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Japan Earthquake Coverage; Battling to Prevent Explosion at Another Nuclear Plant

Aired March 13, 2011 - 04:00   ET



MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: First came the violent earthquake, then a devastating tsunami. Now, Japan is battling to prevent another explosion at a nuclear power plant.

Hello to all our viewers all over the world. I'm Max Foster in London.


We begin, though, with Japan's growing nuclear nightmare, a top government official says there's the possibility of a meltdown of two of the country's nuclear reactors.

You're watching the smoke rising from Saturday's explosion at the number one reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. And the crisis in northeastern Japan may get worse, we understand. Japan's chief cabinet secretary says the number three reactor is also vulnerable.

But Yukio Edano says expert can't get close enough to reactor three to confirm that it's a meltdown.


YUKIO EDANO, JAPAN'S CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY (through translator): And we do believe that there is a possibility that meltdown hasn't occurred. It is inside the reactor. We can't see. However, we are acting -- assuming that a meltdown has occurred and reactor number three, we are also the possibility of a meltdown as we carry out measures.


FOSTER: Well, Japan has widened the evacuation radius around the Fukushima plant, 20 kilometers now. One hundred and eighty thousand residents have already been moved from their homes and the region is around 260 kilometers from Tokyo.

Problems at the Daiichi plant begun on Friday when Japan's monster quake knocked out the main cooling system. The tsunami that followed killed the backup generators and plant officials are using seawater to try to stop the meltdowns.

Stan Grant is at our Tokyo bureau. He joins us now with the latest on that.

Stan, just the term "meltdown" -- I know it's a pretty muted term in Japan and in nuclear communities. But just explain at what threat is.

STAN GRANT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is certainly one of those red letter words, isn't it, meltdown. Interesting when you look at the language now being used, talking about the likelihood of a meltdown in the -- in the reactor number one at the Daiichi plant and also the possibility now of a meltdown in reactor number three. That's two reactors in the same plant.

You know, there obviously was some nervousness and some edginess about actually using that language as -- as in the early stages of this emergency. But now, they're coming to grips with the possibility of that.

What's happening here essentially when you use this term "meltdown" is that the reactor is exposed. There's not enough water to cover it. It continues to generate heat basically like a kettle and the element inside a kettle burning away. That then is exposed as the water level drops and it raises the prospect of disintegration.

Now, when you talk about a meltdown, of course, it brings to mind all sorts of catastrophic images of radiation seeping into the atmosphere or going into the ground. It doesn't necessarily have to happen that way. There are many, many safety procedures in place here. We have many redundancy procedures as they call them. If one procedure fails, there are others that kick in as a backup to make sure that it doesn't hit to the actual catastrophic point.

You know, there is the building itself, the structure. There is also the outer casing of the reactor to protect the reactor inside and the fuel from disintegrating. But if that does happens and all else fails, then it could go into a ground, which is a terrible scenario or, of course, into the atmosphere as well.

Now, the government has been admitting that some radioactive material has been in the atmosphere, although they say that those radiation levels were decreasing over yesterday. But a number of people as well have also come in contact with that radiation. We understand the iodide has been handed out to people in the vicinity there to guard against the impact of any radiation sickness.

And as you mentioned, the exclusion zone of 20 kilometers, 12, 13 miles, is in place to keep people away -- Max.

FOSTER: And, Stan, obviously, this is a power generation plant and other power generation plants have all been affected. So, that's knocking out power across the region, I assume, which isn't helping matters.

GRANT: No, it isn't. And, you know, this is caused by a power problem, if you go back, the quake, of course, knocked the power out to the plant and while they had backup systems, generators and so on, which are meant to kick in, that obviously hasn't happened, which has led to the cooling problems. Now, in terms of the overall power, these reactors supply about a third of the total electricity output needed for Japan. We understand millions of people have been affected by power blackouts, particularly in the hardest hit areas. And now, to conserve supply, the message is going out that people should use their electricity more sparingly. We've also had messages and warnings that over the coming 24-48 hours, we can expect some rolling blackouts in different parts of the cities, particularly here in Tokyo as well. We should experience that into Monday.

So, certainly now a concern about the ongoing power supply. But they, of course, the most pressing concern is how do we get more water into that reactor and keep the water levels at a certain level there above the reactor so that you don't get this meltdown, you don't get this overheating. And that's what they're really -- they're really focusing on, Max.

FOSTER: Stan, thank you very much. We'll be back with you, of course, for updates on that.

Right now, we're going to go up to Sendai, which it seems as another natural threat there. Martin Savidge, you're there. What can you tell us?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Max, right now, we can tell you that there has been another round of tsunami warnings -- at least that's what's being announced by the fire departments that have been going through the streets. Sirens have been sounded and loud hailers being used to warn people to get to high ground. And we are on high ground, actually near an elementary school looking out on the ocean here. And everything looks idyllic.

But, of course, that is no real indication of what threat there may be. We are on high ground, so that is for certain. But we look out over a sea of absolute destruction in the low area. And that, of course, was from the original tsunami that came rolling in on Friday.

But again, they have been warning people, going through the streets, using sirens. We were with a search-and-rescue team at the time they immediately stopped. They got to their vehicles and they ran off with their sirens wailing.

So, right now, people are nervously keeping an eye on the ocean and wondering if, in fact, there could be another round -- Max.

FOSTER: Is the assumption here that aftershocks can create more tsunamis?

SAVIDGE: I think that obviously is what is at work here. Of course, people are extremely nervous. And when you've been through the absolute worst of a cataclysm, there are fears, of course, that something like that could happen again. Even something as simple as you can see the change of the flow of water in a ditch will catch people's attention and they immediately say that's a sign that another tsunami is coming -- if they see a quick change of the flow of water. So, it just gives you an indication of how nervous and how much on edge people in this area remain even as they try to rescue and as they try to find what is left of their shattered lives.

Now, there are still some people who continue to pick through the debris field, apparently not concerned about the warnings that are being given out by authorities. Again, no sign of any trouble, but it's clear that this community and all along the Pacific coast of Japan is very much on edge, Max.

FOSTER: Martin, we've seen these pictures of Sendai over the next couple of days. We're just seeing this torrent of unbelievable images of mass destruction. But, in terms of the personal stories that you're hearing when you get there, is there a story that has struck you particularly which really brings this home to you?

SAVIDGE: Well, I mean, what brings it home to me is I was in Hurricane Katrina and covered that. And in the United States, that is still considered to be the greatest natural disaster that the U.S. has ever faced. Much of the devastation you see here is very similar to the imagery that you saw along the Gulf Coast, in the immediate aftermath.

It is the kind of destructive power you could never expect that water could do, and, in fact, every time we turn a corner or come to a new section of the city, we are absolutely dumbfounded by the extents of the damage.

Personal stories -- people are still pretty much shell-shocked. It's very hard to get people to actually talk to you, to open up, and many people don't like seeing the camera. So, it's difficult to get those stories because right now people are still dealing with the emotional devastation inside of them while surrounded by the physical devastation all around them.

FOSTER: OK, Martin, thank you very much, indeed there.

We were looking at images of Sendai before all this happened just a couple of days ago and these are the images after. And you just -- I mean, speak for themselves, don't they?

We're going to try to speak to Ivan Cabrera now.

Because, Ivan, it's interesting there, we're hearing from martin that there is another tsunami warning, because there will be aftershocks. So how long is this going to go on for?

IVAN CABRERA, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: They're probably going to have tsunami warnings here for quite some time as long as the aftershocks continue. Now, we have to be clear there. We're not talking about the subsequent waves that come from the original tsunami that we had spawned by that 8.9.

Now, these are being generated by the additional earthquakes or aftershocks that continue. None of which are capable of producing a widespread, destructive tsunami event, again, along the coast of Japan here. We are talking about sea level rises that could impact the coast as a result of a 6.0, a very shallow earthquake that occurs to the east of Japan, and that's why we're looking at these localized tsunami warnings from time to time right along the coast.

But the devastation and the scenes that we've been showing you over and over again, that is now going to be repeated as a result of these aftershocks. We would need another event like the one that we had, and certainly that is not going to be likely here. But we'll continue to monitor these aftershocks because they have been significant.

None of which have been above a 7.0, which is what we had essentially, just a few hours after our great quake here. But they have been significant. We're talking anywhere from moderate to major here. And a few of them have been over 6.0.

And again, those, if they're shallow enough, they can cause the column of water to be displaced upwards and a tsunami to be sent in right along the coast. Not as destructive but significant enough to cause some damage and also significant enough certainly to evacuate folks from the shore. And as long as these aftershocks continue, and I think certainly they will, just based on seismology history here, we'll know to have that threat ongoing along the shore, which, of course, is not only terrible thing, it's making everyone very nervous.

The ground is shaking beneath you and now you're getting sirens that are indicating tsunami. And the folks who are on the ground certainly don't understand the difference here. If they hear the siren, they think a repeat of what we had a couple of days ago is happening again -- and I can assure you, that is not the case.

We'll keep track of the aftershocks and we'll keep you posted -- Max.

FOSTER: Ivan, thanks very much for that.

Of course, the human toll from all of this is just starting to be measured. People are just grasping, really, what's happened there in Japan. More than 10,000 people are feared dead in Japan. But it's just a guess, really, at this point. Police say that's mostly from the tsunami.

This is what we're talking about when we talk about a tsunami, and the -- well, it speaks for itself, doesn't it? But it's the force of that wave coming in, which you don't get a sense of unless you're actually there, but these pictures give some sort of idea.

The force of Friday's tsunami can't be overstated and these are just some of the cameras that were on at the time. We've got many more. But, of course, are there many areas where we haven't seen any images.

More scenes of devastation elsewhere when Friday's tsunami hit the fishing port of Kamaishi City in northeastern Japan. This is what we saw there.


FOSTER: Japan, of course, a country used to earthquakes. And everyone trained from an early age on how to cope, if one strikes, if a tsunami comes in. But this is unpreparable for anyone. And we're getting the aftermath pictures, of course, coming through. But still more reports coming through.

This one from Aaron Lace of the time when it actually struck and we're going to keep getting these videos coming in. They're going to continue to be shocking and they're still sounding like this.


FOSTER: Just one of those Friday afternoons as far as those people are concern, winding down for the weekend, and then disaster strikes, a roof collapses -- just one scene in one area of Japan.

There you heard it the turmoil, the terror, but when we come back, what's left now, Sendai, will be looking at one of the hardest hit areas from the tsunami. Our Kyung Lah is there for more on the search and the rescue operation that's very much underway.


FOSTER: You can say to Sendai now, it may be one of the hardest hit areas in Japan, as far as our knowledge is right now at least. It is the closest to the epicenter of Friday's quake.

There's an image after the tsunami struck -- devastation, of course.

And now, there's fresh concern. We heard from Martin Savidge of CNN -- he's in Sendai -- that there are new tsunami warnings there. People are being told to go to higher ground as we speak. Sirens wailing in the streets there and great concern that aftershocks are going to continue causing huge problems to this vast area, mainly farming area.

Now, inside Sendai's airport, video just captured the moment when the tsunami wave swept across the car park outside.


FOSTER: Those cameras shot are on the low levels but many people did actually manage to take refuge on the rooftop as floodwaters completely submerged much of the airport. And to get a sense of the force of the tsunami, just look at those cars.

Here's more incredible footage from Sendai. It gives you a sense of the sheer power of the earthquake. This is a -- a highway there ripped right down the middle. The reporter is saying it's at least two meters deep from what he can see, but the land just being torn apart. And rescue workers are having to deal with roads like that.

Japanese media say up to 300 people were swept out to sea in Sendai as well, strong aftershocks still being felt on Sunday. Warnings are going out. There could be more tsunamis.

Sendai is still reeling from the force of that first tsunami. These pictures have collapsed and submerged houses. Terrified people, they're telling the real story.


FOSTER: OK. So, things have, of course, calmed down from that. This is a country that knows about earthquakes and tsunamis. It has got operations ready to go. Contingency plans.

But few armies, militaries can deal with this on their own and certainly Japan is using military support from the United States, as we understand it.

Our Anna Coren is just on the -- to the northeast of Sendai in a town.

Anna, tell us what support the Japanese are getting and what's around you.

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Max, I can tell you that we are in Ishinomaki, which is about several hours northeast of Sendai. And this is just a scene of utter devastation. We are in farming land, but there are suburbs within these areas, and there are probably hundreds of homes in this particular neighborhood where we've been standing.

We came through here with the military. The idea was it was to go on a search-and-rescue operation. That sadly it quickly turned into a recovery operation. They pulled out to -- a number of bodies pretty quickly (AUDIO BREAK).

FOSTER: OK. We've got some communication problems there, of course. We're going to come back to Anna as soon as we can. She's also been with the U.S. military who's giving support to the Japanese.

Now, words can scarcely describe the true scope of Japan's devastation. Of course, the pictures can help but tell the story of this town where half of the population is reported missing. Heartbreaking story is just ahead.


FOSTER: Pictures still emerging from the moment that tsunami struck Japan's northeastern coast. It's not just water hitting these homes there. Of course, it's everything that follows in the wake. All of that destruction is just flowing with the waves, houses hitting houses, hitting cars, hitting roads, taking everything, wiping everything out.


FOSTER: So, when we report that it's difficult to give an accurate toll of the dead and the missing in this disaster, images like this go a long way to explaining why. Rescue workers have got make their way through all of that.

Anna Coren is in one of the worst hit areas.

Anna, you got there relatively recently, of course. This only happened on Friday. So, what's it like?

COREN: Yes. Max, you're talking a little bit earlier about the force of this tsunami, and I think where I am just sums it up. We're in Ishinomaki, which is northeast of Sendai, which was the closest city to the epicenter. Well, this isn't too far from the epicenter either and it's smack bang on the coast.

We had some 500 meters from the ocean. That is where we're standing. And you can just imagine the wall of wall, 10 meters high, just roaring through here.

Now, I'll get our cameraman Ben Adam (ph) to pan around and take a look at the devastation that I have been standing, that I am looking at so much destruction.

Roofs have just been ripped off their foundations; other houses just falling on their side. There have been tractors, ships, boats just tossed around like toys.

So, if you want to talk about the power and the force of this wave, this monster wave that hit this community and so much of Japan's northeast, this is the evidence. This is the watermark of where this roared through.

And we've been with a military team as I mentioned a little earlier. And they were going from door-to-door, seeing if there were any survivors. Sadly, they were finding bodies and bodies of the elderly. These are people who didn't get out in time.

We believe the earthquake struck and then in less than half an hour later, that is when that wall of water just raced through.

And standing here and looking at the devastation, Max, I can tell you that if you were here on the ground level, you would not have survived.

FOSTER: Anna, when we see these more recent pictures coming in of the areas that have been hit so hard, there's -- there's no one there. There's no people wandering around and -- where is everyone?

COREN: Well, where I am at the moment, there's absolutely nobody. It's completely deserted. We bumped into a couple of people who returned to see what was left of their homes, returned to see if they could actually find anything that was still functioning, grabbed some clothes, anything like that.

But we have met with one gentleman who has lived in this area for some 65 years and he showed us through his home. We walked through it. And everything is destroyed. Everything is covered, covered in mud. He said he just bought a brand-new plasma television the other week and it's just being completely destroyed. So, his house is in ruins.

And when you -- when you look at this place, when you look at the debris that's just strewn about everywhere, and this is not just where you am standing here, 500 meters from the coast, it goes for kilometers. So, when you look at that and when you take into consideration how many homes have been destroyed, you just wonder, what it's going to take for these people to rebuild.

I mean, this is still -- you know, we're only up to that stage where they're still trying to find bodies. Bodies have been located today. Bodies will be located for weeks. That is the reality of this situation.

And I know that the death toll is quite conservative at the moment from the people that we've been speaking to, it surely to reach well into the thousands.

FOSTER: And, Anna, obviously a country that has had earthquakes in the past. But all of that preparation to get in those primary schools and secondary schools on how to deal with an earthquake, how to deal with a tsunami, was there any help at all?

COREN: Well, Max, that's the crazy thing. I mean, this is a country, as you say, that's so used to earthquakes and you know we arrived last night and there were a number of aftershocks and people are quite unfazed when those aftershocks hit. There were a number of aftershocks this morning and some were here today. The tsunami warnings have continued and the military has sort of come in and out.

But it wasn't the earthquake that caused the devastation. The houses are still standing in many of the cities. But you know, it was -- it was that wall of water that has just caused so much destruction, so much death.

And that is what you cannot prepare against. You cannot do anything to combat a 10-meter wall of water racing through this area, you know, at a speed that -- you know, it's unfathomable.

I really think -- there was one man and I should mention this -- there was one man that we spoke to and he was returning to his house. He said that when the tsunami came in, he clung to his roof. He was still in his house and he clung to his roof just praying that he would get through it, and he said that it was just a miracle that the water finally submerged and that he survived.

FOSTER: Anna, thank you so much for that.

And just to give a sense of the nervousness still in Japan, we're talking about a tsunami warning coming from officials in Sendai. There is no official tsunami warning.

We want to clarify: there's no advisory in that sense. There won't be another tsunami but there have been aftershocks. There is concern about more tsunamis.

So, when local officials hear about this, they sent people to higher ground and everyone's rushing up to higher ground because so fearful of this happening again.

But just to clarify: a big, destructive tsunami certainly is not expected even though there's nervousness about another one, understandably.

Do stay with us for more of the developing story out of Japan. We'll be getting an update on the state of its nuclear reactors.

You'll also hear from an anti-nuclear campaigner who takes us through the worst-case scenarios residents could be facing.


FOSTER: You're watching CNN's continuing coverage of the disaster in Japan. Live from London, I'm Max Foster.

In two days after a huge earthquake and a tsunami hit Japan, here's some of what we know at this time:

There's concern over the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plants. A Japanese nuclear safety official tells CNN that a meltdown may have occurred and at least one of its reactors.

The official death toll stands over 800. But that number is expected to rise as rescuers reach more hard-hit areas. There are still many people unaccounted for. A Japanese news agency reports almost 10,000 people missing from one town alone.

Japan's prime minister says more than 3,000 people are being rescued and police say nearly 1,500 people have been injured.

The developments at Fukushima plant have reignited the fierce debate over the safety of the nuclear energy.

The Citizens' Nuclear Information Center based in Tokyo is an avid antinuclear campaigner. The group wants a nuclear-free world.

Philip White belongs to that organization and he spoke with our Pauline Chiou about what residents there need to do to protect themselves.


PHILIP WHITE, CITIZENS' NUCLEAR INFORMATION CENTER (via telephone): There are basically two things. It's better building inside than outside of the building. And the further away you are, the better.

But -- and I really hope that all people who are somewhere in the vicinity of that plant are safe from serious radiation exposure. However, it's just something that you've got to bear in mind is that the worst-case scenarios are out there that could happen. They may not happen.

But in the worst-case scenario, really, you take all of the measures you can. But there's very little that can be done because as much as 100 kilometers away, people could be getting lethal doses.

Now, that isn't what the situation is now. I'm not suggesting for a moment that that's what's happening now. But that is the worst-case scenario that can occur. And it's really important -- yes, sorry, go on.

PAULINE CHIOU, CNN ANCHOR: I wanted to ask you if you think that the measures that the government has taken, so far, are the appropriate measures. Pumping in sea water into one of the reactors to try to cool it down and evacuating residents to a radius of more than 20 kilometers. Are these the appropriate measures? Or, in your opinion, do you think that something else needs to be done?

WHITE: Firstly, evacuating the people is the right thing. How far they should be evacuated is probably debatable. But I think the further the better, and 20 kilometers is probably more a matter of convenience -- total practicality moving vast people in the midst of an earthquake and it's a really important to bear if mind that we have simultaneously infrastructure wiped out by those factors. And then we have on top of that a nuclear disaster.

This is something that we've been warning a long, long time, but the government has really refused to take on board this double whammy that hit when these things happen together. But anyway -- I mean, what is actually possible? I don't know. But the further they can get them away, the better.

As for the seawater into the core, we held a press conference last night in Japanese in which we had experts speaking on this issue. And the reactors are designers that we had there who said that basically it is a recognition that there's no future for this reactor. This reactor is finished.


CHIOU: That's what most the experts are saying. Right, Philip, that's what most of the experts are saying that when you pour seawater in with all of the elements there that you cannot this reactor. It's not salvageable again.

I do want to ask you about the weather because we did speaking a resident on CNN who said that he's concerned about rain, because radiation is already in the air. If it rains a significant amount, does that pose any more danger to residents, say, in Tokyo?

WHITE: It depends on where the radiation is blown. If the radiation is blown out to sea, that is to say -- by the winds -- that is the safest as far as human being are concerned. But if it is blown over populated areas and then the rain falls, that means that the radiation is no longer in the air. It's falling on top of people and it's falling on the ground. And so, the radioactivity is then being ingested, being deposited in the soil.

In the case of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, there were black rain after the explosion, which it rained radioactivity on the population. And this is one of the major causes of radiation exposure at that time.


FOSTER: Now, CNN iReporters have been showing their pictures from Japan.

Jessica Tekawa sent us this images of empty shelves in her local supermarket in Tokyo. She says stores are out of flashlights, running low on batteries and out of bread and they're out of water.

This next picture comes from an iReporter in Horiguchu (ph) showing empty shelves in a local market there as well.

Do keep sending us your videos and images to us here,

I want to remind our viewers once that if you'd like to help the victims of the Japan earthquake, you can find out more information at Our "Impact Your World" team is collecting links to organizations that are mobilizing relief efforts in Japan. On that page, you'll also find a link to Google's people finder database. It aims to reunite those who are separated in the chaos.

Now, it was just before 3:00 p.m. on Friday and people of Japan have just minutes to run from a wall of water that would change their lives forever. A look at those awful moments is just ahead.



JESSICA TEKAWA, IREPORTER: SI was on the fourth floor of my school building. And because the New Zealand earthquake had just been in the news, because 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, I thought it was just normal. And my teacher was really scared and I said, it's OK, it's OK. But then as it got bigger and as it got stronger, then I started to get scared, too. We went to the hallway, and ducking down, and I think we were just -- I think we were just kind of waiting to see if we should go out or if it was going to settle down.

But I didn't really think the building was going to collapse. But I thought if this building collapses and what are we going to do.


FOSTER: That was iReporter Jessica Tekawa speaking to us, one of many who are eyewitnesses to the quake and to the tsunami.

Let's get more on the rescue and recovery efforts that are now under way. We are joined by CNN's Brian Todd. He's on the line from that Misawa Air Base with the U.S. search and rescue team who are preparing to go out and try to help people, of course.

What did the U.S. got prepared in terms of support, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, Max, they've got a lot of personnel and equipment that have just been shipped over. We just land happened at Misawa Air Base here in the north of Japan with the L.A. County and Fairfax County, Virginia, search and rescue teams. About 150 personnel total between those two teams, several dozen tons of equipment. They've got 12 K-9 teams, eight or nine inflatable boats for swift water rescue -- all of that just being shipped over here now.

And then landing now at Misawa Air Base -- we're told the first international rescue team to arrive in Japan. We're still waiting for a lot of their to land in a separate plane and we may in a holding pattern here for a few hours. But the team and with us -- and with them will push into the most devastated areas very soon.

FOSTER: We're just going to look at some of the images that you sent over to us. If you can talk us through the images that you've taken there and just give a sense of what the Japanese really in most need of.

TODD: Well, clearly, they need people on the scene immediately to try to, you know, comb through the rubble and extract people and that's what these teams really specialize in.

The K-9 teams, we saw them in operation in Haiti. They're really extraordinary. These dogs are very highly trained and highly sensitive to human scent to give off alerts. Literally can climb on rubble, into rubble, down into it, and signal the rescuers if there's any trace of human life still living inside.

And they can -- they have listening devices, these cameras that they can lower in there to get more information. And they got jackhammers, heavy saws to try to extract people. They don't even need big cranes or tractors or anything like that. They're able to get into these areas and extract people with some success.

They had pretty good success in Haiti rescuing several people. So, they're very valuable right now and that's what the Japanese, we believe, need the most.

FOSTER: OK, Brian, thank you very much, indeed for that. Back with you as the rescue teams do head out to their -- to those devastated areas.

Of course, one of them, Sendai. We're going to go to a hard-hit town just north of that area now.

And that is what the rescue teams are going to have to contend with, and that's where those dogs are going to be used -- areas like that because you can't get under that rubble without support dogs and very specialist equipment. There's utter destruction. More than three kilometers from the ocean front and half of the residents are still missing. You can see there's no one there.

CNN's Paula Hancocks was the first reporter there. Here's her report.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the town of Minamisanriku, and it's just north of Sendai. And it's extremely badly hit.

We have heard local media reports that around, about half of the residents are missing, as you say. It's a town that did have 18,000 citizens. So, that would mean that about 9,500 people are still missing.

Let me get out of shot so you can have a look how badly this area is damaged. Now, where we're standing here is right on the edge of town. You can see just a couple of houses still standing, because we're about 3.3 kilometers away from the sea, that's almost two miles from the coastline.

So, you can have a sense there of just how strong this tsunami was, to be able to destroy houses completely to this level. There's boats that have actually ridden on the tsunami and come all the way up here.

Just behind one of the houses still standing, there's a huge truck that was carried on the wave all the way up this far as well, 3.3 kilometers.

Now, as I say, there were 18,000 residents here. We spoke to a couple of them that have come back to see what's left of their homes and try to start the impossible cleanup. But they say that they ran when they heard the tsunami warning.

One woman said she knows some of the neighbors stayed in their homes when there was the tsunami warning. So, inevitably, they would not have survived. It's impossible to see how many could have survived in those houses.

Now, we understand that search and rescue teams are still going. According to local reports, they have actually pulled out 42 survivors this Sunday morning. Now, we can't confirm that with the police at this point. The police here are not saying much. But this is what local residents and local media are saying.

So, it is still very much a search and rescue mission. We understand that they have found a couple of very badly injured people further down towards the shore. At this point, they haven't brought them out, though.

Now the police are trying to stop people from going too far. Down just about 20 minutes ago, there was another tsunami warning. Inevitably, after an 8.9 magnitude, you're going to have very strong aftershocks, and this is what would have happened. And then there was a tsunami warning and you can see some of the residents have come back to see their homes, sprinting up the road and making sure that they were on higher ground which is just not surprising when you see the utter devastation.

Further down where we were wandering just a little earlier, houses are completely flattened. There is nothing left standing. It is completely water logged. As certainly for many people who decided not to heed the tsunami warning, it's difficult to see how they could have survived. But at this point, there are still survivors being found.


FOSTER: Paula is just one of our reporters on the scene. We have more teams going in there to give you extensive coverage of the devastation that's hit Japan. More coming up in a moment.


FOSTER: Back to Friday, disaster strikes the small southeastern city of Kamaishi.


FOSTER: An unrelenting flow of water propels by the tsunami crashes into the historic coastal city, wrecking everything in its way, washing away everything if its path and leaving property and livelihoods in ruins. It's not yet known how many lives were lost there.

The residents of Kamaishi remain shell-shocked, of course, after the quake and the disaster that struck on that sunny Friday afternoon left their homes in shambles. Their lives are never to be the same again. Japanese broadcaster NHK shows us how it all unfolded.



ANNOUNCER: Anyone near the coast must evacuate to higher ground immediately.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: At 3:00 p.m. Friday afternoon, Kamaishi city hall issued its tsunami warning. Residents quickly evacuated their homes, looking for higher ground.

These people managed to get to this hilltop. Mothers held on tightly to their children. They listened anxiously to the radio for more information.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Water is flowing into the port. It is now flowing over the barriers into the community.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: At 3:11, a massive tsunami swept through the city.


FOSTER: It can be very unforgiving, people in Japan have been dealing with aftershocks since that all occurred.

Ivan Cabrera is at the weather center.

Ivan, weather is playing a key role in all of this, isn't it?

CABRERA: Yes, and the aftershocks likewise there, Max. No question about it here.

We're talking about the aftershocks now that are approaching after the 8.9 upwards of 300 and some of them have been significant. Before I get to the forecast, you don't like what I'm hearing about these sirens that are up getting sounded right along the coast here. Some of our correspondents aren't even moving at this point. They're causing unnecessary panic here.

Well, what's happening across the coast is we have tsunami advisories that are issued by the Japanese Meteorological Agency. They are issued when sea level rises of about half a meter -- not much, right -- half a meter or less are issued. And local officials there are deciding to sound the sirens -- and I don't like that because then when nothing happens folks are going to become desensitized to that and, of course, there is going to be undo panic here. We'll watch this closely here.

But additional aftershocks are what essentially are potentially triggering more sea level changes which are not going to be significant enough to cause additional damage. So, let's get that clear here.

Now, the aftershocks themselves certainly could cause additional structural damage as a result of them being upwards of 5.0 to 5.9. And, again, I've been updating this day for you up to 293 that the point but no major earthquakes that would be in the 7.0 to 7.9 range. So, certainly some good news there.

And good news, too, as far as the weather here -- we have moderated the temperatures a little bit. Temperatures are up to about 11 there in Yamagata. Sendai airport, of course, is not reporting. That weather station, who knows if it's even there anymore and it could have been destroyed by the tsunami.

There is the clearing sky. Now, it is going to be chilly tonight. We're going to drop temperatures in significant fashion here and then we're going to have a storm system to deal with. But I don't think it's going to be close enough to Japan to cause any significant problems. Sure, some scattered rain showers, perhaps, as it moves in from southwest to the northeast.

As that happens, the winds are going to be out of southwest and then once the low positions itself east of Sendai, that high goes away and we're going to get a back wind here out of the north end west. Any westerly component to the wind is going to be certainly good news for any radioactive material that could have leaked there moving it to offshore.

So, certainly, we'll watch that closely. And here are those temperatures, again dropping to about -- well, the freezing point, with some scattered showers and then, Max, will have those temperatures continuing, really, average by the time that we get into Tuesday and then going below average. We should be about nine, will be about five degrees by Wednesday afternoon -- Max.

FOSTER: OK, Ivan, thank you very much. Indeed, the rescue teams need to know those weather conditions.

We want to remind our viewers once again, if you'd like on help the victims of the Japan earthquake, you can find out more information at Our "Impact Your World" team is collecting links to organizations that are mobilizing relief efforts there in Japan. They're all heading that way now. Just go to We continue our extensive coverage of this situation in Japan. At the top of the hour, a situation illustrated best through the pictures.