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Japan's Escalating Nuclear Crisis; Second Explosion Possible at Fukushima Plant in Northeastern Japan

Aired March 13, 2011 - 05:00   ET



MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Japan officials try to stop another explosion and meltdown at a nuclear plant. And just 48 hours ago, this was a picturesque fishing town, now it's being completely flattened by the earthquake and the tsunami. And extraordinary report is coming up on a town where half of residents are missing.

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

We begin with Japan's escalating nuclear crisis, a Japanese nuclear official tells CNN a second explosion is possible at the Fukushima plant in northeastern Japan. You're watching smoke rising from Saturday's explosion at the number one reactor at the Daiichi plant.

Japan's chief cabinet secretary says the number three reactor is also vulnerable. Yukio Edano says both reactors maybe in meltdown. But experts can't get close enough to confirm. We'll have more on Japan's nuclear threat in just a moment.

The death toll from Friday's monster quake and tsunami could soar. A police told national broadcaster NHK that the toll could top 10,000. Many victims will undoubtedly be found in the coastal towns. And as you can see from these pictures, this one was completely destroyed.

OK. We're joined now -- but -- OK, we're going to speak to Anna in just a moment. She's there in that town, one of the worst hit towns. We're going to come to her in just a moment.

We're going to speak to the spokesman for the Japanese prime minister in the meanwhile, Mr. Noriyuki Shikata.

Thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.

First of all, we want to ask you about the death toll, because a police chief suggesting just in his area, is in five figures.

Do you have a national figure for us?

NORIYUKI SHIKATA, JAPANESE P.M.'S SPOKESMAN (via telephone): Well, actually, we are in the process of rescuing people and we just don't have the exact number at this time. But this having a very significant damage being caused to many people in (INAUDIBLE).

FOSTER: What is the latest official number that you got on the death toll?

SHIKATA: Well, this is actually evolving. And I can't give you a very definite number. But this morning, around noon, the figure was -- in terms of the deaths confirmed, 780, and there are missing people in the order of 600.

FOSTER: And that's gone up already. And we're going to get those new figures soon, as I understand it.


FOSTER: The other thing that people are very concerned about right now is the nuclear situation. Both of those reactors are under some threat. When we talk about meltdown, I realize that's an emotive word, but are those reactors in meltdown?

SHIKATA: No, no. That's not the case of a meltdown. And this is something we have been controlling. And that just need under control, with the release by the method called venting, and we have been succeeding (INAUDIBLE) pressure inside the containment vessel.

FOSTER: But as I understand it, you have had to release some dangerous steam into the atmosphere, is that correct?

SHIKATA: Well, it is not dangerous air. In order to reduce pressure inside the vessel, we are venting air which leads to a tiny amount of radiation from the containment vessel. But this is not going give harm to the residents in the vicinity.

FOSTER: Those fuel rods, they need to have water around them all the time, don't they, to stay cool. Have you managed to do that completely or have those fuel rods been exposed to the atmosphere in any way?

SHIKATA: Well, actually, there are two units -- unit number one and unit number three. And we have been injecting water along with the material boron and we have been doing this for those two units.

FOSTER: But how hard is it keeping the water coming in? This is vital that you keep it coming in, isn't it?

SHIKATA: Yes. And we have been -- this is the kind of precautionary measure in order to secure the safety of those units. This is a measure to lower the temperature of the fuel.


FOSTER: It's not precautionary, is it? It's not precautionary. It's absolutely vital. You know, the water is what's keeping it cool?

SHIKATA: That's right. So, we have been able to inject the water into -- either seawater or pure water into -- inside, so we have been doing it as a precautionary measure.

FOSTER: And how damaged are the cores of the reactors -- reactor one, for example? SHIKATA: We have to, at the end of the day, confirm whether there is any damage to the reactor. But we have not found any indication of such damage, significant damage in any way.

FOSTER: At this time, there is a threat of a meltdown then, but you are containing the situation?

SHIKATA: I would not call the situation meltdown. And this is very, you know, limited impact on the reactor itself. And the blast, you know, that took place in unit one was a result of hydrogen accumulated inside the ceiling of the reactor.

FOSTER: What we do know of the situation is that it's taking a huge capacity out of the national electricity system, isn't it? How much is the national energy system being affected by the closure of these reactors?

SHIKATA: Well, there has been impacts because of what's happening to nuclear power plants in Japan and in order to avoid the electricity blackouts, we have been conducting or giving out messages (INAUDIBLE) to reduce electricity use.

FOSTER: OK. And in terms of the rescue effort, you've obviously got an incredibly big operation underway. What sort of support are you calling in from foreign countries because you are getting an idea of exactly what it is you need?

SHIKATA: Right. Of course, we have mobilized our defense forces and we are in the process of expanding beyond 60,000. And police and others and, of course, the U.S. government has generously offered their intention of making use of U.S. forces in Japan. So, there are ongoing foreign assistance being extended from different countries.

FOSTER: Are you asking for extensive support or can your military handle what you need right now?

SHIKATA: Well, actually, it is our primary mission to control the situation locally and when there are any shortages of assistance, you know, we may ask foreign governments or in some cases NGOs. But the current situation is that we are -- the government is conducting major operations in terms of rescue operations.

FOSTER: Which areas haven't you reached yet?

SHIKATA: Well, there are some local communities that have been really buried by tsunamis. So, those areas including Iwate and Miyagi prefectures, it's been somewhat difficult, you know, to conduct thorough operations. But we have been stepping up efforts.

FOSTER: Finally, one of the things people have been contacting us about is that many survivors of this, people even in Tokyo, are struggling to go -- to find everyday necessities from the local shops because the shelves are bare. Lots of people can't find food, certainly not in Sendai, but out in Tokyo even. So , what is the government doing to get basics out to survivors? SHIKATA: We are extending, you know, emergency food or drink assistance to the affected areas. I know there are some shortages of foods in the stores, but the situation, for example, in Tokyo, is not the worst situation. We are conducting almost a normal life even though there are some problems that we have been encountering.

FOSTER: Mr. Shikata, from the Japanese prime minister's office -- thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.

SHIKATA: Thank you very much.

FOSTER: And we really appreciate your time and we wish you the best with all of your work.

Now, Anna Coren is in one of the worst hit areas. She's relatively near Sendai. She's going to give us a sense where she is.

You are one of the only people there, aren't you, Anna?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Max, I am. Actually, literally, seconds ago a couple just walked straight past me. And we have not seen people here for several hours now. They have come to their home, which is -- one of the structures behind me, it's blurry right now, I think some quarter past 6:00 p.m. at night. So, it's pitch black, we can't, you know, visually show you what is going on.

But they have come to their house to gather supplies. They walked out with a couple of basket load of foods. Because as you say, those, you know, water and food is in such short supply. So, if they have it in their home, they are going to come back here and get it.

But, Max, we've been speaking it throughout today, this is a scene of complete and utter devastation. You know, I don't know if you can see the house behind me, it's on its side. There are trees, farming equipment, there are roofs, there's just debris strewn absolutely everywhere.

Now, we have been following a military team today who had been going door to door in this particular neighborhood we are in. And the idea was to find survivors. That was obviously the hope.

But it became very apparent very quickly that this would be a recovery operation. A number of bodies were recovered. They were bodies of the elderly. This is what we were hearing. Many elderly people did live in this particularly neighborhood. But they were the ones that were unable to escape the tsunami.

The earthquake hit and less than half an hour later, the 10 meter wave roared straight through here. And where you can see the water line where I'm standing now, it is -- you know, double if not triple me. So, if you were on ground level standing, on the ground standing, you would have been collected. There's just no way that you would have survived -- Max.

FOSTER: Anna, thankfully, we are hearing some positive stories. Tell us about the guy that you spoke to that was clinging to his roof. COREN: Yes, that was quite an amazing story. Once again, people who are returning to see what is left of their homes. We spoke to this one gentleman and I said, where were you when the tsunami hit? And he said, I was inside my house clinging to the roof.

And he said the water was just streaming past, it was just flowing straight past him, and he was just hoping and praying that it wouldn't reach any higher, that the water level wouldn't rise. He said, within time, it did submerge and he was able to climb on to another roof and get down. But he said he is just so lucky to be alive.

But there aren't too many stories like that we have heard. We have had a number of helicopters flying over us throughout the day, obviously, traveling to those areas further north, further out to the coast. Obviously, all those villages, all the townships on the coast, the northeast coast of Japan, have just been battered by this tsunami.

So, these teams of search-and-rescue workers that are going into these towns and hoping to find anyone alive. Here, I think, that is not the case.

FOSTER: Well, good to hear that some rescue is taking place. Anna, thank you very much indeed for joining us. Back with you soon.

Now, when we come back, the truly global response to the rescue effort now underway in northern Japan. We're looking at the teams of specialists now heading in to help with that recovery, aid, and that vital at this time, nuclear expertise. Find out more after this.


FOSTER: As Japan begins to come to terms with the disaster, 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 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 completely collapsed, trapping people underneath, of course.


FOSTER: People desperately trying to help those getting out underneath. It is a desperate effort. I mean, who would expect this in a Friday afternoon, winding down for the weekend and then suddenly, all of this? This is just one story in a country -- a region in a country that's been absolutely devastated.


FOSTER: Well, Aaron did say for half an hour and says that two or three people might have been killed by the collapse. We'll bring you more iReports later in the show. They are coming through to us now. All of this imagery from Friday is still shocking as ever. Now, to a hard hit town just north of Sendai where there's utter destruction, more than three kilometers from the ocean front and half the residents are still missing.

CNN's Paula Hancocks was the first reporter there.


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: Well, Paula, just one of the scenes and still reaching survivors is difficult. It's a very difficult business across that region and the sheer devastation from the twin disasters, the earthquake and tsunami, is presenting many unique obstacles.

Earlier, Patrick Fuller of the International Federation of the Red Cross gave us a sense of the situation.


PATRICK FULLER, INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE RED CROSS (via telephone): The town was well-prepared and structure here. It's not like a developing country where people are being housed in tents. People are being housed in a very organized way, in temporary shelters in 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 really is still to rescue people who are stranded out there in small pockets and communities where the water is still on the ground after the tsunami, and to get medical support for these people.

But, you now, 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.


FOSTER: And if it weren't bad enough, when we come back, from a powerful earthquake comes the intense aftershocks. We take a look at how many they've had and how bad they've been.


FOSTER: Pictures are coming in to us all the time at the moment the tsunami struck Japan's northeastern coast. It's not just the water, obviously, that's causing the damage. It's everything that it carries in its wake. And this illustrates the situation incredibly -- water, houses, houses hitting houses, hitting rocks, hitting roads, hitting everything in its wake.

So, when we say it's difficult to give accurate tolls of the dead and missing in this disaster, you can really see why when you see the extent of the damage and what those rescue teams have just got to break through to find out what's underneath.

Now, it's not just the pictures that are truly capturing this devastation. It's the heartbreaking stories we're hearing from families and friends that are still looking for 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.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): My husband hasn't come here yet. He left the 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.


FOSTER: Well, things aren't settled, would you believe, in Japan. There are threats out there, people dealing with aftershocks since Friday.

Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera keeping a track of that for us -- Ivan.

IVAN CABRERA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Getting closer to 300 at this point. I do want to mention -- and just as of the last few minutes literally, the Japan Meteorological Agency has now essentially canceled all advisories. They have put up advisories in the anticipation of perhaps some small sea level rises from these earthquakes or aftershocks, or either in the sense, earthquakes, but smaller than the 8.9. But at this point, they have canceled all warnings, all advisories. There's nothing up across Japan right now. So, that is certainly excellent news.

The problem is we're still going to continue to see these aftershocks. And these are pretty typical. We followed this during the Haiti earthquake. We followed it during, of course, the Chile and then New Zealand. We continue to get these aftershocks because that energy hasn't been completely released. So, we still get the earth adjusting here and it does so in the form of some scary aftershocks that will continue for quite some time.

And some of which could actually cause additional damage. Certainly, the one we had shortly after the 8.9 was between 7.0 to 7.9, that was significant. Up to 293 at this point.

I want to check in on conditions across Yamagata and the forecast here, as you mentioned before. Things are improving here. We'll keep you posted on any significant changes, but we are clearing out at this point, temperatures warming up a little bit for today -- Max.

FOSTER: OK, Ivan, thank you very much, indeed, for that.

Many ran for their lives, of course, but with a wall of water chasing them, there was simply nowhere to run to. Next, we'll take you to Kamaishi City where most of the town was simply swallowed by the tsunami.


FOSTER: Carrying cars and carrying boats together, incredibly. This is one shot from a roof top in Japan from TV Asahi of the tsunami.

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

Let's get an update for you now on the latest situation as we know it in Japan.

The death toll now stands at more than 800. But police say it could soar to more than 10,000 killed from Friday's devastating quake and tsunami. Many of those victims could be from a fishing port of Kamaishi City in northeastern Japan.

And Japan is also battling an escalating nuclear crisis. An official tells CNN that a second explosion is possible at the Fukushima plant in northeastern Japan. You're watching smoke rising there from Saturday's explosion, the number one at the Daiichi plant.

Japan's chief cabinet secretary says number three reactor is also vulnerable. Yukio Edano says both reactors may be in meltdown.

We'll be straight back to our coverage of Japan in just a moment. But we are, of course, keeping an eye on other stories around the world as well. So, let's bring you up-to-date on those.

First to Yemen where medical officials report that two people were shot dead during an anti-government protest on Saturday. A human rights group says 100 people were injured in a demonstration in the capital. Yemen's government denied that security forces used live ammunition against security protesters. United Nations asserts restraint in the volatile country.

A cameraman for the Al Jazeera TV network has been killed during an apparent ambush in Libya. Ali Hassan Al Jaber was -- has become the first journalist to be killed during Libya's civil war. Al Jazeera says he was on his way to the rebel-held city of Benghazi when unknown fighters opened fire on his vehicle.

Several days of heavy fighting, Libyan government forces stormed the eastern oil town of Ras Lanuf, finally forcing rebels out of the town. They've taken routes (ph) on the westward drive towards Tripoli. In the wake of the fighting, the town's sprawling oil refinery was left burning.

Back now to Friday and Japan's deadly earthquake. Take a listen to the moment disaster struck the small southeastern city of Kamaishi.


FOSTER: That unrelenting water propelled by the tsunami, crashing into the historic coastal city, washing away everything in its path, as you can see, leaving property and livelihoods completely in ruins. It's not yet known how many lives were lost in this one area.

Residents in Kamaishi are still in shock caused by Friday's quake. The disaster left their homes in ruins and their lives never ever 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: Japan's powerful quake was followed by a massive tsunami as we have been reporting. And no one can stop either of these incredible forces.

But as CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains better safeguards can be taken and Japan has already distinguished itself for learning from the past.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Would you even know what to do if you found yourself in the middle of that? What we're experiencing here is a 6.9 magnitude earthquake. What I'm trying to do is go into the corner of a room -- structures are the most sound -- stay away from glass as much as possible. Also, cover your hands, cover face. Get under a table if you have to, just something to protect yourself.

Of course, all of this is just a simulation. That's what you need to do as an individual.

But given that so many people live in urban centers across the world, how do you recover and rebuild after something like that?

It's exactly the question they were asking themselves in Kobe, Japan. In 1995, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake just like that one, 20 seconds in length. Two hundred thousand buildings gone, 5,000 lives lost, and a lot of work to do to try and rebuild this place. Well, Kobe did it in less than 10 years. And now, they serve as a model for the rest of the world.

A lot of lessons have been learned. For example, don't put all your disaster resources in one particular area. Also, try and engage the survivors of an earthquake as much as possible in the rebuilding process. And finally, hospitals -- they have to be able to stay open and functioning even after an earthquake.

Of course, there are the buildings. The awful images like this one -- remember 200,000 went down. This was one of them. We'll take a look at what it looks like now.

This is the same building rebuilt just quickly after the earthquake. What do they do specifically? They use materials here to try and isolate this building from the ground and the shaking that accompanies an earthquake. They also used metal plates to allow the building to move as well as materials that sort of allow this building to sway if the ground is shaking.

It is by no means perfect. And if you ask Kobe officials, they'll say about 80 percent of the city is now rebuilt.

There are some problems still -- narrow thoroughfares like this will be tough to navigate in an earthquake, and these buildings could come down into the streets, making rescues that much more difficult. But the balance is always there, trying to maintain what Japan has been for 100 years in the middle of all this reconstruction.

I can tell you it is human nature to sort of wait for a disaster to occur before planning to do anything about it. We've seen that over and over again. And that's part of the lessons learned in Kobe -- try to prepare ahead of time so that you can mitigate some of the effects of these natural disasters and other health problems.

Back to you.


FOSTER: Well, as we continue our coverage of Japan's earthquake and tsunami devastation, we'll see Japanese around the world are managing to cope with this. Heartbreaking reports from those who can only watch and pray from afar for their home. That's next on CNN.


FOSTER: The moment the tsunami hit Sendai airport. The pictures speak for themselves.


FOSTER: Former CNN producer Melissa Heng has been to a refuge center nearby in Sendai. She called in to tell us just a few hours ago to tell us what the situation is like there right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MELISSA HENG, WITNESS (via telephone): One of the worse things if many people is the phone lines have been down. You know, many people here have family who are in the neighboring prefectures. Many of my colleagues have parents, elderly parents, who live on the coast. And because the phone lines have been down, no one has been able to call anybody. No one has been able to get any updates as to how their families have fared, or whether they're safe.

You know, even on the first night they were all moved to shelter. Many parents came looking for their children and, you know, nobody could tell where anybody was. And I think that lack of contact made things even more frightening.


FOSTER: The latest there from Sendai.

Let's bring you the latest death toll figures. Currently, it's standing an official figure of 977. But police say it could soar to more than 10,000 people killed from Friday's devastating quake and tsunami. Many of those victims could be from the fishing port of Kamaishi City in northeastern Japan and from Minamisanriku.

Just to give you these figures from Japan's national police agency: 977 confirmed dead, 739 missing, 1,683 injured. Those numbers will undoubtedly go up.

Aid organizations are making their way to areas in need help.

Ian Woolverton is a member of Save the Children. He's just arrived at the coastal city of Asahi. He joins us on a line with the firsthand account of the situation there.

We're trying to build up a picture of the area. So, what can you see from where you are?

IAN WOOLVERTON, SAVE THE CHILDREN (via telephone): Well, we got into Asahi City about three hours ago. We've been visiting a number of evacuation centers. I've just come from a primary school which is home to 400 displaced people.

We met with a family sheltering in a classroom there, along with other families because their homes had been partially destroyed or destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami waves. I also met with other families who were basically in the start of the cleanup process here. Many of their homes were just completely caked in mud. So they are trying to salvage what they can from their homes.

As I speak to you now, we're actually pulling into one of the makeshift recovery centers, evacuation centers where people have started to congregate. And it's in places like that that Save the Children wants to open what we call child-friendly spaces.

FOSTER: And how easy is it for you working in the area? Of course, the Japanese are very well-organized in this sort of thing. But how easy are you finding it to do your work? WOOLVERTON: Look, as you rightly point out, the Japanese authorities are very good at this part of disaster response work. So, we are finding that we're getting terrific coordination and cooperation from local authorities.

We spent the day today talking with the local authorities. They have been directing us to the makeshift camps, the primary schools in Asahi City. So, we're able to do our work.

What we want to be able to do now is to ensure we can reach as many vulnerable children and families with our child-friendly space program. I was meeting with a mother just a few moments ago who was telling me that (INAUDIBLE) of things that children need right now are books and toys and even DVDs so they don't become bored in the classrooms.

FOSTER: How is she coping, that mother?

WOOLVERTON: Looked pretty well. I think she's pretty shaken up. I think they have been quite traumatized more by -- more by the earthquake in their case actually. As a result of that, they've had difficulty sleeping. The whole family had difficulty sleeping.

So, fortunately, their house has not been too badly affected by the tsunami, but they're still traumatized by the experience they have been through.

FOSTER: You will know from other disasters better than me where you often end up with situations where children are orphaned and you prepare for this. Are you expecting that to be a big problem in this disaster as in so many others?

WOOLVERSTON: Well, what we will try and focus on in the immediate aftermath is ensuring that children are reunited with their loved ones, with their parents as quickly as possible. It's really important that we can reunite children who have become separated from loved ones as quickly as possible. It's very important they are given access to a stable and nurturing environment where they can be with their loved ones.

We know from our experience in disasters that if we can normalize and stabilize a child's environment as quickly as possible, then we can ward of the risk of the longer term effects of psychological trauma.

FOSTER: Yes, just take us through the first thing you do with these children. Have you spoken to any children who are having to rely on your support completely because they haven't got their families near them at this time?

WOOLVERTON: Now, look, what I'm seeing at the moment is that the nuclear family is working. There are mothers and fathers with their children and, indeed, their extended family in classrooms and in evacuation centers.

But what we want to be able to do now is set up a network of child- friendly spaces in these recovery centers, in these evacuation centers. To give parents a break. They have recess, of course.

We also want to give children a safe place to play, which is great in itself, but we know from our experience also it's really important to be allow children a safe and stable place to begin the process of normalization, to ensure that you can ward off any risk of psychological trauma. I was speaking to other children this afternoon who are really keen to get back into school as quickly as possible so they can spend time with their friends.

That's one of the anxieties they have right now is they don't know what's happened to their friends. They want to reunite with them and to play with them basically so they can begin to get over the trauma they have experienced.

FOSTER: OK. Ian Woolverton from Save the Children, thank you very much, indeed, and good luck as you arrive in Asahi.

Well, the world community is banding together to offer much needed aid through organizations like that. And dozens of countries are offering help. Among them, teams have arrived from South Korea and Singapore. Seoul has sent two rescue dogs and handlers and three assistants for searchers through collapsed buildings.

The U.S. military is also sending aid. The aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan has just arrived off the coast actually and is preparing for relief efforts. We have a reporter with them.

For Japanese around the world watching what's happening in their home country can be heartbreaking.

CNN's Thelma Gutierrez went to Little Tokyo in Los Angeles to get the Japanese community's reaction there to this terrible disaster.


THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the heart of Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles, diners at this grill sat speechless as they watched new images from the quake zone unfold before their eyes.


GUTIERREZ: Down the street, at Kato (ph) retirement home, Nancy Nojimi (ph), Naomi Nakata (ph) and Fujii Wave (ph) also watched in disbelief.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's our tsunami.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have never seen anything like this.

GUTIERREZ: The women told me as disturbing as these images are, they can't look away.

UNIDENTFIED FEMALE: I have never seen anything like this. It looks like science fiction, really.

GUTIERREZ (on camera): What are you feeling watching this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everything in the water is going to finish.

GUTIERREZ: You feel like it's the end of the world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's going to finish all the world.

GUTIERREZ: In all of your life, did you ever believe you would see such a thing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Never. Never. I could see it in the movies, but not in reality. This is unreal. It is hard to take.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): In a nearby office in Little Tokyo, Shelley Kwan searched online for a friend who was working as a teacher in Sendai near the epicenter. She found him on Facebook.

(on camera): So, then you logged on to Facebook and what did you see? What's the first thing you saw?

SHELLEY KWAN, FRIEND OF QUAKE SURVIVOR: The post about while the ground opened up at my school.

GUTIERREZ: This is a message to everyone, isn't it?

KWAN: Yes. He says, I'm OK, everyone. And we are setting up a shelter for people whose homes have fallen. Here's another that says people crying in aftershock after aftershock. This is called (INAUDIBLE).

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Shelly says her friends posts stopped when his batteries ran low, but she can sleep knowing he survived.

And now, so can Yasu Kon, who's from the hard hit area in northern Japan. He just learned his mother is still alive and so is his sister trapped at her work place in Sendai.

(on camera): How do you feel now?

YASU KON, LOS ANGELES RESIDENT: I'm fine. Happy. Kind of --

GUTIERREZ: You feel relieved?

KON: Yes, I'm relieved.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): But it's bittersweet because he says so many others have lost so much.

Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Los Angeles.


FOSTER: Even seeing those pictures, the devastation is unfathomable. We continue our breaking news coverage of Japan's earthquake and tsunami disaster next with another look at some of the incredible pictures coming into us, continue to come into us. We'll hear from survivors who are lucky to be alive.

Stay with CNN.


FOSTER: Another take here for you on the destruction along Japan's northeastern coast. This is the city of Sendai.


FOSTER: Someone wandering around with a camera in the sea of devastation, a sea where there is normally land and ripping away everything in its wake, unforgiving, unrelenting. And now, rescue workers somehow to pick up the pieces.

It's just turning dark in Japan in that area, but rescue workers are heading to the scene. The spokesman for the Japanese prime minister told me this hour that actually, the army have yet to reach the worst affected areas to assess the damage.

Weather conditions are vital as well. Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera has been monitoring that for us to get a sense of how easy (ph) it's going to be for those workers.

IVAN CABRERA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It's going to be vital for the workers and perhaps and hope for folks that are still surviving there under the rubble.

This is not Haiti here. So, the folks that have been rescued (INAUDIBLE). So, now, no concern about exposure there as we are inside the buildings and out of harm's way.

But here are the current conditions as far the temperatures. We've got off a little bit. Our winds have been primarily out of the southwest which has brought in slightly milder air.

In the first night, we actually snowed in Sendai, the first night after the earthquake, we snowed and it was bitterly cold out there. That system has long gone now and we are tracking another one that's going to be coming in. This was going to be a coastal low that's going to be developing to your south.

The latest computer model actually has it further south. This is excellent news. Before we had a rain band moving through Tokyo, perhaps impacting Sendai -- I like what I'm seeing there as far as that low moving further to the south. We're going to have scattered showers I think over the next 48 hours, but nothing significant.

So, the southwesterly wind goes away with this high. Here comes a low. On the backside of it are going northwesterly winds and a westerly component with the situation and the nuclear power plant there is going to be good, because any radioactive material will be pushed offshore. And remember, for all those that have emailed me and tweeted me about the potential impact worldwide, unless there's a catastrophic event there, we are not expecting radioactive material to go into the jet stream. So, it's going to be a localized effect there in Japan.

Temperatures cooling off. We'll be in the mid to upper single digits over the next couple of days. And those overnight temperatures will be dropping to about zero.

But I want to do now is leave you with some dramatic pictures. We've been showing you obviously the scenes as things have been under way in Japan. But here is Kamaishi, right? You expect this to be the hardest hit area because it's right along the coast.

This is how it looked Kamaishi before the tsunami. And I want to show you what it looks like now from up and above in space. Just complete devastation. That's going to take quite some time here to recover from this, Max.

We will keep you posted on the current conditions, weather conditions, and those aftershocks that continue at this hour -- Max.

FOSTER: Ivan, thank you very much, indeed.

Well, as you can imagine, it's difficult to size up this catastrophe from a single perspective, one lens or one eyewitness account -- this quake, this tsunami, and the aftermath is that big. As we pause to watch and listen to our reporters on the ground, the officials trying to lead and the survivors who still face challenging days ahead.


HANCOCKS: You can see how far the mangled mess of these cars has been flown. You can feel the weight and the force of the water.

RYAN MCDONALD, WITNESS: The biggest problem right now we have is there is no food anywhere. This is what I had for dinner. Twelve hours ago, I have had nothing to eat since then. I had some orange juice. This is all I have 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 (via telephone): 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 they may be in their houses, 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 the situation that has the potential for a nuclear catastrophe. It's basically a race against time.

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