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Continuing Coverage of the Japanese Crisis; Japanese Nuclear Meltdown Possible

Aired March 13, 2011 - 03:00   ET


PAULINE CHIOU, CNN ANCHOR: Hello to our viewers in the U.S. and all over the world. I'm Pauline Chiou at CNN Hong Kong.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Natalie Allen at CNN Center in Atlanta. You're watching CNN's continuing coverage of the disaster in Japan.

It is Sunday afternoon in Sendai, Japan, where 48 hours ago, the biggest earthquake ever recorded in Japan struck just offshore. The Japanese Meteorological Society has upgraded that quake now to a magnitude of 9.0, while the U.S. Geological Survey has maintained a rating of 8.9. The city of one million people and countless towns and villages to the north were devastated by the subsequent tsunami that crashed over the coastline and tore through everything in its path. While that danger has passed, another has emerged. At this hour, we are tracking a new and extremely serious concern.

CHIOU: Japanese nuclear official says there is a possibility, just a possibility, that there could be a meltdown at one of the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. A second reactor is also in trouble. But Japan's ambassador to the U.S. has already told CNN there is no evidence that a meltdown is under way.

ALLEN: An estimated 80,000 people live within 10 kilometers of the plant. That is six miles. All of them have evacuated. Another 180,000 people live up to 20 kilometers from the plant. They are being moved away from the area today.

CHIOU: The key concern, that radioactive material could be released, all of this at a time of high anxiety as rescuers still scramble to find hundreds of people missing in this catastrophe.

ALLEN: The official death toll stands at 801, but we do know that is going to climb much higher. The number of people missing remains vague. The official figure is 678. But one coastal town reports half its population, about 9,500 people, unaccounted for. Nearly 1,500 people have been injured, and at least 3,000 people, we are told, have been rescued.

CHIOU: Let's get the very latest on developments in the disaster zone. Kyung Lah filed this report just a short time ago.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When the tsunami came ashore -- and I'm a couple of miles inland -- it literally pushed cars around like toys. And you take a look here, you can see that what has completely covered that car is debris. There is water all where it shouldn't be. This is supposed to be a residential area, but there is water as far as you can see. Cars have been pushed inland. And again, I'm two miles, about two to three miles, inland. And so this is an area that has simply been completely devastated.

And the houses here are actually not too bad because they're still standing. A little further in, residents tell me that there are houses that have been complete flattened.

As we take a walk over this way, the reason why that car looks unscathed is because it arrived after the tsunami. This house has been pushed in by debris. But if you look further over that way, you can see that there are two cars sitting on top of each other. That's the force of the tsunami. And it has led to an active search and rescue operation here in this community. The military says they just pulled out a body today.

There are a few hundred people missing, according to the residents of this town. They haven't been able to account for everybody. So the emergency is certainly going on. They're still trying to find people, still hoping that they will find people in the debris, and those people will be alive,


CHIOU: So that's Kyung in Sendai, which has seen the most devastation in northern Japan. But there's more damage north of there. Anna Coren is now in the town of Ishinomaki, which is northeast of Sendai. She joins us live now.

Anna, what are you seeing and hearing there?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Oh, Pauline, the tsunami has just ripped through this city. We are on the outskirts in (INAUDIBLE) neighborhood, and I am just seeing house after house demolished, absolutely obliterated. There is debris absolutely everywhere. Roofs are down, houses on their side, boats tossed around. It just -- it's the scene of complete and utter devastation, Pauline.

We have been with the military on a -- on a -- well, you know, what was hoped to be a search and rescue operation, but it very quickly became a recovery operation, Pauline. Bodies were recovered. They were removed from houses. And that is what this turning into. While there may be hope of finding some survivors, Pauline, at the end of the day, where I am, people are really just coming out in body bags. It's really quite tragic.

So that is the scene where I am at the moment. And you just have to wonder, Pauline, as people come back, how they're going to rebuilt their lives.

CHIOU: Anna, as we're talking with you, we are seeing some taped video of a helicopter that appears to be pulling someone from a rooftop. I'm not sure if it could possibly be a survivor or possibly a rescue crew member. But at this point, you're saying that it's more of a search and recovery effort. Are you hearing anything from residents that you've been able to talk to on the ground about their situation, what they're hoping to do moving forward?

COREN: Pauline, I think if people were able to get to the second story of their building, and sturdy, you know, really strong, well- built buildings, they could very well have survived, and that's probably why those helicopters are able to rescue people off of their rooftops. We spoke to one man here. He said he clung onto the roof while the tsunami just roared through. He said he was just so very lucky to be alive. We spoke to another man who got the warning, got in his car and drove off to higher ground.

But where I am, a lot of elderly people lived. This was also quite a rural sort of farming community, with these pockets of houses, of these sort of estates. So lots of houses that -- amongst sort of rural land. There's just helicopters flying now over me as we speak, Pauline.

But you know, there's so many people, particularly the elderly -- they just weren't able to get out. It was less than a half an hour between the quake and the actual tsunami roaring through this area. So to the elderly -- you know, so many of them just weren't able to get out. So from the bodies that we have seen retrieved from the houses today, many of them, most of them were elderly.

CHIOU: So, so very sad. And we have heard the same from other witnesses, that many elderly people had lived along the coastline there. Anna Coren, thank you very much, Anna reporting from the coastal town of Ishinomaki.

Well, more and more pictures are emerging that demonstrate the ferocity of the tsunami that followed Friday's quake. Just take a look at this footage from Miyako, filmed from the moment the wave first approached.

It is just stunning there, just this black wave washing across cars, cars and boats being thrown about like toys. But what's perhaps the most incredible is the nerve of the individual who managed to film this. Likewise, these images from Sendai. These homes simply don't stand a chance against the deluge of water and debris. Natalie, nature at its most brutal.

ALLEN: That video is just beyond jaw-dropping. It is hard to comprehend what people have been through there, with all of this incredible video that we are getting, all the devastation, and now the possibility of a nuclear catastrophe.

Japanese officials say meltdowns may be under way in at least two reactors at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. It's one of two plants that were damaged by Friday's earthquake. But Japan's chief cabinet secretary, the chief spokesman for the government, tried to maintain a sense of calm.

Saturday an explosion at the Daiichi plant injured four workers. The additional danger now is the impact of a nuclear meltdown, which the spokesman said it's hard to say that that is, indeed, what's happening. He wanted to be careful with the terminology, but said that it did appear that there is danger, but that there were not going to be any more evacuations. The evacuation zone around the plant has been wide to 20 kilometers. That's affecting about 200,000 people. And officials are saying nine people in the community have so far tested positive for high radiation levels on their skin and clothing. Any internal impact remains to be seen.

Officials have been racing against the clock to cool reactors. They have resorted to the extreme measure of flooding them with sea water. And scientist Bill Nye says it shows just how desperate the situation is.


BILL NYE, "THE SCIENCE GUY": Taking sea water -- sea water's, of course, loaded with chemicals, and you're going to create steam and that steam's going to carry radioactive material all over the place. But the alternative is everybody standing around, not doing anything to cool it off. So I guess this is -- if you're -- with nothing else left, this is the best thing to do. But it shows again how very hot these things get in order to be financially or economical to build. And then when things go wrong, things go very, very wrong.


ALLEN: No word why back-up generators weren't working as well during that situation. Authorities have also deliberately released radioactive steam to alleviate growing pressure inside both of the affected reactors.

CHIOU: The nuclear danger stems from the earthquake on Friday and the tsunami that followed. During the earthquake, three of the six reactors at Fukushima Daiichi were in operation. They're designed to shut down automatically when an earthquake strikes. When that happens, emergency diesel generators begin to pump water around the reactors to help cool them down. But the tsunami washed over the site, knocking out those back-up generators.

So if you want to know more about the earthquake's effect on Japan's nuclear reactors, you can check out our Web site

ALLEN: We want to give you a better idea of the area we're talking about now and look closer at weather conditions that could help or hinder any radiation release, of course. Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera is at the International Weather Center for us -- Ivan.

IVAN CABRERA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Natalie, a lot of folks have been e- mailing and tweeting here, very concerned about what the potential impacts, not only in Japan, but worldwide could be. And I'm going to break that down for you here. As far as worldwide situation here, we are certainly yet not there, and there's no need for anyone to worry, unless you are within that 20-kilometer radius. And even there, you've been evacuated here. Here's the Fukushima power plan here. And what we'll do here is that we'll zoom out a little bit, and you see some communities here, sparsely populated around the nuclear power plant. But as we widen out the picture, you see that -- if we do begin to increase that radius of danger, we get closer and closer to the more dense population areas, the colors you see here in red representing more people, about a million in Sendai. Of course, Tokyo, as well, down to the south, about 225 kilometers to the south. But we're not talking about any danger outside, right now, of that 20-mile or 20-kilometer radius here.

The winds are important locally and regionally because if we do have enough of a strong wind, right now, everything is pushing from, essentially, southwest to northeast, so that we would have some impact here. If there is enough radioactive material at the site there, that would be transported up to the north, where we have Sendai, which is more populated. And the winds are generally going to stay out of the southwest over the next couple of days, as an area of low pressure moves in that direction.

Then once the low hits off to the north and east -- or heads off to the north and east, on the back side of it, we're going to get a northwesterly flow. Any westerly wind component is what I'm looking for here because that would push anything to the east. Now, again, these are surface winds. We would have to have a major event, that is a breach of the core, in that power plant to begin to talk about anything into the upper levels of the atmosphere. We're nowhere near there.

Continuing coverage of the Japan earthquake continues after the break. Stay with CNN.


CHIOU: Startling pictures are still emerging of the moment the tsunami struck Japan's northeastern coast. And it's not just water hitting these homes, but almost everything that this wall of water had collected on its way inland. Look at that. When we report that it's difficult to give accurate totals of the dead and missing in this disaster, images like this go a long towards explaining why.

ALLEN: Absolutely unbelievable. As Japan begins to come to terms with its disaster, if it's gotten there yet, residents have sent CNN their accounts of what happened. And even in Tokyo, some 400 kilometers from the epicenter of the quake, the images are quite incredible. Aaron Lace (ph) is a Canadian living in Tokyo. He was at a graduation ceremony in a Tokyo theater when the earthquake struck. The pictures you see here were taken at the time of the first aftershock, when the roof had completely collapsed, trapping several people underneath.

A couple of minutes later, people are still trying to pull trapped individuals from the rubble. And look at that. That is the roof they're trying to lift up that has collapsed and is sitting on the floor of this theater. Aaron stayed for an half hour, he says, and he says that two or three people might have been killed by the collapse. We will bring you more viewer iReports later in this hour. But that one is quite amazing.

CHIOU: Wow. Well, The death toll continues to climb in Japan two days after the country's largest earthquake on record and the tsunami that followed. The official death toll stands at 801, but we do know that's going to climb much higher. The number of people missing remains vague. The official figure of the missing is 678, but one coastal town reports half of its population, about 900 -- 9,500 people, rather, is still unaccounted for. Nearly 1,500 people have been injured and at least 3,000 people have been rescued.

ALLEN: Of course, the world community is banding together to offer much-need help. Dozens of countries are sending aid right now. Among them, teams have arrived from South Korea and Singapore. Seoul has sent rescue dogs and handlers and assistance for searches through collapsed buildings. The U.S. military sending aid. The aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan has just arrived off the coast and is preparing for relief efforts right now.

Japan's prime minister, Naoto Kan, expressed his gratitude for the help extended from the international community.


NAOTO KAN, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We extend (INAUDIBLE) appreciation to all the world's (INAUDIBLE) supporting us through all the forces throughout the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, that have come to aid. I'd first like to focus on saving lives, and secondly, the comfort of the evacuees.


ALLEN: Aid organizations like the International Federation of Red Cross are also hard at work, but as IFRC member Patrick Fuller (ph) tells us, they face major obstacles.


PATRICK FULLER, IFRC (via telephone): We're certainly taking relief supplies into the evacuation (INAUDIBLE) primarily non-food relief, so things like blankets for people who had to leave everything behind. But I think one of the -- I think one of the challenges is getting up into these northeastern areas, and we're finding it very, very difficult. We've had teams on the road for the past 36 hours trying to reach communities who are 400 kilometers away. And that gives you a sense of just how hard it is because there's been so much devastation, so many roads washed out, that you get to a certain point where you just can't go any further.


CHIOU: Well, earlier, we were able to reach out to one woman stranded in Sendai. Yasue Schumaker is from Hawaii, but she's been living in Sendai for the past six weeks, caring for her mother, who's ill. She gave us a firsthand impression of the scenes of devastation and the desperate need for food and water for people affected by this disaster.


YASUE SCHUMAKER, SENDAI (via telephone): After (ph) I saw the people who got lost their homes or the people who still needing help, I think most of them, they are the ones who needs help! So (INAUDIBLE) we can -- somehow, we can hang in there and hope. We need -- we don't have any electric, water, gas, and the city just announced it could take 30 days to get gas. It's out for everybody.

But we definitely need water and food. But please help the people who lost their homes, and still people -- I saw the news, still people on top of the buildings asking for help. We need foreign countries' help. I don't -- didn't see much news. I don't know what the prime minister says. I hope they ask -- officially ask for help to every countries. And we're in an emergency. And please help us.


CHIOU: And 49 countries have answered that plea and are sending international rescue aid or crews, as well.

If someone you know is missing, go to Google's People finder and either search for missing people or enter the information you have about someone who may be missing. This allows people affected by the disaster to communicate. It also comes in several different languages. This is all especially helpful when normal channels of communication are disrupted during an emergency. And many witnesses are saying they cannot reach people by phone.

Our "Impact Your World" site is collecting links to organizations that are mobilizing relief efforts in Japan. On the page, you'll also find a link to Google's People Finder. And as the earthquake response ramps up, we'll continue to add information to this page. That link again is

ALLEN: Well, you've seen all the jaw-dropping video of the tsunami moving in on Japan. It's just unbelievable to see video of it. Imagine experiencing it. It's quite another to see it with your own eyes. We will talk with eyewitnesses to the quake and tsunami coming up.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I was on the fourth floor of my school building, and because the New Zealand earthquake had just been in the news because we had, I think, 30 Japanese students in New Zealand, all the images from the New Zealand earthquake were flashing through my mind, and I think my teacher's mind, as well. So we were not really sure what to do at first.

First, I thought was it just normal. And my teacher's really scared. And (INAUDIBLE) It's OK, it's OK. But then as it got big and it get stronger, then I started to get scared, too. And we were in the hallway and ducking down, and we were just not -- I think we were kind of waiting to see if we should go out or if it's going slow down. I didn't really think the building was going to collapse, but thinking if this building collapses, what are we going to do?


ALLEN: IReporter Jessica Tekawa, some pictures from empty store shelves there. She was one of many witnesses to the quake and the tsunami events that, as you can see from this amazing video, can leave you speechless when you see the power of nature just crushing everything in its path, including, of course, more than just structures but human life right now in untold numbers.

CHIOU: Now we want to pause a moment and take you back to Friday to very moment the tsunami hit the city of Kamaishi (ph) in Iwate prefecture. These are incredible images of nature's destructive force from Japanese broadcaster NHK.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): A tsunami wave slammed into the coast, crushing buildings. Nearly all areas of Nikusen Takata (ph) City in Iwate prefecture were devastated. Most of the buildings in the area were demolished. Some concrete structures survived. At an emergency shelter, people were desperately searching for the names of family members in the evacuees' list.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): My husband hasn't come here yet. He left home a little later than me. Our house was swept away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I'm looking for my son's wife. I have no idea which shelter she is in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Residents rushed to the Soma (ph) City hall in Fukushima prefecture, seeking information about the whereabouts of loved ones.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): My son might have been engulfed by the tsunami. I hope he's taking shelter somewhere. I'm struggling to locate him.


ALLEN: CNN continues to bring you all sides of the story, from the numbers to the raw emotion. So many people are searching for their loved ones. We will hear from someone in the midst of the rescue process. That's next.


CHIOU: You're watching CNN's continuing coverage of the disaster in Japan. Live from CNN Hong Kong, I'm Pauline Chiou.

ALLEN: And I'm Natalie Allen at CNN Center in Atlanta. We want to give you a quick recap on events in Japan. CHIOU: It is just past 4:30 PM in the city of Sendai in Japan, where two days ago, the biggest earthquake ever recorded in the country struck offshore. The Japanese meteorological agency has upgraded that quake to a magnitude 9.0, while the U.S. Geological Survey has maintained a rating of 8.9. A million people live in the city of Sendai, and all of them have in some way been affected not just by the earthquake but the tsunami that followed, which crashed over the nearby coastline and tore through everything in its path. In fact, it went in inland about six kilometers. While that danger has now past, another has emerged.

ALLEN: And that is a top Japanese nuclear official saying there is a possibility that there could be a meltdown at two of the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. However, Japan's ambassador to the U.S. has countered that, telling CNN there's no evidence a meltdown is under way.

CHIOU: An estimated 80,000 people live within 10 kilometers of that plant, and that area has been evacuated. Another 180,000 people live up to 20 kilometers from the plant, and they're being moved away from that area today amid fears radioactive material could be released.

ALLEN: So the official death toll in Japan stands at 801, but that will rise, and the number of people missing unclear. The official figure is 678, but one coastal town reports half its population, about 9,500 people, is unaccounted for.

All the devastation, and now the possibility of a nuclear catastrophe, Japanese officials saying meltdowns may be under way, as we mentioned, in at least two reactors at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. It is one of two plants damaged by Friday's earthquake. But Japan's chief cabinet secretary was cautious a moment ago when describing the situation.


YUKIO EDANO, JAPAN CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY (through translator): We have to be very careful with the terminology here. A part of the core, a part of the core, to a certain degree within the reactor is deforming and let's say that we do not deny the possibility of the deforming of a part of the core in the reactor because to a certain amount of the time, they're exposed outside of the water. However, the meltdown in a general sense is very serious because -- well, that the period of time that the reactors of the core was not submerged is not long enough to come to that -- to the equivalent of that meltdown.


ALLEN: That was the chief spokesman for the government just about an hour ago, live in a news conference. Saturday, an explosion -- you're watching it right there -- at the Daiichi plant injured four workers. The additional danger now is the impact of a nuclear meltdown, which is when fuel in the reactor overheats, allowing radioactive material to escape into the air. The evacuation zone around the plant has been widened to 20 kilometers, affecting about 200,000 people. Japanese media reports quote the country's prime minister as saying more than 3,000 people have been rescued. For more on how those operations are going, we have Patrick Fuller on the phone. He's a communications manager for the International Red Cross and he is on his way to Sendai right now.

And Patrick, we had a sound bite from you just a short while ago saying it was just virtually impossible to get there. How is it going right now?

PATRICK FULLER, RED CROSS COMMUNICATIONS DIR. (via telephone): Well, it's impossible for a lot of people simply because the highway's not open to ordinary traffic. It's restricted to the emergency services. And we got off there fairly quickly. It's also quite dangerous because there's a lot of cracks across the highway, so if you're traveling at speed, you know, you're taking quite a risk.

But we passed through Fukushima on the way up, and one of the big concerns is, obviously, the number of people who have to be evacuated. Already, there's about 122,000 people who were evacuated before the tsunami came in. On top of that, 200,000 people have to be moved because of the potential nuclear threat. And that's going to place a big burden on the social services, and the Red Cross is obviously playing a role there, bringing in relief supplies, blankets to people who are being shifted.

ALLEN: And I guess the big question, Patrick, is the scale. When you look at these pictures -- and we just keep getting more and more video of the impact of this tsunami -- it's hard to appreciate just how much work there is ahead of the government and agencies like yours. Do you have, do you think, enough to get you started, to get you going in trying to help people recover from such a disaster of untold magnitude?

FULLER: Well, it's interesting because, obviously, Japan was well prepared. And the infrastructure here -- it's not like a developing country, where people are going to be housed in tents. People are being housed in a very organized way, in temporary shelters and buildings until power comes back and they can return home. But obviously, a lot of people can't or won't be able to return home because they've lost their homes or their homes are damaged.

So the main issue at the moment really is still to rescue people who are stranded out there in small pockets in communities where the water is still on the ground after the tsunami and to get medical support for these people. But you know, we still don't have a full picture of the scale of this disaster because getting into some of these areas by road is pretty much impossible.

ALLEN: Do you have much communication with government officials who are trying to give you an idea of what still may be head, what they're seeing? You know, we're still hearing that half of the down of Sendai is missing.

FULLER: Well, we're actually in Sendai at the moment. And Sendai -- you know, a lot of Sendai is fine. I mean, the problem is that people can't go home because the electricity supply has been disrupted. But I think it's come on again today. You know, we've seen long queues outside shops of people trying to get food stocks because logistics have been disrupted in this whole northeastern part of the country. Fuel's not getting through and food supplies aren't being restocked in the supermarket. So you know, it has been problematic for local people here. But I think the worst-hit areas are further towards the coast, where the tsunami actually came in caused a lot of destruction, and that's where we're heading in an hour or so.

ALLEN: And how long do you think it could take you to get there? It was a tough process getting this far. What do you have ahead of you as far as the damage that could be blocking your way to get there?

FULLER: Well, I think, certainly, there's a lot of damage. You know, some of the roads are washed out, and simply the amount of debris around the place. You can't pass through it. You know, the only way to get some of these places at the moment is by boat or by helicopter. So we'll go as far as we can, but the big concern, obviously, is what the situation is on the ground, you know, 100 kilometers north of here because I don't think many people have been able to get into this area.

ALLEN: Last question, Patrick. It's just unimaginable, the pictures that we keep seeing, these images and the video. What is it like for you? You've probably seen a lot working for the Red Cross, being there, being an eyewitness to this?

FULLER: The situation is very similar to what we saw in 2004, after the big Asian tsunami which hit Indonesia and Sri Lanka, you know, scenes of total devastation, houses washed away, boats washed five kilometers inland, I mean, extraordinary scenes. And unfortunately, one of the challenges now is going to be identifying and retrieving, you know, a lot of dead bodies in these areas. And the Red Cross may play a role in that, but certainly, it's the civil defense at moment who are undertaking search and rescue. But it's going to a fairly traumatic time.

ALLEN: Patrick Fuller, well, we know you've got much work ahead of you and appreciate your time talking with us. Thank you -- Pauline.

CHIOU: Well, Natalie, our guest there, Patrick, said it's difficult to get around, and our crews are also having some difficulty, but they're slowly making their way up the coastline. Anna Coren was in Sendai, but she's now north in the town of Ishinomaki, which is northeast of Sendai.

Anna, do you have any new information from there?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pauline, we have spent the last couple of hours here in Ishinomaki with a military team. They have been going door to door, hoping to find any survivors. Instead, they have located a number of bodies, and I must add that they're the bodies of elderly people. This is a village -- it's actually part of a city. Ishinomaki is a rather large city, but we're on the outskirts of it, and it's just 500 meters from the coast. So the tsunami that rolled through, the waves that hit this part, it was well and truly 10 meters high. And as you can see from the debris behind me, it has just collected everything in its path.

Our cameraman, Dan Adams (ph), is just panning over to one aspect of this scene of devastation, houses on their side, roofs ripped off. Tractors have been flung around, cars, trucks. (INAUDIBLE) Pauline, it is just an absolute mess. It's as if somebody has just blown the place up, thrown it around, and it's now just sitting here. It's really difficult to, I guess, describe the scene when you are standing amongst it.

But for people returning, whose homes, believe it or not, are still intact, they are finding everything that they own in complete ruins. They're now going through the debris. And you know, we stand here and just wonder, you know, where do they start to rebuild?

CHIOU: Anna, you are traveling with a military unit. And it's about 48 hours since the earthquake and the tsunami. Do the military personnel that you're with believe that they could possibly find survivors in this devastation 48 hours in?

COREN: The crew that we were with were hoping to find survivors. As I say, they were going from door to door, making sure that if anybody was trapped, anybody elderly who needed assistance -- that that's what they were -- what they were doing. And obviously, the hope was that they could find people still alive. But as I mentioned, there are bodies being found. I mean, that is the reality of the situation.

And when you stand here and you actually look at the scene, it is hard to imagine how anyone could actually survive. We spoke to one man who said that he clung to the roof when the waves swept through, that he held on for life. And once it submerged, he was able to jump to another roof. And he said he was just so lucky to get away with his life.

There was another man, a 65-year-old who has lived here his entire life. He was in a car almost home when he heard on the radio that the earthquake had hit, the tsunami warning had been issued. So he drove away. And that was when the wave came through and just totaled his home. We walked through it with him, and there is just mud and sludge. Everything that he owns is now destroyed.

And that's the case not just here but everywhere up the coast. All those villages along Japan's northeast coast have just been hit so hard by the tsunami. And anybody who would have been on ground level, standing where I'm standing, they would have just been swept away.

CHIOU: Yes, and they had less than 30 minutes to get away since the earthquake struck and then the tsunami hit. Anna Coren in the town of Ishinomaki, just northeast of Sendai, thanks very much for bringing us the story from there.

And we will have more on the devastation and the rescue and recovery efforts on the other side of this break.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) there is an earthquake going on. You cannot run around!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She wants to lie down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We'll lay down. We'll sleep. We're not going anywhere for the rest of our lives.


CHIOU: These are incredibly poignant sounds and images sent to us by an iReporter who was at Disney Land when the quake struck, sounds of joy turning to sounds of fear, a reminder that people were just living their lives normally with their families there, as they're crouched down, fearful, and they were just living their lives just 50 hours ago -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Unbelievable. And if you're just joining us, we want you to know that the Japanese meteorological agency has upgraded that earthquake to magnitude of 9, while the U.S. Geological Survey maintains its 8.9 rating.

And thanks to the incredible efforts of people who experienced the quake, we're able to show you exactly what that magnitude looks and sounds like.

This video shot inside a home and posted on YouTube gives the sense of the panic experienced by millions in Japan. That's just one example.

And this footage from inside an office building gives an indication of the destructive force of the quake near the epicenter in Sendai. Here's another.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is still going -- oh, my God! The building's going to fall!


ALLEN: Just to the south, in Fukushima, the sense of panic is just as potent. Ryan McDonald shot this video and posted it to iReport. He has lived in the area for nine years and says he's never experienced anything like what he was experiencing right there.

Of course, after the quake came that overwhelming tsunami. And it is almost unimaginable that people could comprehend what was happening to them and their community right here, let alone manage to film it in action. Someone is standing right in front of this. The road to recovery, of course, from devastation like this will prove long and very painful indeed.

CHIOU: We see these images over and over again, yet each time, it just takes your breath away.

Let's cross over now to meteorologist Ivan Cabrera to see if the weather, at least, is going to help or hinder the recovery operation. Ivan, how does the forecast look over Japan?

CABRERA: Yes, and before I get into that, I just want to make the point that that 8.9, of course, triggered the tsunami because it was offshore. And in fact, when we use that shake map from the USGS, really no one felt violent shaking. If that 8.9 had occurred at that shallow depth, at 24 kilometers underneath Sendai, we would have seen most of those buildings collapse here. So again, just a testament to the power here and the energy that was released from it just 130 kilometers to the east.

Here is Sendai. We used automated weather reporting stations across all airports on the planet here. Sendai has not been reported. That airport has been decimated, from the pictures that I've seen here, not expecting a report there any time soon. Yamagata, weather conditions right now at 11. We have had reports of the snow and the cold temperatures. Well, briefly, things have improved as far as temperatures. We're not expecting snow. And in fact, you've seen our reports today live from Japan. We have clear skies here on the satellite perspective.

There is a developing storm system. I just ran again the computer model, and we have new data coming in, and it is looking better. I'll explain in a second here. High pressure moves to the south. And this is a map that I'm going to have to update now because this low is going to be a little bit further to the south, and that means that the rain that I had been thinking about for Tokyo and perhaps even Sendai is now going to be moving further to the south. So certainly excellent news. We don't want any precip really falling out of the sky for rescue efforts, and obviously, for the situation that is going on in the nuclear power plant here.

So that low moves off to the north and east. The winds will play a role over the next few days, and we'll watch that very closely. There's the temperature again, about 15 degrees heading through the remainder of Monday. And then on the back side of that same low, we'll drop again. Overnight temperatures will be chilly, indeed, with overnight lows dropping to zero. Again, this is Celsius, so with daytime highs between 5 and 7 degrees.

The earthquakes will continue as far as those aftershocks, Pauline. They are still going up. We're almost to 300 now. I'll keep you posted on that in the next hour.

CHIOU: And they could continue for several weeks and months to come. All right, Ivan, thanks very much. Natalie, back over to you.

ALLEN: Thanks Pauline. CNN has reporters covering this story from around the world, many of them in Japan, facing challenges of reporting from a disaster zone. Stay with us as we continue to bring you the very latest.


ALLEN: The earthquake was the first jolt in Japan, but look at this. It is the tsunami that has really created so much of the damage, devastation and deaths. The powerful walls of water like this one in the city of Miyako washing away anything in its path may have killed thousands of people. And what has continuously amazed us is that people that were in the midst of experiencing this -- look at that -- continued to roll video and bring us these unbelievable pictures of the devastation. Look at that.

CHIOU: Our iReporters have sent us some dramatic video, as well. The images coming out of Japan truly make you gasp and hold your breath. And for every image, there's an emotion and a human story. Here's a look now at some of the most striking moments that we've seen as this disaster unfolds.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You can see how far the mangled mess of these cars has actually been flung. You can feel the weight and the force of the water.

RYAN MCDONALD, WITNESS: The biggest problem right now we have is there's no food anywhere. This is what I had for dinner 12 hours ago. I have had nothing to eat since then. I had some orange juice. This all I've had in 12 hours.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Earlier on Saturday, Kan took to the air to inspect the damage caused by the massive earthquake in northeastern Japan.

NAOTO KAN, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We will do our best to try to rescue all survivors and people who are isolated, especially today because every minute counts.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There are 13 people buried alive. There are children among the missing. The hope is from these rescuers is that they may be in their houses, maybe trapped in a void. But as you can see there, that mud and dirt is heavy. It is wet. This is a massive challenge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a situation that has the potential for a nuclear catastrophe, and it's basically a race against time.

KAN (through translator): We have also evacuated 20 kilometers away from the first nuclear reactors. I would like to give careful attention so that not one citizen is affected by the radiation.


ALLEN: Some of the images and some of the people that we have heard from since this disaster happened. We want to remind all of you, our viewers, once again, if you would like to help the victims of the Japan earthquake, find more information at Our "Impact Your World" team is collecting links to organizations mobilizing relief efforts right now in Japan. Just go to

CHIOU: And thank you for staying with us for our special coverage. I'm Pauline Chiou at CNN Hong Kong. ALLEN: And I'm Natalie Allen at CNN Center in Atlanta. We continue our extensive coverage of the situation in Japan at the top of the hour, when Max Foster takes over from CNN London.

This is CNN.