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NEWS STREAM

Japan Remains In A Search And Rescue Mode; Reactors Continue To Be Hit With Near Meltdowns, Explosions

Aired March 14, 2011 - 08:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR, NEWS STREAM: I'm Kristi Lou Stout in Hong Kong. Welcome to NEWS STREAM and our special coverage of the devastation in Japan. Well, three days have passed since Japan was rocked by the biggest earthquake in its history and a devastating tsunami. The countless days, weeks, and months stand between the ravaged country and a full understanding of the damage it has endured.

You are looking at was once the bustling port in Sendai. It is easy to see why the official death toll, currently 1,833, is expected to rise rapidly. Now if containers like this, of this size, couldn't withstand the force of Friday's tsunami there is little hope to any people exposed to the wave.

Footage of the moment of the deluge arrived has lost none of its impact. Now on the bottom left-hand corner of your screen you can actually see residents there fleeing on foot from the torrent that is devouring their homes. And any force powerful enough to carry a bus onto the roof of a house, as you see right here, insures that rescue and recovery teams face a long and difficult task ahead.

And now there is another threat. One nuclear plant in Fukushima, three reactors have lost their cooling capabilities. Radiation fears remain.

Let's go first to Paula Hancocks in hard-hit Ishinomaki (ph) in Miyagi Prefecture.

Paula, is there any hope, it is now three days on, that rescue crews will find any more survivors?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kristie, a little earlier today we were at the hospital in Ishinomaki (ph) and there were patients coming in and they were being helicoptered in, but not necessarily survivors being found under the rubble. It is very cold here at night so certainly those that have been found surviving in the rubble in previous days have been treated for things like hypothermia as well as the obvious injuries that you would have if you had been trapped. But the fact that some of them had been submerged in water, in very cold water, for a certain amount of time, that is the sort of thing that they were being treated for.

Now, certainly the official line is that this is still a search and rescue operation. And that is what these search and rescue teams are doing. They are constantly going out, mainly in helicopters, to these more remote areas. The peninsula, for example, nearby here the Osheka (ph) Peninsula, which is really not accessible by road at this point, but rescue teams are still trying to get to that area. There have been local media reports that there could be up to 2,000 bodies in that particular region and the whole prefecture of Miyagi as a whole.

Now we understand that this city, there are parts of it that are very badly damaged, other parts which are doing pretty well and still functioning, although not much electricity through the water. Though we understand from local media that there have been about 100 bodies that washed up on the beach of this particular city, we weren't able to access that beach by road. Most of the area in this particular region, now, just have to be access by air, Kristie.

STOUT: Paula, correct me if I'm wrong here, but are you standing in front of a hospital? And if so, what kind of injuries are you seeing? And how well equipped is the hospital there?

HANCOCKS: Actually, where I'm standing at the moment is outside a middle school. This is doubling up now as a shelter. There is about- between 1,000 and 2,000 people inside at any given day. It sort of depends on the given day. But they are basically inside because they have no where else to go. This is where many people coming if their houses have been destroyed. But they have actually managed to survive the earthquake and then the tsunami. There is some food and water. And then, of course, the obvious shelter that those people who lost their homes so desperately need.

And certainly this is most welcome for those who are desperately looking for loved ones as well. They have walls of names, pieces of paper with names written on, which we have seen in many natural disasters in the past, showing who was in this particular establishment so that those people who are desperately looking for people know whether or not they can find them here. And throughout the past few hours that we have been here, there has been a stream of people coming in to look and scour through those names, Kristie.

STOUT: And how concerned are evacuees in the shelter behind you, as well as rescue crews, and yourself and your crew, about the nuclear threat? And possible radiation exposure?

HANCOCKS: It is interesting because not a single person that I have spoke to has even mentioned the word nuclear. The only thing that people here are concerned with at this time, is how do they get through? How do they get water? And how do they get through? These are the three things that are really difficult to come by. And even in those neighborhoods and cities that have been hard hit, the neighborhoods that are not hard hit, they still don't have these basic supplies.

So maybe no one seems to be openly talking about that added element of danger. It has really been the basic supplies and the immediate needs that people are focusing on now.

STOUT: All right. Paula Hancocks joining us live from a makeshift evacuation center there in the disaster zone. Thank you, Paula.

New problems at a nuclear plant at Fukushima are making people very nervous. Now fresh smoke filled the air earlier today, on Monday, after a hydrogen explosion. Now it blew the roof and walls off the building that contains the facility's No. 3 reactor. The blast injured six people. A similar explosion happened Saturday at reactor No. 1. Let's take a closer look at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. It has, in total, six reactors. Three of them have now lost their cooling capabilities. And workers have already been pouring seawater into reactors 1 and 3. Officials say that they are not injecting seawater into reactor No. 2, that is the latest one in trouble.

Authorities have tested more than 150 people for radiation exposure. And homes within a 20 kilometer radius of the plant have been evacuated. That is more than 200,000. But just how does a nuclear power plant work? James Acton of the Carnegie Endowment of International Peace, explains the process and the problems.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES ACTON, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INT'L. PEACE: A nuclear power plant is a little bit like a gigantic electric kettle. Its goal is to turn water into steam and then produce electricity from the steam. And just like an electric kettle when you turn off a nuclear power plant the element of the nuclear power plant, the radio active fuel stays hot and you have to cool that radioactive fuel.

Unfortunately, in the earthquake that occurred the power supplies, the external power supplies, to drive the pumps were cut. And also the onsite diesel generators were flooded by the tsunami. So that caused serious damage to the cooling system to keep the reactor cool. And as a result all of this heat produced by radioactivity is generated inside of the reactor and has been building up and building up. What they are trying to do at the moment is cool down the core of the reactor to prevent it melting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STOUT: Now Japan's nuclear regulators have said that there is a possibility that at least a partial meltdown has already occurred in two reactors. For more on the nuclear crisis let's bring in our Senior International Correspondent Stan Grant now. He joins us on the line from Tokyo.

And, Stan, there have been reports of exposed fuel rods at Fukushima's No. 2 reactor. What have you heard? And what is the real danger?

STAN GRANT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this appears to have taken place in the past couple of hours. Now most of the focus has been on reactors 1 and 3, but today reactor No. 2 also had its cooling system knocked out. And that has exposed the fuel rods there. Now they were pumping seawater into that reactor in an effort to cool it as well. But then, and this seems quite extraordinary, from where we sit here, the fuel in the pump, to pump the water into the reactor, ran out.

Apparently, according to local media here, that appears to be have been operational error. And at that point the water level dropped and the reactor, the fuel rod in the reactor was then exposed. So that was the situation. They got the pump working again and they have been pumping fuel back into the reactor.

Now, there was a news conference from the Tokyo Electric Company and the vice president there said the situation is now stabilizing and that the water is going in. Japanese media, though, reporting that because of the intense heat that has created a lot of steam. And that steam may need to be vented. It may need to be released into the atmosphere. And that, again, raises these concerns about radiation, residual radiation. We have seen that escaping with the venting of steam from the other reactors, however, the government has been very quick and nuclear officials here have been very quick to downplay the severity of that, saying it does not pose a risk to people's health. Despite the fact that they have evacuated 200,000 people and established this 20-kilometer, or this 12- or 13-mile exclusion zone.

So that is the situation now. Very much focused on reactor No. 2, and pouring more seawater into there, after its cooling system was also knocked out today, Kristie.

STOUT: OK, so government officials are downplaying the safety risk of the release of this radioactive steam. But what are third parties, what are experts saying about it? Is there no major public health threat here?

GRANT: Well, if you look and you hear what experts are saying about, you know, you really need to understand how the overall system works. Now, what happens in a situation like this, when you talk about overheating and a meltdown, is that of course enormous heat is produced inside reactor. Now, in a crisis like this, control rods are placed in there. And that absorbs the neutrons. It avoids the knock on affect here of the nuclear, you know, the whole nuclear chain reaction. So, they immediately absorb that.

If you imagine a fire, that douses the fire, what you are left with then, are the embers of the fire. Now inside the rod is a byproduct of the uranium. You produce cesium and iodine. They have been detected in the atmosphere, which would indicate some disintegration inside the rod itself, but only very small levels.

Now outside the rod itself, the outside core, there is also other radioactive material, also produced, but that is seen to be not as dangerous. So, when they release steam, what the officials here and what most analyst experts will tell you is that the steam that is released contains a radiation material, a radioactive material from outside the core, and that breaks down very quickly. In fact, what they have been saying in recent days is that the radiation level has dropped from its peak. It has been decreasing over the last couple of days, Kristie.

STOUT: This is very complicated science. Thank you very much for helping us make sense of it all. Stan Grant, joining us live from Tokyo there.

Now let's give you a better idea of exactly what the recovery teams are up against. The word "apocalyptic" may seem too strong, but there is probably no better way to describe this. This was the town of Imani Sanriku (ph), it was home to some 18,000 people. It is now effectively been erased. Half of its population has reportedly disappeared. The town quite literally torn apart.

Now the tsunami wasn't the only destructive force at play here. The preceding earthquake also did its fair share of damage. Just take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CRASHING SOUNDS, SIREN)

STOUT: The asphalt in the road just opening before your eyes there. Now that footage, it was shot by a TV crew caught up in Friday's chaos. We'll have a full account for you later in the hour.

Meanwhile the battle for control of Libya rages on, as rebels are forced to retreats again. We'll have the latest on that civil war, coming up. Plus, Japan copes with more aftershocks and another tsunami warning. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WEN JIABAO, PREMIER OF CHINA (through translator): I have a message I hope you will convey to the people of Japan. Japan was hit be a devastating quake three days ago. The quake has inflicted enormous life and property losses. We extend out deep condolences and express our sincere empathy to the Japanese people. China is also a country prone to earthquake disasters and we full empathize with how they feel now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STOUT: China's Premier Wen Jiabao offering his deep condolences to Japan. And China is also offering much needed help. Its 15-member rescue team arrived in Japan on Sunday. And crews from around the world are joining the relief effort in Japan. Now they are working to bring aid to parts of the country that were ravaged by the earthquake and tsunami on Friday. Sixty-nine governments in all have offered to help in the relief efforts. The U.K., China, and South Korea are among those that have offered aid.

And crews from the U.S. have already arrived with supplies, search and rescue teams, and radiation contamination specialists. They hope to deliver 30,000 rations of emergency food. That is according to Japanese media. Aid groups, including the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, Doctors Without Borders, and Save the Children, also have teams in place.

Now, CNN's Brian Todd is embedded with the search and rescue team in Japan and he was with them as they prepared to head out with aid he filed this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (On camera): We're getting started here in Misawa Air Base, for a push south to the City of Obanato (ph). We just found out that is where we are going. I'll show you on a map here. This is Misawa Air Base, where we are, pushing down south and back to the coast, Obanato (ph) here. , Sendai is down here. So Obanato (ph) right on the coast, we are told it was very hard hit. The Fairfax team just got its briefing. The LA team got its briefing. And over here is a group of British search and rescue personnel, who we are told we are going to be working alongside as well.

But the logistics here are just amazing. I mean, there is a lot of hurry up and wait, and some frustration to that, because there are just so many people, and just so much supplies, so much equipment to get on the road and down there. But they are moving as fast as they can.

Everything is being loaded up on palettes here. You can't see a lot of the equipment because it is in boxes. But you have jackhammers, heavy saws, listening equipment. K-9 teams are being readied to deploy. They are going to be a big part of this operation. Testing out one of the key pieces of equipment, this is the search camera, it is going to be lowered into the rubble to try to identify victims.

Search specialist Tom Griffin is with me.

Tom, show us first, how long this thing can extend?

TOM GRIFFIN, SEARCH SPECIALIST: It actually extends out about seven feet. We'll typically drill a hole or use an existing void hole to access the victim. The camera head has a light in it, which we can adjust the brightness of. It also has a microphone and a speaker in it, so we can speak to the victim and hear them. It gives us the ability to do--actually visually view the person, so that we know exactly where to start digging.

TODD: All these tons of equipment have to be hauled down to Obanato (ph), because these teams have to be self-contained for at least two weeks. Probably no water no, electricity, other capabilities are going to be very limited down there. These teams have to be able to operate 24/7 once they get to this very hard-hit city. We are on the way there now. These guys are very eager to get there and start extracting people from the rubble. They know they are racing against time at this point.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STOUT: And crews searching for the missing, they aren't just up against the clock. They are battling cold weather in Japan. Mari Ramos joins us from the World Weather Center.

Mari, it is now night time in Japan. It is cold. Electricity and power, many places nonexistent; tell us the weather there.

MARI RAMOS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, you know, it is going to depend on where people are located. Of course, the hardest hit areas, near Sendai, for example, Kristie, over night are going to be dipping to below freezing as we head few the next few days. Some 2 degrees, maybe 3 degrees below freezing. And it is going to be windy.

Right now, Sendai, not reporting. It has not been reporting since the earthquake happened. The airport, the reporting station, flooded by the tsunami, which gives you another example of just how many things were damaged by all of this. So there are no actual reports of air temperatures there. Other areas nearby, Yamagata, is right around 11 degrees. And the winds here have already turned to the north. And that is important, because this is an indication of what is to come.

As we head into Tokyo, about 14 degrees over night, you probably be dipping to around 9 degrees in Tokyo proper as you head into the outskirts and you head into the higher elevations and away from the water, the temperature will cool down dramatically, and maybe 3 or 4 degrees more. And overall, across Honshu, most of the areas that we are looking at with the rolling blackouts are going to see temperatures lower in the next couple of days than what they had a couple of days ago. So that is going to be significant. The winds have been generally out of the south. That begins to change. Not only will the wind be coming out of the north, that pulls in that cooler air-that colder air, I should say-but also a lot more moisture.

And that is going to bring us a chance, not just for rain, but for snow, Kristie, as we head some of those hardest-hit areas. And with more snow, the risk for avalanches in the mountainous terrain, also comes in. And it makes it more difficult for people to travel through those areas, including that rescue personnel.

Let me go ahead and show you one more thing before I go, because we've been talking quite a bit about the aftershocks. It is amazing. I've never seen anything like this. Hundreds of aftershocks across this area here, including this latest one right over there, that you see to the north that just happened within the last hour.

Something really important that I want to share with you is the forecast for aftershocks from the JMA, the Japanese Meteorological Agency, Kristie. They are saying that there is a chance to have a 5.0 aftershock, or higher, near the epicenter of the quake. Also extremely important is that the chance for aftershocks will be going down, at least for those stronger aftershocks. There is a 40 percent of that as we head through the day on Wednesday and as we head through the next three days. That would be reduced even further to about 20 percent. So at least that is a little bit of good news when it comes to this very strong quake. Back to you.

STOUT: Yes, that is a good seismic forecast, but still not out of the woods yet, by far. Mari Ramos there. Thank you very much indeed.

Up next, weary but resolute. And next on NEWS STREAM, stories of survival amid all the devastation in Japan. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STOUT: As Japan struggles to cope with a national tragedy there are remarkable stories of hope and survival. This 60-year-old man, he has been taken off the missing list. For Friday's earthquake he returned home with is wife to collect some of their belongings. But then the tsunami slammed into their home. Two days later rescuers found him clinging to the wreckage of his roof, having been swept some 15 kilometers out to sea. Quite sadly, there was no sign of his wife.

The impact of Japan's biggest recorded earthquake will continue to be felt for some time, with rolling power cuts, transport disruptions and food shortages. Take a look at this image. Dozens of people are waiting in line to buy food from a grocery store in Sendai, in Miyagi Prefecture on Monday.

Now, I want to take you back to Friday to help you understand the extreme challenge that recovery teams are facing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(TSUNAMI ROARING INLAND, PEOPLE SCREAMING, SHOUTING)

STOUT: This is the moment when the town of Miyako was hit by the tsunami. Again, remember these were waves. They were some 30-feet tall. Vehicles tossed around like toys, tumbling over the seawall. Now, the seawall, it was built to keep the ocean out of the city, ultimately it is completely powerless against that incredible wall of water.

More than 2,000 people are still missing across Northeastern Japan. And here is a first-person account from one young man, who could have very well been among them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ishikawa says he was pushed into a wave after his house collapsed. And he felt the crush of the water as he was sucked down. He says he managed to swim out of his house from the balcony. Ishikawa says he then grabbed hold of a submerged fishing boat that had been swept away. He was then able to get to the surface and look for something to hold onto. He then gripped onto the roof of a house.

He says he ripped his jacket but still managed to pull himself out onto the roof. His house began to float away and it approached a nursing home. He says fortunately there were still people inside the building. He says the people inside told him to try and break the window.

He says he thought of his family members and realized that he has to survive. He says he decided to do everything possible at that point, to stay alive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STOUT: And for someone else a tree and a floor mat became lifesavers. And this poor woman, who was washed away by the tsunami, and she told the Japanese state broadcaster NHK, how she managed to stay alive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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 says she had been washed away by the wave.

After 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 around 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STOUT: A story of survival and loss there. Now, CNN's Soledad O'Brien has spent much of the day in the city of Higashi, Matsushima, it is not far from Sendai. And the shear devastation is everywhere you look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (On camera): For people who have already lost absolutely everything, they have also to some degree lost their future. You can see along, this is Highway 45, just the massive amounts of debris behind these cars. And it goes back for a long way. And to my right, you can see the rice paddy fields. They have been flooded, they are full of debris and waste, and oil in some cases. One farmer said he doesn't expect they will be farmable for another three years. The fisherman have already lost their boats.

And if you come this way, the train tracks are still covered in debris and this Highway 45. No one has actually gotten this far down to start clearing. And until they are able to do that, really clear a good pathway, it is going to continue to slowdown supplies getting from here, where we are, about an hour outside of Sendai, all the way north where in some places the damage is even more severe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STOUT: Many eyewitnesses have shared their perspective from the quake zone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GABRIEL RODRIGUEZ, IREPORTER: I saw the same thing a few stops, a few lights back, and it was the same situation where 40, 50 cars lined up just waiting for gas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STOUT: iReporter Gabriel Rodriguez sent us this video of the long lines at a gas station in Yokohama, Japan. Now he's able to get his gas from a U.S. military base, but even there authorities have asked people to limit the amount that they use.

And here's another look at Friday's terrible earthquake. I reporter Kevin, he captured this moment from his office in Tokyo. You can clearly see the shaking there in the office and just everything falling to the ground there. Now even across the Pacific, the earthquake made an impact. Bill Fuller of McKinleyville, Califorinia. He capture images of a tsunami wave.\

You can also help CNN cover the story by sending an I report. Just send to CNN.com/ireport. And we also have an online map where you can see the impact of the earthquake and tsunami on Japan and the Pacific Rim. CNN, we're bringing you up to the minute updates. Our This Just In blog, it's our live blog, just go to cnn.com/thisjustin.

Now still to come, we will have more on Japan where we will be taking a looik at the risks posed by the country's nuclear power plants, including this one, where a third reactor is now having problems.

And we're also keeping a close eye on developments in Libya. And we'll bring you the latest live from Libya in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STOUT: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. You're watching News Stream. And these are your world headlines.

Now amid widespread devastation, the official death toll from Friday's major earthquake and tsunami in Japan has risen to more than 1800. More than 2300 people are still reported as missing in the northeast of the country while hundreds more bodies have reportedly been found along the coastline.

As recovery efforts continue, so do concerns over a nuclear plant in the disaster zone. Now three reactors at the Fukushima Daichi facility have lost their cooling capabilities.

In Libya, Colonel Moammar's Gadhafi's government is denouncing the Arab League for recommending a no-fly zone over the country to protect its civilian population. Libya's foreign ministry called the decision a flagrant action against its charter.

Now our Nic Robertson is in Tripoli. He joins us now live. And Nic, first an update on the fighting in eastern Libya. What is the state of play?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the state of play that we were able to see over the weekend, the government took us to Ben Jawad and Ra's Lanuf, two areas that had until recent days been under rebel control. At Ra's Lanuf, there was an intense fire burning at one of the oil storage tanks at the oil refinery facility there. Officials said the fault for that, the blame for that laid with the rebels.

Hard to tell when we were standing there late Saturday where the front line exactly was, but the government here now claims they're in control of the next town rolling eastwards. They've taken it from the rebels. The down of Brega, indeed on state television here. They've been playing live images, video that appears to be shot in the refinery at Brega with their reporter reporting seen live on camera interviewing a refinery official. So certainly the impression the government is creating here in Tripoli, and that is kind of reinforced across the country, is that it is now in control of Brega. Indeed, government officials say that they want to take the next town of Ajdabiya as well which would be the next step before Benghazi, although indications are that the government is not going to try a military offensive on Benghazi at this time. But it does seem to show that the government has been able to push the rebels further east.

What was interesting on our trip, however, is that we didn't see resupply columns rolling down the highway towards the front lines. No fuel trucks that you would imagine would be needed you'd be used to fuel tanks if they were part of the military campaign, no resupplies of food or ammunition or even additional troops flowing down that highway. And we drove on it for about 250 kilometers for about three hours and didn't see any resupplies heading towards the front line. So not clear how long that this advance can be sustained or exactly how these gains are being made on the ground, Kristie.

STOUT: The rebels are losing ground. Are they also losing morale as the pro-government forces apparently make these advances?

ROBERTSON: Well, there's certainly enough evidence to suggest from our reporters who are in the east of the country that the rebels feel that their being let down by the international community and there's a sense that their morale is going down because of that. They wanted to see a no- fly zone at a minimum to help lessen the Libyan military advance.

As we were driving down that highway, we did hear a couple of jets fly overhead flying from the west of the country to the east towards the front line. We didn't know what those jets were doing, but we couldn't certainly here them flying in.

And the no-fly zone is a big concern here in the capital. State television last night reported that Moammar Gadhafi met with ambassadors from Russia, from China and India. And what's significant about them? At least two of them have permanent seats on the UN Security Council. So if the UN were to sanction a no-fly zone, which NATO has said is something that it needs, clearly the Libyan leader here needs and feels the need to try and influence how that vote will go.

He's also said that western oil companies will lose out in Libya to the Russians and to the Chinese. So one doesn't know the context of what was discussed, but one could imagine in that context, perhaps the type of discussion that might have gone ahead with the Chinese and Russian and Indian ambassadors, Kristie.

STOUT: OK, Nic Robertson staying on this story for us live from Libya there in Tripoli. Thank you very much indeed.

Rescue and recovery efforts continue to be hampered by aftershocks from Friday's earthquake. Now scenes like this are unsurprising given that several of these aftershocks have been higher in magnitude than the fatal quake in New Zealand last month. That information comes from the U.S. Geological Survey who produced this map demonstrating just how many aftershocks have been felt and where.

Now most are understandably concentrated right here around the epicenter of Friday's earthquake. But take a look at this, magnitude 6 tremor hundreds of kilometers to the west right here off the city of Akita.

Now Kyung Lah is in one of the worst hit areas, the city of Sendai. She joins us now on the line. And Kyung, it is night time. It is cold. Electricity there is sporadic or nonexistent. How are people there keeping warm?

KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the rooms themselves have some generator heat. There is a generator here. It is working partially. But certainly it's nothing like actually being in a warm home, there's just a lot of blankets here, blankets that have been donated by the community. And everyone is kind of sleeping in very close proximity. So the near body heat is helping people keep warm. But that also is extraordinarily uncomfortable.

I mean, just imagine being in a classroom, a concrete classroom with 50 other people sleeping side by side. A lot of people may not even know. And that's what they're doing. So it's not the most comfortable of situations.

But when you stop and talk to some of these victims, they have such heart wrenching stories about having lost all of their homes. The seeing the mud and debris washing over their houses. But they'll also tell you in the same breath that they're alive.

Some of them also don't know exactly where their relatives are. There's a message board here. And on that message board you can see some people have written. I'm alive. I'm at this place. Here's my phone number. I think it may work. And then another message next to it. I'm looking for my mother. Have you seen her?

It's just tales and tales of people who have been affected by this earthquake and the tsunami. And here in Sendai along the coastal regions they've been so heavily impacted that they can't really even think beyond just hour by hour.

One man told me that he's simply numb. He can't even comprehend what to do tomorrow -- Kristie.

STOUT: You know sleeping side by side amongst strangers in evacuation shelter after experiencing so much devastation, so much loss. You mentioned the one man feeling numb right now. Is that the general mood among the people there? They're numb, simply stunned by what has happened to them?

LAH: That's a very apropos looking at it, yeah. They're absolutely stunned.

The man who I was telling you about who said that he was numb. He's so numb and so shell shocked that he has a three week old infant and this baby girl, he hasn't let go of. We've been here all day. He simply cannot put her down, because he just can't.

As he and his wife were fleeing from the tsunami, all he could do was clutch on to his child. And he kept repeating, I have to protect my children. I have to protect my children. And so what your seeing are people who are completely upended, not just in physical structure, but also mentally and emotionally.

STOUT: You're describing some pretty heartbreaking scenes there at the evacuation center. Kyung Lah joining us live from that shelter in Sendai.

From the very deep human impact that Kyung described just then to the financial one. This may be the most expensive earthquake in history. Now the disaster, what the prime minister is now calling Japan's worst crisis since World War II, may cost the country at least $100 billion. And the immediate impact was made clear when the markets opened in Japan this morning with investors sending the NIKKEI sharply lower.

Now World Business Today's Andrew Stevens joins us now. And Andrew, there was a major sell-up on the NIKKEI. Walk us through the overall economic impact.

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's just start with that number you were talking about there, Kristie, $100 billion. I've been hearing it could get up to anything like $170 billion for the economic restructuring. So the problem there is that this is going to cost a huge amount of money for the Japanese where the public finances are already strained.

So let's just take quickly a look at what happened today on the markets. Because what we saw was the NIKKEI down by about 6.2 percent as you see there. Big fall -- a bigger fall than we expected, the biggest fall you have to go back two years to the financial crisis with Lehman's...

STOUT: Lehman's Brothers, yeah.

STEVENS: Exactly -- to see those sort of falls.

The big losses here, not surprisingly, Toshiba Corp. makes nuclear reactors, Tokio Marine a big insurance company, Tokyo Electric, that's a tech co. They run the nuclear reactors, the ones that are at Fukushima. So big falls there.

And also the auto industry, this is interesting as well, because what we've been seeing is companies like Toyota now saying that they're going to completely halt production at least until the end of Wednesday. Honda is also saying it's going to halt production. We're not quite sure that's complete production halts, but certainly rolling halts for the next three or four weeks. Nissan also down by 10 percent. It hasn't made announcements yet, but obviously their car makers are really having to scale back on their production.

Now there were some gainers -- again, not surprisingly, these are the big construction companies. Kajima in particular up by 22 percent. They make earthquake proof building there.

And just quickly, the Bank of Japan came in today and said it was going to inject about $181 billion into the money markets to basically smooth out the banking system, make sure there are no glitches, because what we saw in the financial crisis was the banking system sort of seizing up which just shocked the entire financial system. Bank of Japan making sure that that sort of thing doesn't happen now by putting that money in.

STOUT: Yeah, but that rescue package is just adding to a debt load that was already huge in Japan. What will the events today in Japan mean for the broader markets?

STEVENS: Well, I think if you look -- the broader markets probably not so much, but let's just focus on the broader Japanese economy. Initially, the GDP -- economic growth, is going to be hit, no doubt about it. We're in the final months of the first quarter. The first quarter will be hit, probably the second quarter as well, because there's been this huge production stop, like this thing at Toyota. And also the rolling power black-outs.\

We don't know when this is going to end. This is an ongoing thing. So production -- industrial production is going to be hit. Twenty percent of Japan's economy is about exports, about manufacturing rather exports, but including exports. So that's obviously a big segment.

What I can say is the area that the tsunami hit most of all, those four prefectures in the north. That's only about 8 percent of the entire economic activity in Japan. So that's about Texas's value to the U.S. economy -- significant, but not really enough to drag it down sharply.

What happens after that? Well, you get the big reconstruction coming in, which will be a boost to the Japanese economy. But certainly short- term, it's going to take a hit.

STOUT: OK. Andrew Stevens, thank you very much for that wrap up there. And Andrew Stevens will be joining us again -- World Business Today at the top of the hour.

Now a question, will other countries reexamine their position on nuclear power after the disaster in Japan? We'll be putting the spotlight on safety issues next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STOUT: We have seen some incredible and truly heartbreaking images coming out of Japan, each sometimes more stunning than the last. Now this is another of those moments. Caught on tape outside the Japanese city of Miyagi. And we'll let you watch as the tsunami comes ashore. And those who reach higher ground watched as their town below was washed away. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tsunami waves come up the elevation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STOUT: Incredible new video from our affiliate NHK. You can clearly hear the screams from the onlookers and that carpet of black sludge, the tsunami, roaring in and pushing aside their homes, overtaking their entire city. Incredible video there.

Now about 65 kilometers south of Sendai, workers are desperately trying to cool three reactors at the Daichi Nuclear Plant. Earlier today, a hydrogen explosion injured six people there. And it is the second such incident since Saturday. The International Atomic Energy Agency is closely monitoring the situation and is using Facebook to provide the latest information about what is happening in Fukushima and other nuclear power plants in Japan.

Now those problems put nuclear safety front and center. And our senior international correspondent Matthew Chance is standing by CNN Moscow. And Matthew, we are hearing reports of exposed fuel rods and another explosion at the Fukushima power plant. So just how concerned are officials there at the IAEA?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're obviously pretty concerned. They've got people on the ground who are looking for themselves at the situation. They're also in close contract with the Japanese nuclear authorities trying to sift through the information they're getting from there, verifying it themselves, then passing on through various channels. You mentioned Facebook and Twitter as being some of the vehicles they're using to get that information across to much of the world, of course, that is very concerned themselves about the environmental impact, about the possible contamination coming from these reactors that are causing so many problems in Japan.

They're not necessarily the first with information, but the information they do have, they say, has been verified by their own teams of experts both on the ground and at their headquarters in Vienna.

The latest statement basically talks about confirming a third explosion -- a second explosion, rather, took place at the Fukushima reactor at 11:00 in the morning local time, so it's some times has past now since that happened. But they do confirm that as the Japanese authorities said that this was caused by a build up of hydrogen gas, not in the reactor core, but in the reactor building which is less series. The vessel that contains the actual nuclear fuel, according to experts at the IAEA has not been damaged by that, so that's a good thing. It would have been much more catastrophic like it had been. The IAEA does, though, say that the six people were injured in that explosion.

There's a lot of concern about, again, the levels of contamination a round the Fukushima plant and other plants that may be affected as well. At the moment, the IAEA are saying that according to the readings that they've been taken and according to the information they've been getting from the Japanese officials on the ground, radiation levels despite the fact that there's been so many problems around the reactors, are staying relatively normal, Kristie.

STOUT: Crisis averted, or is there a possibility of a Chernobyl style disaster at the Fukushima plant in Japan?

CHANCE: Well, that's the big fear, isn't it, of course. But I think they're giving -- the experts that have been speaking on this with some authority, there are big differences between what happened in Chernobyl back in 1986 and what's underway at the moment at these reactors in Japan.

First of all, the reactor in Chernobyl malfunctioned and couldn't be shut down. And so there was this enormous explosion in the reactor core that literally sent chunks of radioactive material flying across into the surrounding areas contaminating large areas of territory and also producing this huge plume of black smoke that drifted all over western and central Europe and so caused enormous contamination. We've not see that happen in Japan. Of course, the reactors have been effectively been shut down. And so relatively speaking, they're in a much safer condition than Chernobyl ever was in.

But of course the problem in Japan is keeping the elements, the radioactive fuel elements, the rods, in a cool condition. We've had all these reports of the coolant not being available, the cooling systems breaking down. That means that these radioactive fuel rods could be exposed to the air. And so it's that kind of contamination that's causing the concern at the moment, Kristie.

STOUT: OK. Matthew Chance joining us live from Moscow. Thank you very much indeed.

You're watching News Stream. We'll be back right after the break.

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STOUT: Every time you think you've seen the definitive footage of the disaster another jaw dropping image appears. Now little conveys the sheer force of the tsunami better than this, a bus sitting on top of a building. Few people could withstand a torrent capable of something like this. And at least 2000, perhaps many, many more remain missing after three days, three days since the quake.

Now we have seen the images, now lets hear the voices of the aftermath of the Japanese quake and tsunami. And these are just a few of those who have lost family, but have survived the quake themselves.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He says he thought of his family members and realized he has to survive. He says he decided to do everything possible at that point to stay alive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): My wife is missing. She was at work near the airport. I know where my children are, but my wife has not been found yet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I managed to survive, but my daughter was washed away. I don't know what to say. I hope my daughter is still alive somewhere.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STOUT: Those are the faces and stories of grief. And for days one of the most popular discussions on social media sites like Twitter has been this one, is the hashtag pray for Japan. And people are posting links to donation sights to send money to the relief effort. And someone has translated some of the messages that are written in Japanese. Now Tweets like this one, they offer words of encouragement. And the post wrote this, again translated from the Japanese, "my two year old was putting his shoes on himself saying I'm going to arrest the earthquake. I realized that inside that tiny boy there's a lot of courage and justice."

And there are also personal accounts from the disaster zone like this one, "the traffic so busy only one car can go across a traffic light per one light, but I was moved to see people drive gently with giving their way."

And here's another one spoken in the wake of this colossal disaster in Japan. "Last night when I walked back to home from campus a female baker gave us bread for free, even if she has already closed the store."

Now that is News Stream. And thank you for watching. The news continues at CNN. World Business Today is next with more on the economic fall-out from the disaster in Japan.

END