moves or decisions have been made in Paris or Washington or elsewhere, on the ground the reality is that the Libyan armed forces far outgun the opposition and they're paying a very high price. I can tell you that there seems to be a shift, a change in the mood of the fighters. Increasingly, there's frustration and anger at the United States, at the European powers for not imposing some sort of no-fly zone here. Because it's almost reminiscent of the situation of the Kurds after the 1991 Gulf War when Saddam Hussein was able to really sort of push the Kurds back and re-impose his authority on much of the country.

There's a concern that the same scenario is at work here, that Moammar Gadhafi will extend his authority all the way to the Eastern border of Libya, and that has many people here terrified.

VELSHI: All right, Ben Wedeman, thanks very much. We'll stay on top of it with you.

Ben Wedeman in Libya.

All right, tsunamis -- we're going to -- let's get back to Japan. Tsunamis are rare events, and for that, we can all be thankful.

GORANI: It really takes that earth-shattering event literally to set one off, and we'll see you the science, the anatomy, if you well, of a tsunami when we come back.

VELSHI: Our coverage continues, stay with us.


VELSHI: Breaking news continues. Welcome to our viewers around the world and in the United States.

GORANI: All right, this is video from the tsunami that hit northern Japan today. Take a look at this. This is water, debris- laden water. Cars, bits and pieces of homes, huge chunks of debris there miles inland.

VELSHI: There's not much like the power of water, as you can see. Look at that, tossing cars around as if they are children's toys.

How exactly does a tsunami form? Here to show us the science behind the disaster is meteorologist Chad Myers -- Chad.

MYERS: I think you need to be impressed at how much force water has.


MYERS: I also think you need to be impressed at how much force it must take to move that water in the first place. That happens with an earthquake under water.

You have a subduction zone or area of the crust going below another area of the crust. We call it a fault.

All of a sudden that fault decides to release, and that releasing motion, that moving earth, that earthquake, because it's underground, moves the water.

That moving water then spreads out like you throw a big stone in the ocean. And that stone, that wave action, keeps going on land. The shallower it is, the slower it goes but also the higher the wave action.

So that when the water goes out -- and it can, although this one didn't, this was a positive first wave, which means the water just started going up -- then it comes in and knocks everything down. With that force, it's like standing on the beach with a three-foot wave, it can knock you down. Could you imagine what a 20-foot wave could do? It's that force of the water. That -- it's hard to imagine. Never turn your back to the ocean.

VELSHI: And we are not out of the woods yet, the world is not out of the woods on the effects of this tsunami just yet.

MYERS: Absolutely not. This is still bouncing around the Pacific Ocean for sure. The animation brings it down. It went through Hawaii, nine-foot waves there; through Crescent City, eight- foot waves there.

Now unconfirmed reports of people getting taken out to sea. Don't know if they got back in or not. But it's that reason we told you, don't stand on the beach. The waves are still out there.

VELSHI: All right, Chad, thanks very much.

GORANI: Thank you, Chad.

How terrifying was today's earthquake in Japan? We're going to find out from two men who were right in the middle of it.


VELSHI: All right, the world is not only watching a historic disaster, much of the world is feeling it.

In northeastern Japan, the damage is monumental. The known death toll is in the hundreds and it is certain to climb.

GORANI: We're five minutes from 5:00 a.m. local time. It was an 8.9 magnitude earthquake. It struck almost 14 hours ago, followed by a wall of seawater that pushed inland for miles. And then, and this is important, too, when tsunamis happen, they come in with great force and retreat with great force.

Take a look at some of the video taken during this disaster.


GORANI: Unbelievable footage.

VELSHI: It really is remarkable. It tells so much more of the story. And you can see it all in these pictures behind us. This, do not underestimate that because Japan is particularly well protected and prepared for an earthquake through its engineering, the damage is devastating.

GORANI: I found interesting that Professor Fritz of Georgia Tech said, you know, we thought maybe in the high 7s and the low 8s, anything close to 9 was not something anyone prepared for in Japan.

VELSHI: Yes, but it's still -- look, there's a lot of Japan left and hopefully, things are not going to get left.

That's it for us. Hala, thanks for joining us.

Our coverage continues here in the United States and around the world with John Vause and Brooke Baldwin right after this break.