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Japan Rocked By Twin Disasters; Daybreak Brings Devastation to Light in Japan; Radiation 1,000 Times Higher Than Normal at Japanese Nuclear Power Plant; Tsunami Warning for Easter Island

Aired March 11, 2011 - 16:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: And hello, once again, to you. And welcome to this international edition of CNN breaking news coverage. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm John Vause from CNN International.

The sun, it is just about coming up now over Japan, day two of this twin disaster, first a record-setting earthquake, magnitude at 8.9, the strongest ever in Japan, and then the devastating tsunami. It hit the islands northeast of the coast, rather. Officials say the death toll could eventually top 1,000.

CNN's Paula Hancocks joins us now from Osaka by phone just after 6:00 a.m. local time.

Paula, bring us up to date with the situation there as far as the telephone lines, the mobile cell phone network, transportation. What's going on there at this moment?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, obviously, it's quite difficult to get exact information at this point, but we are understanding that maybe the transport links are getting a little bit better.

Some of the airports closer to the badly affected area are starting to open up, even if it's just partially in order to get the emergency teams and then the aid agencies in, but certainly it does seem to be alleviating somewhat.

The roads though are still pretty bad, as we understand it. Obviously, they got hit particularly badly with this tsunami. We could see the devastating pictures of water inundating roads and bridges and obviously those are the bridges and roads that connect one city to another, so that's still very tricky.

The best bet, we understand, for the aid agencies and emergency groups is to go everywhere by air. Helicopters are going to be key, as they often are in disasters such as this, when the traditional transport links are devastated. Trains, we understand, are not particularly working well further north of Tokyo, but we can't confirm that at this point.

And obviously the phone lines are a very big problem. Loved ones can't get in touch with other loved ones because they cannot through to them on their mobile phones, and, more crucially, the emergency teams can't coordinate as well. They have to have satellite phones to be able to do their job properly.

VAUSE: And, Paula, there's an ongoing situation with a nuclear power plant, the Fukushima power plant, which is having trouble cooling down. They can't pump enough water in there to try and cool the reactor. What is the latest on that?

HANCOCKS: Well, we haven't had an update on that for a few hours now. In fact, the last update that I saw was actually from the U.S. president, Barack Obama, saying when that he had spoken to Prime Minister of Japan Kan, he had actually assured him that there hadn't been a radiation leak.

We know there have been at least 3,000 people evacuated from that area. We know at least three kilometers around the power plant have been evacuated, and we know that many hours ago it was described as a nuclear disaster, but, at this point, it's not particularly clear as to whether or not the situation has resolved itself.

But that's something that we will be listening to very closely, because at this moment we understand that the prime minister will be getting on a helicopter to go and see the site for himself.

VAUSE: And, just very quickly, Paula, the mood there right now, is it calm or have people panicked? How would you describe people are reacting to this?

HANCOCKS: Well, certainly here in Osaka, because it's south of Tokyo, even though they did feel the earthquake, they're a lot calmer. Tokyo, I understand, they're fairly calm as well because obviously it was much more devastating than normal that the residents are used to. But it is the northeast area, the northeastern coast that really has been devastated, and we will be discovering now just how bad it is, and so will the emergency teams as they are up in the air and they can see in the daylight just how many towns or how many villages have been affected.

VAUSE: Yes. There will certainly be some tragic sights in the hours to come, I'm sure.

Paula Hancocks on the line for us from Osaka.

Let's hand it over to Brooke.

BALDWIN: I want to take you back to our map here, so you can just -- we're all on the same page here as far as what's happened where in Japan. This is the island of Honshu. This is the largest of the Japanese islands, and you can see the big cities there.

The epicenter of the quake was about 230 miles from Tokyo, and that big city got a sizable jolt. But the worst damage is farther up north here where the major town is Sendai. Let's take a look. Let's listen to what happened at 2:46 p.m. Friday afternoon.

And now I want to give you another perspective, another look here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Biggest one to date. Oh, my God. That is the biggest earthquake to date. It is still going. Oh, my God. The building's going to fall!


BALDWIN: So, that is the earthquake, but now here is the tsunami. Take a look with me. You can see the wave hitting, cars askew, floating along, boats floating away as well in that mess.

This is what happened when this giant wave crashed ashore after that earthquake hit at 2:46 p.m. local time there in Japan. But now let's get another view.

This is the wave coming ashore. This is the airport in Sendai. As you may have heard by now, the disaster has closed Japan's civilian airports. However, civilian planes are being allowed to land at several U.S. military air bases on Japanese soil.

And now I want to take you to the coastal city of Kesennuma. That is fire, at least -- at least reporting these massive fires continue to burn here. This is a city of about 75,000, and we're still awaiting word on the situation there -- John.

VAUSE: Brooke, let's go to Cham Dallas right now. He's a disaster management professor with the University of Georgia.

And, Cham, one of the big concerns is that nuclear power plant, they're having trouble cooling one of the reactors. Exactly what has been going on there? What is the problem?

CHAM DALLAS, UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA: Well, the Japanese have multiple redundant systems in their nuclear power plants. They have learned from other people's mistakes, like at Chernobyl, for instance.

And 11 reactors went down originally, and automatically went down the minute they got some vibrations in the ground. One of them had some problems in dissipating the heat. These reactors are hard to shut down. Once they get going, in order to dissipate all that heat, they have to use water or steam.

In one of them, a backup system apparently did not work, and they had to route it a different way. As a result, they evacuated several thousand people from around that reactor, which is a very unusual move for the Japanese to make.

VAUSE: Yes. This is the first time the Japanese government has ever declared a nuclear emergency, I understand. The way it was described to me is that if you have your oven and you have a pan inside the oven, if you turn the oven off after it's been on for a while, that pan is still going to be hot, and that's the situation with this reactor; is that right? DALLAS: That's a good analogy. These -- in this particular case, the reactor pan is uranium or plutonium, which is heated up in these fuel rods, and that takes a long time to dissipate.

And if you don't route that heat out of the -- the way you want to the first time, you have to kind of use some alternate systems. In one of those reactors, the alternate system didn't work the way they wanted.

BALDWIN: Mr. Dallas, I have a question for you with regard to this plant here. We know that the U.S. president spoke with Prime Minister Kan on the phone. We got a little bit of a readout from that call, and according to the prime minister, he was saying there was no radiation leakage.

But let me just ask you, if there is, what does that really mean?

DALLAS: Well, the thing about radioactivity is, is that you can detect it at such low levels. So just the fact that you can detect radioactivity doesn't mean that there's a danger involved.


VAUSE: This was actually a pretty old reactor. It was about 40 years; is that right?

DALLAS: That's right. This is one of the older reactors in the Japanese system. Most of their reactors are quite, quite newer. And in this particular case, maybe there might be some issues with some of the battery backup systems.

VAUSE: OK, Sam, we will let you get some water.




VAUSE: We really appreciate you being with us once again, giving us some very good insight there into exactly what has been happening at this reactor. Of course, the concern is a lot of radioactivity may get out.

BALDWIN: Absolutely.

VAUSE: That's why they have done this evacuation to a three- kilometer -- which is, what, about a two-mile area. Those who are 10 kilometers or six miles away have been told to stay indoors.

BALDWIN: And we know that's the first -- that's priority number one, as the prime minister is about to get in a helicopter now here as the sun is about to rise to first go to that particular plant and assess that beyond other assessments.

VAUSE: Yes. BALDWIN: Coming up next, though, we continue getting amazing video from you, our iReporters, and also iReporters in Japan. The scenes, they are devastating. We are also seeing the moments during the quake and during the tsunami.

Stay right here, breaking news on CNN.


BALDWIN: Back here, breaking news coverage the earthquake in Japan and now the tsunami and the aftermath, as well, and the global response.

Want to go to Barbara Starr. She's at the U.S. Pentagon with the Pentagon's role here, the global response to this earthquake and the tsunami.

And, Barbara, I know that the U.S. Navy is on ready. In fact, they are already sending the aircraft carrier the Ronald Reagan, correct?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Brooke and John, the U.S. military getting in position to help with all of this.

In fact, the Pentagon now has ordered all of the ships in the Fifth Fleet to be ready to possibly move within 48 hours, if ordered, but already, as you say, the Ronald Reagan, an aircraft carrier with both fixed-wing and helicopters on board, is east of Japan making its way there, a total of eight U.S. Navy warships making their way towards Japan from all over the region, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines.

What you should expect to see is some of these heavy helicopters, heavy-lift helicopters, move into this disaster zone. They are going to be able to carry in supplies, water, food, tents, if needed, medical supplies, and they will be able to carry out those Japanese who are injured and need additional medical attention.

Already, we have some video of the first U.S. Navy ship loading up some humanitarian relief supplies. The USS Blue Ridge in Singapore earlier today began loading up its supplies, making its way. This is going to be a very significant relief operation from so many countries around the world and from international private relief organizations, of course -- Brooke.

VAUSE: And, Barbara, Barbara, it's John here.

There's 38,000 U.S. military personnel already stationed in Japan. It's a very, very big base of operations for the U.S. in the Pacific. Is there any word what they are doing right now?

STARR: Well, it's very interesting. As we've reported throughout the day, of course, Japanese commercial airports were damaged by all of this, and planes could not land. So even overnight, U.S. military airfields in Japan began accepting commercial airliners that were already in flight, already on their way to Japan but had nowhere to land. They came to some U.S. military airfields in Japan. All U.S. military personnel seem to be OK, so some of that capacity is getting ready to jump in and work on the disaster relief.

What's really happening right now as the new day begins in Japan, of course, is U.S. officials are going to talk to the Japanese government as they survey the disaster area in their country. What are they seeing? What do they need? What can the U.S. help with the most? So it's going to be in these coming hours, as the day begins in Japan, that some of this will be finalized, but the military really trying to move into place and cut down on that preparation time -- be there, be ready to go. When the Japanese say, We need this, the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force wants to say, OK, we're here. We're going to help.

BROOKE: Barbara, stand by for a second here because it appears that we're getting next to you on screen what appears to be daylight video. You mentioned the sun is about to begin to rise, and it appears to be doing that right now. And I can't even tell if this is supposed to be land --

VAUSE: This is inland.

BROOKE: -- or if this is supposed to be water. They're speaking in English. This is NHK. Let's listen.

VAUSE: Well, they were speaking, but the point to make here --

BROOKE: Here we go.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): -- up to 300 unidentified bodies have been found in Miyagi prefecture. They say victims may have been hit by massive tsunamis. You're watching live footage in Fukushima prefecture. Now, 188 other people are confirmed dead and more than 700 are missing across several prefectures. At least, 61 people --

BROOKE: Barbara Starr, we want to go back to you at the Pentagon.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): -- prefecture. Police there say --

BROOKE: Barbara, want to go back to you at the Pentagon.

STARR: You know, guys, as we look at -- yes. Let me add something in here. As you look at this just utter devastation across Japan, what we also know is both the Japanese self-defense forces and the U.S. Navy at daylight now are beginning to fly reconnaissance missions. What they're doing is going up in aircraft and going over these huge areas of devastation and mapping it, if you will, having a look at where the damage is, where the roads and the highways are out, where people may be out trying to get shelter, food.

You know, because there's so much devastation and because communications and electricity is down, they need to not just try and assess it on the ground, but go up above, fly these airplanes and get a wide swath look at it so they begin -- can begin to map these large areas and see where they need to prioritize and focus the relief effort.

And you only have to look at these pictures, don't you --


STARR: -- to see the scope of the devastation.

VAUSE: And just for our audience, from what we can tell by a map that was on the screen a short time ago, this is the area -- and what the news anchor said, this is the area of the Fukushima prefecture, which is where we've been talking about the issue --

STARR: The power -- the plant, nuclear plant.

VAUSE: -- with the nuclear power plant which is having issues with that reactor which has failed to shut down, having trouble cooling down.

As we've been telling our audience, the first daylight the day after that 8.9 magnitude quake, the day after the tsunami swept ashore. Now, the problem we're having here as we look at pictures, Barbara and Brooke, we don't know if this is the coast. We don't know if this is inland. But obviously, Barbara, as you've been saying, they'll be making a surveillance -- they'll be doing surveillance, aerial surveillance of the region.

Let's just listen to our affiliate, NHK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): There is a possibility that radio (SIC) materials may be released into the air, but the amount should be minimal. The evacuation advisory follows another problem at the power company's nuclear plant on Friday.

This is live footage from Tokai (ph) village in Ibaraki (ph) prefecture. You're watching live video from Tokai village in Ibaraki prefecture. This is live from Ibaraki prefecture. We see cars on fire and huge (ph) smoke is coming out from the fire. This is live from --

VAUSE: Yes, some very dramatic pictures there, some live images coming to us from Tokyo, where it is now -- or Japan, rather, where it is now 9 minutes --

BROOKE: Six-twenty in the morning.

VAUSE: -- 19 minutes past 6:00 in the morning. Yes.

BROOKE: Did you see the pictures of the cars?

VAUSE: Yes, all --

BROOKE: The cars --

VAUSE: Like a car lot.

BROOKE: -- engulfed in flames.

We'll continue to check back in with our affiliate, NHK, to see -- assess the damage now that we're seeing it in the light.

I want to bring in Chad Myers who -- perhaps, Chad, you can give us a better lay of the land as to where specifically this is. And we know it's near the Fukushima nuclear plant. Where is that? And it's also unclear as to where the land ends and the water begins.

MYERS: This is exactly what General Honore talked about less than 30 minutes ago, that when the water came in with the tsunami and it tried to leave, it was trapped in these valleys, where there's kind of a coastal little ridge, and then there's valleys beyond that ridge, and then mountains, obviously, to the west of that. This is the water. You can't tell where the ocean starts and the land begins because this is where that ocean water has flooded the land. It is not able yet to leave the land, and it's just sitting there.

The pictures of the fires of the cars was amazing, and clearly, you could see it was one car was catching another car on fire, and then it just kept going. And this has been burning now for what seems like 12 hours. It must be somewhere in that ballpark of where this started.

And we're also -- the pictures as dawn breaks will be devastating. I know we've seen a lot already. We've seen water moving in and out. But once we take a look at when that water has stopped, it will -- part of this country will look just like Banda Aceh looked, what, six years ago.

VAUSE: Yes, and it is 16 hours since that earthquake --

BROOKE: Sixteen.

VAUSE: -- hit, I make it, anyway. We're looking at live some pictures, I believe, still of -- coming to us from our affiliate, NHK, as dawn breaks over Japan. This is first light after the earthquake and the tsunami. This is the first chance that rescue crews and emergency workers will have to get out there and really try and assess just how bad the damage is and what the death toll will be. We know that, officially, it's at about 188 right now, but the concern is that, obviously, as the day progresses, that number will continue to rise and rise very, very quickly.

MYERS: There will be no fresh water.


MYERS: There will be no --

BROOKE: For quite some time.

MYERS: -- electricity. There will be -- there will be all of these things that you get, and when -- when all of a sudden, every piece of public works stops, you get water in places you shouldn't. You get things in water that you can't touch. And all of a sudden, people are in danger because of what's lurking out there, because there's no city services, because there just can't be. There's nothing to use. There's no power to move that water away or fresh water to even drink.

BROOKE: I think it also underscores Lt. Gen. Russel Honore's point that you -- and Barbara Starr, as well, that some of these people may have to go in and survey this by air, instead of than land, because of the sheer damage, the fires, the smoke, to get a better perspective before they're able to assess.

We have to quick a sneak break in. We're going to reevaluate some more of the video that we're getting right now as day is breaking over Japan. You're watching CNN breaking news. Be right back.


BROOKE: It is now 6:25 in the morning. The sun is rising over Japan. We're getting the first images here of the destruction in the wake of that earthquake and ensuing tsunami. Want to listen in to our affiliate, W -- excuse me -- NHK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): -- may be released into the air, but the amount should be minimal. The evacuation advisory follows another problem at the power company's nuclear plant on Friday.

Now, this just in. Japanese prime minister Naota Kan has left Tokyo to make an aerial inspection of the quake-hit areas in northeastern Japan.


VAUSE: OK. So there were the first pictures that we've been watching from our affiliate at NHK, first daylight pictures coming to us. And of course, this is when they're start to make the assessment. And the first assessment coming in from the town of Kasanuma (ph) -- this is according to the Reuters News Agency -- population 74,000 people. They were hit by those wildfires. One third of the city is submerged under water after the tsunamis. So these are the kind of assessments that they'll be making as they fly over these areas.

And General Honore is still with us. He was the -- he lead the recovery operations for -- and rescue operations for Katrina. General, we'd like to bring you back in. Want to ask you what your assessment is, now that we're seeing some daylight pictures here over Japan. What's going to happen in the next few hours?

HONORE: Well, the ability to get the communications up so that they can talk to the people. And then number two, to try and get search and rescue under way by air and using small boats to reach people who are isolated on the top of their homes.

Right now, the big issue is how can we get more helicopters there? We have substantial military capability in Japan. The question is, do they have the authority to act right now to go out and do search and rescue? We know the ships are en route, but there's a very sensitive little piece of paper that has to happen between the Japanese government and the U.S. government in that they must request that assistance. Unlike a United States naval base, where there's an incident, they can immediately go off the base and start helping. The question is, has that been done in this case? And that small technicality could prevent the military from immediately responding. And hopefully, that piece of work has been done.

But as daylight comes up with all of the headquarters -- we have Army, Navy, Air Force headquarters in Japan, and the large capability there at Ukota (ph) can certainly make a big difference in responding to this disaster if they are asked in a timely manner and they can go in and assist with the assessment and the search and rescue.

BROOKE: General Honore, stand by. We have more questions for you. But I want you to watch with us, and we're going to listen in once again with our affiliate, NHK. They're describing the height of some of these waves, let's listen back in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): -- for the reactor's containment vessel had risen and that if the value was correct, the vessels could break down. The company has decided to vent the air in the vessels. Industry Minister Bandi Kaida (ph) says there is a possibility that radioactive materials may be released --

BROOKE: They were describing some of the waves, 10 meters or so.

But, General Honore, I want to go back to your point that they will have to assess, first and foremost, by air and by boat. When you look at the pictures, just sitting here, it's quite overwhelming, so as a member of a search and rescue operation, if you're evaluating and looking down below, what is your priority? What are you specifically looking for?

HONORE: Right. At this point in time minutes count. We can't over-study the problem. We need to take the capabilities that are available, be it civilian or Japanese self-defense force and United States military, and start flying those helicopters in there and find local staging bases where they can fuel and water and start hauling people out. That's what needs to happen now.

We need not over-study thing and should not be waiting until the USAID team fly all the way from the U.S. to see what happens. We need to let Admiral Willette, let the big dogs act before we go through this assess State Department request from DOD. These are our friends. These are the Japanese. We've got thousands of troops there. We need to let the Navy take charge of this thing and let them start responding now.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: General, I'm sure there will be a protocol that needs to be followed, and I agree with you that obviously the time is what matters most. I'm just curious, tell us about the capacity that the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan has with its helicopters on board and what capacity does it have? HONORE: Well, the capacity has, the capability of about 5,000 crew, up to 70 some various components of aircraft, that's the aircraft carrier combat-loaded with fighter aircraft. They can fly away and en route as it gets closer we can fly more aircraft naval- type helicopters in to them so they can participate.

The big thing it gives you is a safe air field for military-type aircrafts to go into the affected aircraft and pick people up and fly them out and to refuel search and rescue helicopters. Last count that carrier was still about 500 miles away so it's steaming its way there.

There are other capabilities in the area such as the Tortuga and the Essex and Blue Ridge. The biggest capability will be in the Reagan. Those forces are deploying there and we couldn't deploy with employment and hopefully that's been done by now, that they got the paperwork from the Japanese government asking the U.S. military to start helping search and rescue now.

BALDWIN: General Honore, we appreciate it and one of the issues you mentioned is the rooftop rescues. General Honore, please stand by and stay with us as we assess these first pictures and daylight images from Japan.

And coming up, we'll be speaking with some of our correspondents who likely have gotten not very much sleep here as they are assessing on the ground in Japan. Be right back.


VAUSE: Welcome back to our coverage here on CNN of the earthquake in Japan. Our Tokyo correspondent Kyung Lah has made it outside the capital and she is heading to the epicenter of the earthquake with the situation there now. As first light is breaking over Japan, what are you seeing right now? What's the situation where you are.

KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we're still about 170 miles away from Sendai which is the area that most of the media focus has been on where we've seen that tsunami sweep across that region.

So it's taken forever to get out of Tokyo because of the massive backup on the roads. The highways are shut down. We're on a two-lane highway trying to get up to that region still. So it's just very slow going trying to get out of that region.

At this point we are hearing that all up to that region, rail lines continue to be closed, highways are closed, so access remains extraordinarily difficult. But as dawn is breaking here, because it's been daylight now for about the past 30, 40 minutes, we've started to hear that officials are starting to go to the region.

The prime minister has already announced that he is boarding a helicopter and heading to the nuclear power plant, Fukushima power plant. He wants to visit it. He wants to meet with the local officials and check to see what exactly is happening on the ground. He did announce that he was expanding the evacuation radius to about ten kilometers surrounding that nuclear reactor. So that's going to be one of his main concerns heading up to this region, as it is many of the people in the area.

But the other big concern now is search and rescue. Now that dawn has broken, now that there's daylight, it's actually getting eyeballs in there and trying to figure out exactly the scope of the devastation that we're dealing with.

VAUSE: Also, Kyung, one of the reasons why they expanded that evacuation are area, we have reports coming to us from one of the news agencies that there could be a very high radiation level surrounding that nuclear power plant. Do you know anything more about that?

LAH: From what we've heard, the big issue, and this is what -- what's being reported in the local press here, is that it's a power issue and that there's been trouble trying to keep the fissures and the reactors cool enough. We know that as we're heading up there, we're starting to see glimmers of that.

But we can definitely say that the infrastructure is certainly going to be a challenge and so trying to get power to the nuclear reactor is certainly going to be an issue, and that in turn is going to cause a problem that you're talking about.

BALDWIN: Kyung, we know the nuclear reactor is obviously a priority for Prime Minister Kan, but beyond that, beyond that initial assessment, this helicopter tour, do you know what the rest of his day looks like?

LAH: It's very, very hard to say, Brooke, because such a fluid situation. What we have been hearing throughout the night as we've drive-by through the night, from all the officials, is that they just had to wait until dawn broke. Now that there's daylight, they got to get their people in there. They have got to understand and take a look what are we looking at.

The last good picture that anyone had out of the region was, you know, at daylight yesterday, and that was, you know, 12 hours ago. So it's going to be a very different picture as this day is starting and certainly a bigger understanding of exactly what we're dealing with.

BALDWIN: And quickly, Kyung, I know that you have been in this car for hours and hours. You've been describing the gridlock you've experienced trying to get out of Tokyo heading northward. Are you still experiencing the same bumper to bumper? Are people trying to get out of town or are they not moving?

LAH: The area that we're in now is actually moving quite well. It's much more rural area. The gridlock that we're experiencing was commuter traffic, people trying to get to the suburbs. The area that we're going to is really out of the way. Unless you have family up in this region, you're not going to be heading there.

BALDWIN: Nobody is heading in the direction of the epicenter. OK, Kyung Lah, safe travels to you.

VAUSE: Well, the images have kept us riveted all day long, and new pictures continue to come into the newsroom here of just how powerful this quake was. Randi Kaye joins us with some of the most compelling video. Randi, you've been going through this, so just walk us through some of the most powerful images you have.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have images that are incredible to look at and find it hard to pull ourselves away from. The audio in so many cases is just as scary as some of the video we're seeing. More than 130 iReports coming into CNN. We want you to take a look at this one.

This one at first may not look very dramatic, but as it unfolds the tension increases. The guy who took this video is Richard Dodd from Shanghai and he was at the Delta Sky Lounge at Narita airport waiting for a flight to Honolulu when all of a sudden the lounge and airport started shaking. Take a listen to this.




KAYE: You can see how much worse it gets. You can hear the people panicking and screaming. The video was taken just minutes before the incumbent strong. Plaster was falling from the walls, as can you see. Nobody seems to know what to do. Some people went under the tables to hide and some of the Delta staff in the lounge left the lounge.

One young mother was trying to struggle to open the area where the children were playing and she could get her daughter. You can hearing the glasses clanking in the background. But eventually they were evacuated from that lounge.

You also have a couple of images from the water, overwhelming water when the tsunami struck, overwhelming everything in its way. Take a look at this. Walls of water, there you go, walls of water up to 30 feet high. The waves were sweeping into that building, see it just tearing that building apart and chewing through it and knock the boats around like they weigh absolutely nothing, just getting sloshed around.

Those waves sloshed across rice fields and over highways. They toss cars around, reaching as far as six miles inland in Miyagi prefecture. The Japanese officials said the large waves are still a risk actually to coastal Japan.

And here are vessels, take a look at this, trying to maneuver through the tsunami waves. The quake toppled cars off bridges. Just look at that boat trying to make its way through those waves, and there's just no fight there for that boat. They waves, they pull like lava across farmlands and push boats all around the area. About four million homes without power in the area. And as you watch these pictures, it's so hard to watch and not want to do something to help all of these people. We've seen this before and, of course, probably at home and wanted to reach out so we thought we'd help you if you can actually help those if you're victims here. Head to, and you'll see a section of organizations that you can donate to or work with to try to help these folks who have been devastated by this earthquake and tsunami. Back to you guys.

VAUSE: That image of the boat trying to get over the wave and try to get to safety, just incredible. Thanks, Randi.

BALDWIN: You've been looking at images here and you've been looking at the images. Coming up next we'll speak to an oceanographer live from London. This is his area of expertise and will put this in perspective for all of us. We'll get his assessment of the tsunami and the aftermath right here on CNN.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The airport ground floor. Nothing is moving. It's about 12:00 a.m. People are starting to see it on the news, the emergency that we're experiencing. It's really cold.



VAUSE: Welcome back to our continuing coverage here.

Word coming to us from the Kyodo News agency about a development at that nuclear power plant which has had a problem with one of the reactors not cooling properly, not closing down. They are now saying that the radiation level around the plant is 1,000 times higher than normal.

We've also heard from the Japanese prime minister that the evacuation area is now being extended from three kilometers, or two miles, all the way out to 10 kilometers, which is now six miles. So what does this all actually mean?

Cham Dallas is still actually with us. He is a disaster management expert here at the University of Georgia.

So, Cham, when we hear the radiation levels -- radioactivity level, rather -- 1,000 times higher than normal, what does that actually mean?

DALLAS: Well, that sounds terrible, doesn't it?


DALLAS: A thousand times is a lot, but in radioactivity it's really not. Levels of radioactivity are so low normally, that you can actually raise them 1,000 times. And believe it or not, you still don't get into the range of health effects. Now, I've been waiting for this to happen. This is not surprising.

In fact, I've been waiting for the Japanese to expand the zone that they will be evacuating people, and that's mainly because of fear. People have a visceral fear of radioactivity. And no matter what you tell them, no matter what I say, when you tell somebody that it's gone up 1,000 times, they are going to get away from it.

VAUSE: So where is it going next? I mean, if it's already 1,000 times higher than normal, when do you get concerned?

DALLAS: Well, if it went another 1,000 times, that would be really bad. But more than likely, what will happen is, is that it may go up again.

If they have to vent some of the steam out of this reactor, which is a standard operating procedure, if they are having some difficulties in routing the water or the steam inside the reactor, it's liable to increase again. Again, I doubt it will get to health- impacting effects yet, but still, you can tell that to people, but when it's radioactivity, they are going to want to get out of there.

VAUSE: Sure.

Very quickly, what's the timeline of bringing this situation at the nuclear power plant under control?

DALLAS: I wouldn't expect them to do it anytime soon. These things are very hard to change. You've got to move that heat around.

The key is getting the heat out of reactor, and that's hard to do. Once the steam is routed where they want it to go, maybe hours, maybe by tomorrow, that should probably alleviate the situation if they maintain the power inside the reactor.


BALDWIN: We're just getting news here into CNN as we've been talking about the breadth and the width of the ramifications of the tsunami. We're talking now specifically South America.

CNN Chile has now confirmed there is not just a tsunami warning, there is now a tsunami alert for the Easter Islands. That's just off the coast of Chile.

A perfect time to bring in Simon Boxall. He's an oceanographer with Britain's National Oceanography Center, joining me now live in London.

And Simon, first, let me just get your response to this news of the tsunami alert around the Easter Islands. What does that mean? Does that mean it's imminent?

SIMON BOXALL, OCEANOGRAPHER, NATIONAL OCEANOGRAPHY CENTER: What it means is that we know that it's going to hit the Easter Islands probably in the next two hours, one to two hours. And Chile will expect to see it hit around about 2:00 GMT. That's in about four hours' time.

So if you like, it's the tail end of the Pacific. It's where the tsunami is heading.

We've already seen that the tsunami created a wave of about a meter in Hawaii, so one would assume that the tsunami is diminishing. But then, a little later, we've seen reports in Crescent City, in California, where the tsunami has reached two meters.

So we can actually get a situation where the wave focuses, and in some areas the wave is smaller and other areas it's bigger. So the fact that in Chile, a long way away, doesn't necessarily mean it's safe, but we won't see the devastation of the wave that struck so quickly and rapidly in the northeast coast of Japan. But, I mean, since then, there have been aftershocks. The aftershocks we've seen to the northwest of Tokyo have been greater than an earthquake that happened in Christchurch in New Zealand last month.

BALDWIN: Simon, let me ask you this. With the distance perhaps these waves could travel before hitting Easter Island, and then also Chile, would the distance increase the force of the wave?

BOXALL: No. The distance will tend to reduce it, but the problem is we can look at the time scale very easily and we can model that and predict when a wave will hit. What we can't do is determine whether the wave -- you can imagine, it's like a big ripple coming away from a pond, and the problem is those ripples get refracted and get reflected off things, and sometimes you can get the waves coming together and they can amplify rather than reduce.

We see this with tides, and we see this in plenty of places around the world where the tides amplify. And the same thing happen with a tsunami. And this is the worry, and this is why, to be safe, people are being evacuated from areas that are vulnerable, particularly low-lying areas.

VAUSE: Simon, this has been a very unique tsunami situation in the sense that it's all been pretty much recorded by video or on cell phones, or some way there is a record of exactly what has happened. We didn't have that in Banda Aceh, but we do now.

So, for someone like you who studies this, what are your initial assessments of the tsunami? And will you be studying this for months and a very long time to come?

BOXALL: I mean, there's huge amounts of footage that's coming out of the tsunami. We've got aerial shots seeing the wave coming, so that's unique. We have a very good picture of how the tsunami hit the coast.

Again, with all tsunamis, if the tsunami happens in the middle of the ocean, there's an early warning system, and they pick up the different pressures on the seabed. The big problem is because the epicenter was so close to the coast, the wave in the open ocean is moving at 500 miles per hour, the speed of a jumbo jet. So there's very little warning between the epicenter and the coast of Japan.

With time, we have time to warn Honolulu and California. We saw this happen last year with the Chilean earthquake, when the tsunami was created. That tsunami really fizzled out very quickly, luckily. In this case, the tsunami is far more powerful and it's causing far more destruction.

VAUSE: OK. Simon Boxall there, an oceanographer live with us in London, giving us some perspective about that situation overall, and also what's going on in Chile right now.

Thank you, Simon.

We want to take a short break, but we will be right back after this.


BALDWIN: Again, breaking news here on CNN. We have now confirmed, thanks to CNN Chile, that there's now been a tsunami alert issued for the Easter Islands, which are just off the coast of Chile.

Want to go to Chad Myers with the latest from there.

And Chad, what are we expecting, two, two hours from now?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, and even Easter Island probably a little shorter than that. But all along the coast of Chile we're going to have the potential -- where did that go? We just lost it.

We're going to have the potential for a significant tsunami because of the way the wave pushed away from Tokyo, from Japan. It pushed down towards South America, not so much out toward North America. So down toward the southern part of the South Pacific, and that's why Chile is in this warning alert right now.

BALDWIN: All right. Chad Myers, my thanks to you.

and now it has been just about 16 hours since that earthquake hit Japan. We've seen the ramifications of the tsunami there and elsewhere around the world.

Here's a look back at the last hours and moments of this earthquake in Japan.


MATT ALT, AMERICAN LIVING IN TOKYO: The ground was rolling for an extended period of time. I wasn't exactly sure what to do or where to go. I had never been prepared for anything like this.

My wife and I stood outside and basically held on to the outside of our house. You couldn't even stand up. I mean, literally at the peak of these waves that were washing over the ground, you literally could not stay on your feet. You had to kind of crouch down in a ball or put your back against something so you didn't fall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole ground was shaking so much, it was unreal. I can't describe it.

It felt like someone was just pulling you back and forth, like side to side, as hard as they could.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just blew up. Whoa! Whoa! This is crazy. Whoa!

Look at it. I'm back. Do you all see this? Too much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God. That is the biggest earthquake to date.

It is still going. Oh, my God! The building's going to fall.

It got considerably worse, so I said this is the biggest one yet. And then it didn't stop. And then it got a little bit worse, so I went to stand outside in between the two buildings, and the clanking you hear is actually the canisters of natural gas banging against each other. And that's when I said, "Oh, my God, the building is going to fall."

I said that just before because it had never made that sound. It sounded like a shotgun or a freight train just going off. Just boom.


BALDWIN: And now we'll continue the breaking coverage in Washington. Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Wolf.