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Disaster in Japan; Nuclear Threat in Fukushima; Civil War in Libya

Aired March 14, 2011 - 03:00   ET


ANDREW STEVENS, CNN ANCHOR: It's 4:00 p.m. in Japan on a day where many Japanese try to get back to work following Friday's historic earthquake and tsunami.

But at this point, there's no escape from the heartbreak and the troubles afflicting a nation so overwhelmed by catastrophe.

Hello. I'm Andrew Stevens, from CNN's studios in Hong Kong, welcoming this hour our viewers in the U.S. as well as around the world.

Well, there are also reports of more trouble at the nuclear plant in Fukushima. Japanese media are reporting the cooling system has stopped at one of the reactors there.

Let's get straight to Stan Grant. He is following that story from our Tokyo bureau, and he joins us live now -- Stan.

STAN GRANT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this continues to grow, doesn't it, Andrew? This entire nuclear emergency -- it seems to be one development after another. And none of them is particularly good.

We're hearing now about the number two reactor at the Daiichi nuclear plant in Fukushima. Now, this makes three of the reactors there, one, two, and three that are experiencing these cooling problems. Now, this information is being reported in Japanese media and they're quoting the nuclear safety agency. But we have yet to hear directly from them about that because they're certainly reporting right now coming from the nuclear safety agency that the number two reactor is now having cooling problems.

Let me just throw your mind back to a couple of hours ago. Of course, there was an explosion in the number three reactor. That was a hydrogen explosion in the outer building, which houses the reactor itself. Now, that was similar to another explosion in the number one reactor just a couple days ago. It also had similar damage. It blew out one of the walls of the building there.

Now, there are also ongoing concerns about radiation. However, the authorities here saying the radiation levels have actually been decreasing over the last couple of days. But they've still got this 20-kilometer, 12 or 13-mile exclusion zone.

But, yes, we're now hearing that the number two reactor is also experiencing cooling problems. And that just adds to this ongoing sense of emergency -- Andrew.

STEVENS: The people from the Tokyo Electric Power who have been dealing with this crisis, Stan, as I understand, stopped pumping the coolant, the seawater into a reactor. Why did they do that?

GRANT: Yes, they had been pumping seawater into the reactors to try to cool them. Now number one was being reported as being fairly stable. What they have done is interrupted that supply because the supply of the seawater was running low. What had happened here is that seawater was being stored in a particular place, and that was running low.

They're still pumping seawater into number three reactor to try to keep that cool. And I will imagine they'll have to look at a similar process here at number two.

You keep in mind too, Andrew, the seawater itself is considered to be a last resort. And if effectually what you're doing there is writing off the reactors for the future. This is not going to help it at all. This is to deal with this particular crisis. And it will basically render it unusable after that. But they do need to cool the reactors. And that's why they've been using the seawater, but those stocks, of course, are running low.

STEVENS: OK. Stan, thank you very much for that. Stan Grant joining us live from Tokyo with the latest.

The crisis certainly not over on the nuclear power plants in Fukushima. Let's just take a moment to explain how this type of nuclear power plant works.

The animation you see here is produced by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and is not an exact replica of the Fukushima plant. It's an illustration of the type of plant the Fukushima one.

Now first, the core inside the reactor vessel on the left-hand side of the graphic, that's what creates the heat. Very pure water flows through the reactor, gets heated, and that produces a steam water mixture. Now, the steam line directs the steam to the main turbine, which then turns the turbine generator which produces the electricity. Now, the unused steam goes into the condenser where it's condensed back into water and it goes back into the system.

With more on what the earthquake has done to Japan's nuclear reactors, you can go to our Web site. We posted answers to a number of questions on that. It's all there at

OK. I believe now we can go to our Paula Hancocks. She is in Ishinomaki, which has been one of the hardest hit towns we've seen.

Paula, the devastation just goes on. Just bring us up-to-date with what you've been seeing there.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, Andrew, I'm in the town's center at this point. We tried to get to the beach area, which was local media reports that about 100 bodies have actually been washed up over the past couple days. But it's completely inaccessible by car at this point.

You can probably hear the helicopters overhead, that is really the only way to get to some of these really cut off areas.

So, what we've done now is we're standing outside one of the hospitals in this town. And you can hear the helicopters bringing in injured people all the time. There's one every few minutes at this point, either bringing someone in or evacuating someone from the hospital that needs to be treated elsewhere.

So, people are still being found according to the doctors here. They're still seeing walking wounded bringing themselves in as well.

When you walk into the lobby itself of the hospital, it's become a makeshift hospital in itself. There are hundreds of people lying on the floor, on stretchers, or on cardboard if they can't find stretchers. And they're being tended to by a number of doctors who quite frankly look incredibly busy at this point -- Andrew.

STEVENS: This is just one town among many that has been in the direct path of the tsunami, Paula. Is there any indication how many people died in the town of Ishinomaki?

HANCOCKS: Officials really are struggling to give us any kind of a ballpark figure, let alone an actual figure. And it's not surprising because some of these places are so inaccessible.

We've been trying to drive to the Oshika Peninsula, which is a peninsula which is expected to have been one of the hardest hits, just because it's a peninsula. It's so exposed to the elements. But it's impossible to get there unless you try and get there by helicopter. And the town itself is pretty flooded.

Now, we did hear from the governor of Miyagi Prefecture, that's the hard-hit province, that he thinks it could go as high as 10,000, this death toll. But he is just making an estimate. That's all anybody can do at this point until all these areas have been cleaned and until all these areas have actually been accessed. And it is by helicopter that the rescue teams are having to do much of this area -- Andrew.

STEVENS: And so much of this region is still without power, and still struggling to find food and fresh water for the survivors there. What's the situation like on that front where you are, Paula?

HANCOCKS: It's pretty bad. Even the people who haven't been affected directly by the earthquake or by the tsunami, their house is still standing, there's no water around them. But now they're finding it very difficult to get the basic supplies.

There are very, very long queues for fuel. We saw people queuing up from last night ready for 8:00 this morning to get the gasoline. There's no water that we can find.

In Sendai, this time, I'm guessing it's the same. We passed a supermarket which had a tremendously long cue queue -- there must have been about a thousand people in that queue just to get into the supermarket. I'm looking through the window, most of the shelves were empty anyway.

So, it doesn't appear as though stocks are being brought to this area very quickly. Obviously, the focus right now is finding people who are still alive in the rubble. But for those not directly affected by this disaster, they're certainly having the knock-on effect of not being able to find food and water easily -- Andrew.

STEVENS: OK. Paula, thanks very much for that. Paula Hancocks joining us from Ishinomaki, one of the hardest hit towns there, reports that as you get close to the waterfront, access is virtually impossible to get through to, still -- rescue crews still going in by helicopter.

Meanwhile, the Japanese prime minister says that this is his country's worst crisis since the Second World War. Naoto Kan is calling for the Japanese to pull together.


NAOTO KAN, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Please, I ask each one of you please have such determine and to deepen your bond with your family members, neighbors, and the people in your community to overcome this crisis so that Japan can be a better place. We can build together. This is the message I'd like to emphasize to the Japanese people.


STEVENS: Now amid the devastation, still incredible stories of survival. Japanese maritime defense forces spotted this 60-year-old man in his makeshift red flag 15 kilometers offshore. And he was clinging to the roof of his home. He clung there for two days after the tsunami carried him and it out to sea.

The man says that he and his wife fled their house during the earthquake. They returned to get some belongings when the tsunami struck. He says his wife, though, was lost at sea.

Well, it's an overwhelming catastrophe with countless tales of survival and of despair. Japanese state broadcaster NHK got one woman's incredible but somehow typical story.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A woman was rescued by self-defense force personnel. This woman thanks the self-defense force troop and says she is all right.

The woman said she had been waiting for help all night, outside.

The woman said she had been washed away by the wave. Asked if she was outside, she says that the moment she opened the door of her house, the water flooded in. She says that there happened to be a tree nearby, so she struggled and grabbed the tree to prevent herself from sinking under the water. She hung onto the tree with the water all around her. She says she hung on for dear life, and then a Tatami floor mat drifted near her, so she got on the Tatami floor mat and floated around and round in the water, completely helpless. She drifted around the houses and found herself washed near the school. She says her daughter was washed away with her but has not been found.


STEVENS: So many stories from the survivors, which we will continue to bring you over the next days and weeks.

Well, it's Monday afternoon, of course, in Japan where people are coping with a very different life today. What will that mean for the Japanese economy? We'll be taking a look at how things are getting reshuffled as well in the business world.

And gas is also running low in parts of Japan. Fuel lines -- or the lines to get fuel are growing. We've got more on that shortage just ahead.


STEVENS: It's just about 15 minutes past 4:00 p.m. in Tokyo, where thousands of people have been heading back to work. And weighing on their minds obviously the earthquake, the tsunami, and in some cases, a coworker that may still be missing.

This is Shinjuku subway station where commuters have gathered. There's no train service. They're being advised to use the bus or a taxi, or even walk.

Now, in Asia, stock markets were down across the region. Japanese markets, though, took a beating today. The Nikkei tumbling in the early trade and continued to slide throughout the day. It closed down more than 6 percent.

You have to go back to the collapse of Lehman's in 2008 to see losses like this in Japan. As you see there, the Nikkei was 6.18 percent.

In Seoul, the KOSPI down -- pardon, it was up by about 0.8 of 1 percent. Construction companies in Seoul getting a lift there. That's based on the fact that there will be a lot of reconstruction needed in Japan. Australia down by about 4/10 and New Zealand down by 2/3.

Now, in Japan, the central bank, the Bank of Japan pumping a record 15 trillion yen into the financial system in a move to build confidence in the markets. That's about $180 billion or so. And the central bank says it will add another $3 trillion to the market on Wednesday. The bank says its priority is to ensure that financial institutions in disaster-hit regions do not run out of cash.

Well, meanwhile, Japan's carmakers are being forced offline by the disaster. Toyota, Honda, and Nissan have all suspended operations at their domestic assembly plants. The carmakers say plant damage was minimal, but their auto part supplies did take some hits. There's also the problem of getting the parts to the plants.

Now, the assembly plants will likely reopen once the supplies are up and running again. Toyota says their production will remain down, at least through Wednesday. Toyota says that will mean about 40,000 units will not be built because of the shutdown. Obviously, power is still an issue for Japanese industry as well. There are rolling blackouts planned in Japan, which is going to affect industrial production.

Now, the tsunami destroyed hundreds of cars which were parked at Japanese ports also which had been waiting to be shipped out.

Well, let's see how the news has affected the stock prices of the major automakers this Sunday. Toyota finishing the day down nearly 8 percent. Shares of Nissan down more than 10 percent in Tokyo. Trading in Honda also down by more than 6 percent.

And it's not just automakers either that are halting production. Electronic giant Sony has suspended operations at eight of its factories. Six of them were in Miyagi Prefecture, which took a direct hit from the earthquake. And Sony says all its employees were evacuated though. The company says it hasn't determined when those factories will reopen.

Sony stock plunging on the news. It fell more than 9 percent in the Monday trade.

Now, meanwhile, in Sendai, the city of a million people in the hard- hit tsunami zone, lines there are forming to get petrol. Delays in delivery are making some of the pumps run dry. There are also reports of people siphoning petrol out of the thousands of vehicles destroyed by the quake and tsunami.

And in just a moment, we're going to be going to Sendai for a closer look. It was one a teeming metropolis. Now, it's a place of desolation and fear.

And, chilling tales of survival amidst unspeakable destruction.

You're watching our special coverage of the tsunami and earthquake in Japan. Please stay with us.


STEVENS: Now, we want to take a moment to remind you just where the hardest hit cities and towns in Japan. So, take a look at this map. As we mentioned, Sendai is close to the quake's epicenter. Closer still is Kesennuma. And we've yet to see the scenes of devastation from there.

Also worth noting here is Fukushima. That's where the two power plants have been damaged as we heard from Stan Grant a little earlier -- another problem with another reactor at one of those power plants. Certainly, authorities do not have the situation under control yet in Fukushima. Authorities have been releases radioactive steam to try to relieve the pressure in the reactor there is a 20 kilometer exclusion zone around Fukushima at this hour.

Now, before the earthquake, the city of Sendai was home to about a million people. Now the population of that city, about 130 kilometers from the quake center, is unknown.

Martin Savidge now gives us a look at the apocalyptic landscape that was once a teeming city.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): How do you begin to search what looks like the end of the world?

In the seaside city of Sendai, emergency teams carefully pick their way through the devastation. Dwarfed by the size of the tsunami's impact, often the teams are trailed by anxious civilians looking for any signs of missing loved ones.

I wanted to ask this man who he was looking for, but I never got the chance.

(on camera): So, we were starting to follow this what appears to be a search crew. But now, the problem is that apparently there's been another tsunami warning. So, the crew and everyone else here is being told to get away -- which is what they're doing.

(voice-over): It's hard to tell how real the threat may be. Nerves in Sendai are very much still on edge.

Officials shout their warnings, load up, and head for higher ground.

We go in the opposite direction, heading toward the coast, and the closer we get, the more unreal the scenery. The tidal surge rushed inland in some places six miles. Getting around is difficult. Many roads here are impassable.

Adding to the apocalyptic scenes, huge fires continue to burn unchecked. Thick black smoke and flames boiled from a refinery.

As we videoed the scene, we notice something else.

(on camera): Up until now, we've heard the sirens, we've heard the announcements another tsunami coming, but nobody really seemed to be that anxious. Then, all of a sudden, we notice the water here -- it's racing out. We're leaving.

(voice-over): Fortunately, the threat never materializes, which is a good thing because Sendai has already seen more than its share of hell and high water.

Martin Savidge, CNN, Sendai, Japan.


STEVENS: Martin Savidge highlighting the fears of the Japanese in the quake zone. We're still getting aftershocks and the meteorological body in Japan has warned there could be at least another 0.7 (ph) magnitude quake within the next two or three days. Something like 300 aftershocks so far since Friday's 8.9 quake.

Well, or the Japanese, Friday's quake came virtually without warning. The tsunami was close behind. Too close behind. Survivors tell how they managed to stay alive and relate heartbreaking tales of those who were lost -- to the Japanese state broadcaster NHK.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER (voice-over): This woman was rescued two days after the quake. She is helped out by self-defense force personnel. Meantime, the city center of Kamaishi in Iwate Prefecture has been flattened.

This was the scene in Kamaishi as it was struck by a massive tsunami right after Friday's earthquake. Roads are covered with cars and debris. A fire engine is flipped over.

Residents who survived the tremor and waves -- today rejoiced at each other's safety. But some people are wandering through the streets, looking for family and friends. This woman says she wonders what happened to everyone. She says she has never experienced anything like this, and is at a loss for words.

Many areas of Kesennuma City in Miyagi Prefecture were destroyed by fire on top of the tsunami.

This woman escaped the waves, but says she saw many people being swept away. She says she was trying to get away from the surging water with her husband in a car. She got out of the car and told her husband to get out too when the waves reached them. She says she ran up to the second floor of a stranger's house, but the father and the daughter who lived there were swept away right before her eyes.

Many people are desperately looking for names of missing family members on a message board set up in a gymnasium. This woman says she's looking for her daughter. She says her home is gone and that her daughter wouldn't know where to go. She says she only hopes her daughter is alive somewhere.

Many quake survivors managed to capture images of the deadly tsunami with their video cameras. This video shows Sendai port as the tsunami hit.

The video was taken by Natsei Misutsochi (ph). She says she couldn't believe that she was witnessing something like this.

Police in Miyagi now say the massive earthquake and tsunami may have killed more than 10,000 people in the prefecture alone.


STEVENS: The Red Cross says it could take weeks before the final toll is known as the rescuers still fan out to reach towns and cities that still may not have received any help at all. Well, certainly help for the victims is pouring in from across the globe into Japan. Let's take a look now at the international relief effort. Japan's foreign ministry now says that 69 governments around the world are offering help.

From the United States, the USS Ronald Reagan, an aircraft carrier, has started rescue and relief operations off the Japanese coast. Ten U.S. Navy ships are also bound for Japan.

From the U.K., the British government is sending a team of search and rescue specialists, along with 11 tons of rescue equipment. Teams from Australia are also on the way. Other nations including help -- are offering help include Canada, Spain, France, and Germany. China has sent equipment, military manpower and medicine.

Three Mile Island in the United States, Chernobyl in Ukraine. And now, a watching world hopes there will not be a repeat in Japan. Just ahead: a closer look at the nuclear safety issues being discussed right now because of the disaster in Fukushima, Japan.

Stay with us.


STEVENS: I just want to bring you some breaking news coming into us here now at CNN. We're getting reports from the Japanese Meteorological Service that a 6.0 magnitude quake has been recorded in Nagano, which is to the north of Tokyo and quite a long way to the west of the country. You may remember Nagano as a place for the winter Olympic Games. This is 6.0 magnitude quake that has been recorded in or around Nagano. Details are very sketchy at the moment.

We don't know whether this is an aftershock, but it is certainly a long way from the epicenter of Friday's 8.9 magnitude quake. We'll continue to bring you details as we get them. We don't know whether it has caused any damage or whether there's there has been any casualties. We'll get some more information to you as soon as we get it here at CNN.

Let's continue though our coverage of the twin disasters from Friday on the east coast of the country. Now the latest news is that six people have been injured in a new explosion today in northeastern Japan. It was a hydrogen blast which occurred at the building that houses the number 3 reactor within the country's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant.

Officials say the reactor was not damaged in today's explosion. Japanese media also quote Japan's nuclear safety agency as saying the cooling system of reactor number 2 at the same plant in Fukushima stopped working early this day. Pressure has been building up inside there since that cooling system stopped working.

And the Kyodo News Agency reports the discovery of 2,000 bodies at northern Japan Miyagi Prefecture which was the hardest hit during Friday's massive earthquake and tsunami. As bodies tragically add to the official death toll of more than 1,600 so far. It is still predicted to rise dramatically as the rescue teams reach more and more towns caught taking the full brunt of the tsunami's force.

We'll continue to get our I-reports as well in from Japan. And if you have never experienced in an earthquake before, this will give you some sense of what it's like. This one is from Chiba City. That's an area that used to be part of Tokyo Bay.


BRENT KOOI, I-REPORTER: The crack is just moving. There is water. I don't know if water lines are broken. But this water was not there a minute ago. It's coming up different places. Here it's coming up through the sidewalk. The buildings are making a racket. I seriously thought I was sick first because I didn't know what was going on. I could just feel like I was disoriented. Stepping over another crack. I wouldn't be surprised if the trains are not running anymore. I'm on my way to the train station.

We've got a little lake, and here is a huge crack. And it's still moving. It's just bog back and forth, swaying. It's making me kind of nervous, especially since this is reclaimed land that I'm on right now. This used to be part of Tokyo Bay. And they created this land by throwing landfill and mountains, rocks out here. And so this land could just go potentially. I don't know. There is quite a few people in the park. They don't seem too worried. They're not running away. Interesting park. A sombrero and a huge clock. And baytown skyscrapers behind it. OK.


STEVENS: This video was taken from Chiba, which is in Tokyo Bay as our I-reporter was saying there, which is 200 or 300 kilometers still from the epicenter. It gives you an idea of even that far south you're getting that sort of movement in the earth. Certainly amazing images there. You can check out the rest of the I-reports that continue to pour in here at CNN. Just go to and you'll get a good selection of what people have been witnessing since Friday's devastating quake and tsunami.

Well, the entire world has been watching the developments in Japan with tremendous sorrow and obviously deep concern. And naturally there is great focus right now on issues related to nuclear safety.

Joining us now from Moscow with more on that is our senior international correspondent Matthew Chance. And Matthew, we've been talking to the International Atomic Energy Agency about this on-going crisis in Fukushima. The latest news that another reactor is overheating that makes it the third one at Fukushima. What have you been hearing from your people at the IAEA.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the IAEA aren't necessarily the quickest with information about what THE developments are on the ground. That's very much coming from the Japanese nuclear authorities. But there is a trust problem with the Japanese. Many people in Japan know that the officials there underplayed the significance of nuclear accidents in the past, and they're worried the same may be true this time. So the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency is fulfilling this role of giving an accurate verified information. They're giving us more information in the past few hours about further details about that second explosion of the Fukushima reactor. It says it took place 11:00 in the morning local time in Japan and was caused by a buildup of hydrogen gas in the reactor building.

But the agency confirms that the primary containment vessel, the area where the actual nuclear fuel is stored was not damaged by that explosion. So that's been a point of major concern. So it's good that the IAEA can say that they verified that that containment vessel has not been damaged. They did say, though, that six people in that blast were injured. There has been a lot of concern obviously on the ground, particularly in the exclusion area around the reactor.

But also in Japan generally, as well as the wider world what the effects of these explosions are. The IAEA has some information on that. It's saying that the measurements of radiation at various points around the Fukushima plant are said to be normal at the moment. So they're apparently agreeing with the Japanese nuclear officials on the ground that this is not causing at the moment a major problem with nuclear contamination.

STEVENS: It's interesting, because as you say, this tallies with what the Japanese have been telling the media, Matthew. But there is an issue about trust there. Is the IAEA, does it feel like it has to put pressure on the Japanese authorities to actually get this information out? Or are they finding the cooperation is quite easy?

CHANCE: It's difficult to say. I mean it seems that there is a free flow of information between the Japanese nuclear officials on the ground, the experts in the field actually dealing with this, and the IAEA team of experts that are based in their Vienna headquarters. They also have the experts on the ground in Japan as well. But what the IAEA are doing is they're taking the information they're getting from the Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency as it's called in Japan. They're verifying themselves through their own channels through their own network of experts and then putting it as verified information.

They're also, Andrew, saying that they are prepared and in a good position in fact to offer additional expertise to the Japanese nuclear officials who are on the ground, field engineers, nuclear experts who could perhaps give their expertise in trying to bring this nuclear situation under control. But so far according to IAEA officials I have spoken to, no requests from Japan for extra help in that regard have given.

STEVENS: You have to wonder whether that will change as another reactor faces serious problems as well.

Matthew, thanks very much for that. Matthew Chance joining us from Moscow with the latest information from the International Atomic Energy Agency on what appears to be a growing crisis still in the Fukushima province with the nuclear reactors there. It's interesting to point out too there has been a 20 kilometer explosion zone set up around Fukushima, but there are still some people, we understand inside that zone. They have been told by the Japanese authorities to stay indoors. Well, as Matthew said there, the IAEA says that radiation levels around Fukushima apparently are normal.

Now we've been telling you about the quake in Nagano. Jill Brown has more on that from the world weather center. Jill, what do we know so far? Is this a 6.0 quake, is this a new quake or is it considered as an aftershock?

JILL BROWN, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, I guess we would consider this as an aftershock. Although you're right in seeing it's not close to the main mass here. But we have had an occasional tremor elsewhere. These are all just since Friday. And the dots, this is we're looking at a live update from the USGS. So this is something you can look at on your own computer. I've just been living it up and watching it. And since I've been in, I've seen probably about one to two of these aftershocks an hour. So here is what you're looking at.

The yellow says that it's been in the past week. The orange past day. It's been in the past hour, it's red. So this one is orange now. But about 10 minutes ago, it was red. According to this site, it's saying it's a 5.4 magnitude. And we've had a big chunk of them in that five to six 6 range soon after the initial earthquake, there was an aftershock of over seven. I think 7.1. Most of them have not been as strong. But that doesn't mean that we're just going to slowly work our way down. We could still see some stronger aftershocks. And we think we have seen 350 or more of these aftershocks. So we'll keep you updated on that.

Another big story with the area is the threat of some cold weather coming in. So if you look at the satellite picture here, we've had one area of low pressure moving off to the north, and some clouds coming in now across Japan. With these we think we're going to see some rain and probably some snow as well. So we've had southerly winds. Temperatures well above normal and sunshine the last few days.

So now as if things couldn't get any worse, now with this area of low pressure coming up from the south, we're going to see cold air returning. And so we'll start with rain and then we're going to end up getting some snow. And the forecast is probably for most of the accumulation to be north of Sendai. But we could see a couple of centimeters of snow. And then highs by Thursday in maybe one, two, three degree range. So much colder weather and some snow and rain on the way in. Andrew?

STEVENS: Just what the survivors do not need to deal with, particularly when there is no power to - it sounds like millions of people in that region. Much, much colder weather.

Jill, thanks so much for that. Jill Brown at the weather center.

We'll have much more on the crisis in Japan just ahead, but also bringing you the latest in other developments around the world away from Japan, including Libya, where the government says it is now making gains. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) No matter how many times you see these images, they still maintain their impact. The cries of horror there as a wall of water surges on to land, crushing neighborhoods, washing away homes and cars. And one can only assume people as well. Rescue crews are now in their fourth day of searching for survivors of Japan's worst ever earthquake and tsunami.

The prime minister says it's the worst crisis Japan has faced since the second world war. Japan's national police say the death toll now stands at more than 1,600 people. There is still a lot of uncertainty on the ground. Japan's national police says more than 1,700 are still missing, but we do have to assume at this stage, at least, that that number will increase perhaps quite dramatically.

We've had reports that half of the residents, for example, of just one town, about 10,000 people, remain unaccounted for. Remember, we are now Monday afternoon in Japan after a Friday afternoon quake.

We'll of course continue to keep an eye on the situation in Japan. We also want to check in on other stories we're following this hour as well.

Starting in Libya, where forces loyal to the leader Moammar Gadhafi have reclaimed control of Al Brega. Opposition forces say they left Al Brega in a "tactical retreat." The rebels' defeat at Al Brega comes after days of heavy fighting and after similar setbacks in towns like Bin Jawad, Ras Lanuf. There are old markers on the road but Gadhafi's forces marched eastwards along towards the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

Meanwhile, the Arab league voted on Saturday to back a no-fly zone to protect Libyan citizens. That move promptly denounced by the Gadhafi government.

Well, CNN correspondents have been covering Libya's civil war as it unfolds, here is our Nic Robertson with a firsthand look at the battlefield.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Driving east, the detritus of war. Mile upon mile of rocketed vehicles, discarded weapons and ammunition littering the roadside. Evidence of a rapid rebel retreat. Outgunned and outsmarted by government forces advancing from the west. The first stop on this government organized trip Ben Jiwad. This is Ben Jiwad police station.

(on camera): It's not clear exactly what happened here but the first signs of any real battle that we have seen as we've been driving in the highway coming along from the west. We've seen occasional checkpoints manned by two, three, four, sometimes a dozen or so soldiers or policemen. And in the town here, we've seen most of the stores closed. Some signs of looting. But this police station here is the real first sign of battle we've come across. We're inside, it's pretty smashed up as well. The windows here at the front, this reinforced glass all destroyed, blown out. Shots being fired.

(INAUDIBLE) being fired by soldiers there. They've just been coming back from what appears to be the direction of the front line. Some sort of impromptu celebration just for the cameras here.

Just a few days ago, this town was still in rebel hands. You can get an idea of the ferocity of the battle for it. This looks like the tail fins from a Katyusha rocket buried in the front of this house here and underneath children's shoes.

(voice-over): Few houses hit, most by rockets fired from the west and advancing government forces. Driving on east wards another 40 miles, the sky fills with dense black smoke. As we get closer, unmistakably clearer, an oil storage tank at the Ras Lanuf refinery burning out of control. Officials blaming it on rebels.

(on camera): Exactly how far government forces have advanced beyond the oil fire, exactly where the front line is remains unclear. But what is clear is that the government is on a roll, and the rebels are recoiling, retreating it seems almost as fast as they can.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Ras Lanuf, Libya.


STEVENS: In china, meanwhile, the annual meeting of the National People's Congress is now over. Premier Wen Jiabao rejecting comparisons between China and the Middle East, which has been hit by that unrest, obviously. Earlier in the session, Premier Wen announced a new five-year economic plan, but some are questioning what exactly is new about it.

Eunice Yoon looks at the growing frustration in some of China's rural areas and why people are leaving - why people living there, excuse me, believe the plan needs a shift in focus.


EUNICE YOON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In villages across China, people want to be heard. Despite the country's fast economic growth, many feel they're being left behind, especially in the rural areas. To make sure Beijing hears their voice loud and clear, they're calling on officials like Bai Tong. China's biggest challenges are agriculture, farmers and solving rural issues. Bai tells us because China's rural population is the largest, these issues are the biggest headache for the Chinese government right now.

At this year's National People's Congress, Premier Wen Jiabao conceded China's economic might hasn't done enough to address the rich-poor divide. "We still have a serious problem and that our development is not yet well balanced, coordinated, or sustainable," he says.

(on camera): Beijing intends to bridge the wealth gap as part of its new five-year economic plan. The goal is to shift from growth at all costs to sustainable growth that improves the living standards for more of China's 1.3 billion people.

(voice-over): The priorities are to rein in rising prices, raise workers' wages and invest in better social safety nets. Ultimately, the move should boost consumer spending helping to rebalance the economy away from its heavy dependence on debt-driven investment and exports. Yet the policy agenda looks nearly identical to the last five-year plan, outlined in 2006.

(on camera): The government has made little progress on these economic reforms. Part of the problem is that the priorities conflict with each other.

(voice-over): Raising workers' incomes, for example, runs against the government pledge to fight inflation. Higher labor costs could also hurt the country's exporters, an engine of growth the government continues to prioritize, despite promises to boost domestic demand. Policymakers have also done little to ease controls on the currency. The growth target is now set at seven percent a year, down from 7.5 percent in the previous blueprint.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The previous five-year print is all about gaining weight. This five-year plan is probably much more about gaining muscle.

YOON: But given the slow pace of change, not everyone is convinced the leadership here will sacrifice the double-digit growth that has created jobs for so many and kept them in power for decades.

Eunice Yoon, CNN, Beijing.


STEVENS: We're going to take a short break in just a moment, returning to our coverage of the Japanese disaster. CNN has several teams deployed across the quake zone in Japan. We also have an army of I-reporters who are showing us the extent of the destruction that they've seen. We'll have some examples of their work in just a moment.



STEVENS: CNN has been receiving incredible images from our I- reporters in the quake zone. Some even managed to capture the first terrible moments of the quake. And they sent it to us, and we've been showing it to you. We put some of the very best sounds and images together, and we leave you this hour with a look.


HARRISON PAYTON, I-REPORTER: This is the biggest earthquake to date.

BRENT KOOI, I-REPORTER: We have earthquake right now. And this is actually moving. Can you see the cracks moving ? The crack is just moving. There is water. I don't know if water lines are broken. But this water was not there a minute ago.

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.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The blast at the Fukushima number one power plant occurred around three 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. The two pictures you are seeing at the moment are of the plant before the blast and after the blast. And in the lower one circled, you can see that some of the outer wall has fallen down.

YUKIO EDANO, JAPANESE CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY: I will repeat again, this was not caused by the nuclear reactor, and there was no harmful gas emitted by this explosion. And the radiation level has not changed since the explosion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The biggest problem right now we have is there is no food anywhere. All the convenience stores are closed. The grocery stores are closed. So everyone is on the road trying to find something open. And it's just gridlock everywhere.