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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Monster Quake Devastates Japan; Crisis in Libya
Aired March 11, 2011 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again. We're going to have some important and late developments to bring you tonight in the battle for Libya including an attack on our team in Tripoli by government thugs.
But we begin, of course, with the breaking news, the devastation in northeastern Japan. New video in from the quake zone, this was shot in Ofunato, a small coastal city north of Sendai. The fact is so many of the landmarks that you look for to orient yourself are either knocked down or washed away or stacked up in mountains of wreckage.
Late reports now of 215,000 people in emergency shelters.
And now, in addition to the destruction, a nuclear emergency. Several badly damaged power station reactors with serious cooling problems, pressure building, reports of radiation venting now at two of them.
We're going to talk to a woman whose husband was in the plant when all of it began. All of it and everything else the result of the fifth largest quake in recorded history, just offshore followed by this, just a remarkable fast-moving terrifying wave. It turned everything in its path even miles inland into rubble.
This is what it looked like as it made landfall in the port of Rikuzen-Takata. You can see it's not just seawater. There's debris, cars, trucks, even small houses being swept along, battering everything in its path; the tsunami reaching all the way to the American West Coast where several people were swept out to sea. Magnitude 8.9 was the quake according to the U.S. Geological Survey. That's hundreds of times stronger than the one that leveled Port-au- Prince.
And Japan is probably the best prepared country in the world for earthquakes but nothing, nothing prepares anyone for something like this. We should say it's impossible to get a full picture of the disaster, either in a single report or in several.
But we thought we would try to give you a better sense of it by putting it together in sequence from the beginning. Watch.
COOPER (voice-over): At 2:46 p.m. local time, an 8.9 magnitude earthquake strikes off the east coast of Japan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God. The building is going to fall.
COOPER: It's the most powerful earthquake recorded in the country's history. The fifth most powerful ever recorded in the world. Its shockwave churns out walls of water up to 30 feet, traveling up to a mind-boggling 500 miles an hour. A tsunami bears down on Japan's coast in minutes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like that tsunami wave is moving upstream rapidly. And we're still seeing large tsunamis moving and hitting the area of Sendai. That tsunami obviously is going to hit the coastal areas as we speak. We do not know the extent of the damage at this time, but obviously a huge tsunami.
COOPER: Within just 30 minutes of the earthquake, the tsunami crashes ashore.
Homes are swallowed in an instant. Water roars six miles inland, devouring everything in its path.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tsunami has already engulfed some cities, fires breaking out due to the earthquake.
COOPER: Cars are tossed about. We still don't know if passengers got out before the tsunami hit.
Just offshore, a giant vortex of ocean currents looks like something from science fiction, but it's all too real. The airport in Sendai, closest to the earthquake's epicenter, is now like much of the city, under water. People stranded on its roof.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it looks like the Sendai airport almost completely flooded.
COOPER: Oil refineries erupt in flames.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, it just blew up. This is crazy.
It happened again.
COOPER: Two nuclear power plants just 150 miles from Tokyo, declare a state of emergency after they lack power to cool their reactors.
JANIE EUDY, WIFE OF NUCLEAR PLANT WORKER (via telephone): Everything was shaking and next thing they were told is get out, leave, evacuate.
COOPER: Thousands are feared dead. Many more are trapped. As the death toll rises along with the numbers of missing, an excruciatingly long night leads to daylight and the full horror of the destruction the tsunami has left in its wake.
COOPER: And it's just past 1:00 in the afternoon. Again, we're just getting information in and kind of drips and drabs and we'll have that all throughout this hour.
I want to talk more on the nuclear plants. Word tonight of a second damaged power station venting radiation into the atmosphere and the evacuation zone has been expanded to six miles outside the first damaged plant, tremors apparently doing damage to the cooling system in one or more of the reactors.
The reactors are shut down but they are very hot and is causing a dangerous pressure build-up inside the reactor core, which makes it necessary to vent radioactive steam to try to bring that pressure down.
A few moments ago I spoke with Janie Eudy. I spoke to her actually about an hour a half ago. Her husband, Danny, works at the plant. He's now missing and the scene he described was terrifying.
COOPER: So Janie, when was the last time you talked to your husband, Danny?
EUDY: That was at 6:47 this morning, our time.
COOPER: You haven't heard any word from him since then?
EUDY: No, not a word. I've been sitting by the phone patiently waiting to hear from him. The 12-hour time is up, I thought. And I was looking to maybe get a call, if they could get any type of communication at daybreak; but nothing, nothing yet.
COOPER: Where was he when the quake hit?
EUDY: He was at Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant.
COOPER: He was inside the plant working there?
COOPER: And -- and what did he say it was like? When he -- I know he got one call through to you. What did he say happened?
EUDY: It's -- the quake hit. It was -- they -- they're used to the quakes, but this one was different. It was hard. It was just shaking the building. They -- they knew this was different. It's something they've never experienced before; even the local people who work and live there were getting scared, starting to panic. They called to evacuate.
Though, when the -- the light, the buildings were shaking, the lights were falling from the ceiling. He -- he said glass was going everywhere. They had the -- the insulation, the duct work, everything was falling and coming down. Very dangerous.
They had the big cranes were starting to sway. They knew it was a dangerous situation. They called for evacuation to get them out.
They were leaving to go outside where it's safer to get from anything to falling on them. He had to go through -- a lot of them had changed, which they -- they change suits, and they weren't totally in their dress attire to go out yet. That was why he was going through -- he said they were just running, running out as fast as they could.
COOPER: So people were running out even not fully-clothed just whatever they had.
EUDY: Whatever they had, just get out and grabbing who they could to go with them. He went through glass. He -- he told me he cut his feet. I don't know how bad; but it kind of slowed him down. And that's -- that's when he told me that was -- that that's a good thing, because with him slowing down like that, the little bit of time it took, it kept him from getting the -- the time frame for being right in the path of the tsunami.
COOPER: So he actually saw the wave of water coming?
EUDY: Right. The way he explained to me, it was -- he said 30 or more feet high. He said it was just this mass wall of water sweeping, he said it's just everything in its path. And he said that's what makes -- he said it makes you feel like you're -- how small you are on this earth when that powerful go -- something that powerful goes by. He said it was pushing anything and everything out of its way like it was nothing into the ocean.
COOPER: And the little town that -- that that he was in is basically destroyed?
EUDY: Basically the way he explained, it is -- it's not a little town anymore. What they were -- you know, that's where they were heading to the Tomioka (ph) which was a little town they were staying in. The hotel, that's where they were all going together for the safe place. And they didn't know what had happened until they got there, they -- and he said getting there was a -- was a problem, because the roads, they lost a lot of the roads, a lot of cave-ins. The grounds had split, cars had fallen into the cracks.
COOPER: So the hotel he's staying at has been destroyed. I understand they grabbed some blankets, because as you said some of them didn't even have clothes or shoes.
COOPER: And when -- and when you actually talked to him, where was he?
EUDY: He was outside of the hotel Tomioka. He said they were going for higher ground. The ground was still shaking. They had a -- a -- it sounded like a smaller van is what they were leaving in. So they were going to higher ground to get -- because they could hear the wind starting to blow. They -- they felt like the water, the wave was coming back. Then the rumbling sound, I could hear it over the phone so loud. It's like, he said it's another -- it's another quake, and then it just kept roaring. He said the ground was shaking under my feet.
COOPER: And what a lot of people don't realize is it's -- it's cold there. I mean, it -- it was snowing I understand you said.
EUDY: It's freezing. It's snowing. And I was worried about that part by not having proper clothing. And where he -- where they had to stay I don't know.
I was told they found them. They were accounted for, but I still don't know where he's at. I --
COOPER: This has got to be a nightmare for you waiting.
EUDY: Just waiting to hear, and the more I hear on the news is that they're having problems with two more nuclear plants. So now what? What are -- what are we facing now?
It's just one after another, another. It's like -- they won't tell me where he's at and I -- I can't speak to him again. They just say he's safe, and if -- if you all have got ground people or anything that could -- they find them or whatever, let them know -- let him know we are trying to get him home the best we can.
COOPER: Well let -- let me just say, we're -- we're trying to get people to the region, and obviously if we encounter Danny, you know, we'll -- we'll pass along a message. If -- if -- it's possible CNN is seen widely in Japan. If you want to send a message to him now in case he happens to be watching this, feel free.
EUDY: Danny, we are looking for you. We will do whatever it takes if we can -- we will -- we will -- whatever it takes we -- we won't stop. We are trying to get you home. We're trying to get all of you home. And be assured we will not quit. We will keep after this hour after hour.
If you can in any way, call. Let some family member know that you all are OK. Call anybody.
That's the message. And we love him. We're sending our prayers. We want him home.
COOPER: Well, we -- we'll -- we'll pray along with you and -- and I said we're trying to get people there as fast as possible. Janie, stay positive.
EUDY: I know there's a lot of people in need. It's just the not knowing is the sitting, the waiting, the not knowing.
COOPER: Yes. Well, stay strong and we'll be in touch with you.
EUDY: Thank you so much. (END VIDEOTAPE)
COOPER: Well, we're hearing from people who live in Japan when the quake hit. It didn't take long for them to realize this was different from what -- other quakes they had experienced. It was stronger, went on longer.
Matt Alt is an American living in Tokyo. I spoke to him earlier tonight, as well.
COOPER: So Matt, where were you when the earthquake hit?
MATT ALT, AMERICAN LIVING IN TOKYO: Well, I live out on the west side of Tokyo. And I was in my home when it hit. And we knew almost immediately that this was something different from the usual tremors that we had experienced up until now.
COOPER: How did you know it was different, because it went -- it -- it went on so long?
ALT: Yes, absolutely, the duration of it about five to ten seconds into it, when it didn't ease up. Usually earthquakes in Japan are quick shift or a quick jump and then it's over. And this time it was just a sustained rolling sensation, waves washing over the ground. We literally could not stand on our feet at the peak of it. We had to hold on, of the outside of the building and then eventually ball up and climb -- and crouch down to avoid being swept off our feet.
COOPER: And so you really felt there was a time where you were going to be taken off your feet?
ALT: Oh absolutely. It was like a sensation of extended vertigo if you ever felt that. It was -- the closest -- the closest way I could think to describe is it was like being on a skateboard on a -- on a carnival ride. You literally could not stand on your own two feet.
COOPER: What was the scariest point?
ALT: Well, the scariest point, I think, was not knowing when it was going to end. Because this -- it's an earthquake, it's not a ride. You don't know when it's going to stop.
And as I said before, usually these things end pretty quickly. So going on one minute, two minutes, about to an extend I was thinking to myself, you know, my wife and I, we were in a safe place here, but I know, I just know when it goes on this long that there's going to be casualties, there's going to be injuries elsewhere in the country where people are less fortunate.
COOPER: Have you been able to get in touch with your friends and your families?
ALT: We -- just a few minutes ago, I finally re-established contact with a friend of mine who lives on the coastline a little bit south of here. And he was fine. He and his wife and his child were fine.
But there is very little information coming out of the far northern reaches of Japan right now, especially up around the city of Sendai, which is a very major city. And there's just very little information coming out right now. Their current casualty count is 1,000 people and counting but people believe it's going to grow much higher on the days to come.
COOPER: Are you still feeling aftershocks?
ALT: Yes, definitely.
Last night when I was trying to sleep after everything had happened, we felt two to three large aftershocks, waking us both up, my wife and I up. And it was very difficult to sleep.
And actually right now I can feel a very small tremor again. They're telling us it's going to continue for at least another month.
COOPER: What does that feel like? You're feeling a tremor right now, what does that feel like?
ALT: It feels like the entire room is shifting. Have you ever seen like an ant farm and shaken it and you see the little ants inside and getting knocked around, that's what it feels like as a human. It's almost like the hand of God coming down and just shaking you.
With these smaller tremors, it's just a little bit of unsteadiness on your feet. With the larger ones, it is almost apocalyptic.
COOPER: Well, it's just unbelievable, it's hard to comprehend. Matt Alt, I appreciate your time. Thanks, Matt.
ALT: Thank you.
COOPER: Stay safe.
COOPER: Well, 360 is going to be there on the ground to report on the rescue and the recovery. I'm traveling to Japan. I've literally got to leave right now to finish packing and getting supplies, so I'm going to hand the rest of the broadcast over to Isha Sesay -- Isha.
ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson thanks and safe travels.
Up next, what made this quake so punishing and how do tsunamis form? Details from a leading seismologist and our very own Chad Myers. Also minute by minute as the wave of destruction went mile after mile inland.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tsunami has already engulfed some cities, fires breaking out due to the earthquake in northeastern Japan's Iwate Prefecture. Tsunami waves of over four meters were observed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Well as if the (INAUDIBLE) earthquake weren't enough the tsunami that formed picked up everything in its path. Look at this video with me, images of cars being tossed around, just added to the destruction there in Eastern Japan.
I want to bring in CNN's Chad Myers now to help us understand more about the tsunami.
Chad, we've seen the destruction the tsunami caused there in Japan. But give us some sense of the impact felt across the Pacific, starting with the U.S.
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, the U.S. we found the biggest wave in Crescent City, California, at eight feet. Now, that was on the mainland, there was about a nine-footer in Lahaina (ph) and that was in Hawaii.
But an eight-foot wave is not from the top to the bottom. It's actually a 16-foot surge from top to bottom because it's eight up and eight down, so it's the eight-foot wave came into Crescent City, an eight-foot deficit went out and then back in and out four times before that wave finally stopped.
And the reason why it was only that eight feet and not as damaging is we have to understand the proximity to Japan here. It was only 45 miles, and that only took like five or minutes ten minutes for that wave to get here.
You have to think about that and now move this out of the way and consider how far it is from the wave to the U.S., thousands of miles. So the wave isn't focused like it would be very close to shore. Like Banda Ache (ph) back there six years ago, how close that was to the shore.
If you spread that wave out over many, many hours and thousands of miles, all of a sudden what was a very large wave close to the earthquake has now become a smaller wave because of friction, for one thing, but also because the wave is farther and farther out. The size gets smaller top to bottom as the width gets bigger. It just kind of goes that way -- Isha.
SESAY: And -- and Chad, we know that this earthquake at 8.9 is one of the largest ever recorded. Give us some perspective on the scale of the tsunami that was the result.
MYERS: Well, it was so large, because of the way the earth's crust works. Think about Japan being over here. And this is the Pacific plate over here. During this tsunami, because it was so very close, it didn't have any time to attenuate or to get slower or to get smaller. It crashed on shore immediately.
What happened was that the Pacific plate was pushing down on the plate that's near Japan. And believe it or not, you have to go to the USGS to kind of figure out why. The plate over Japan is called the North American plate. And you think how can that be? Because it kind of goes all the way around from Alaska all the way back down to Japan.
Well, as it pushes underneath, it popped up; the waves -- because the earth literally is pushed up from the bottom of the crust of the earth and that pushing up of the crust moves water. That moving water becomes the wave and that wave spreads out from where it was. The Pacific plate compared to the Japanese plate, which is really the North American plate, moves at 92 millimeters a year. That's about three inches.
So the plate here moves into the Japanese plate here about three inches every year. Eventually there's going to be too much stress, and that stress today released. It released as a very large and powerful earthquake, the largest ever recorded in history. The biggest quake close to this was 300 years ago and Mt. Fuji erupted 35 days later.
Well, that's not foreshadowing of volcanic eruption but that's how long it's been since that big a quake in Japan -- Isha.
SESAY: Some important insight, Chad Myers, appreciate it.
Stick around for us because I want to bring in Jim Gaherty now, he's a seismologist at Columbia University at LaMont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Thanks so much for joining us.
Chad talked a little bit about how tsunamis are created. Talk to us a little bit more about that, and the system that's in place to detect these things before they -- they hit.
JIM GAHERTY, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, LAMONT-DOHERTY EARTH OBSERVATORY: Sure. So -- so in general tsunamis are created when we have these earthquakes that occur predominantly earthquakes that occur in this subduction zone type of environment where one plate pushes beneath another one. And as -- as Chad was explaining basically the stress builds up on -- on the overriding plate, pushes it down, and then it releases very rapidly and dramatically and -- and pushes back against the water above it and -- and produces these waves.
The -- the reason these kinds of faults are so susceptible to tsunamis is -- is in general they tend to have very large stresses associated with them, and so the displacement can be very large. And also they -- they're tend to be the kinds of faults they often find under water just off the coastline.
And so they are, generally speaking, are going to be the -- the kinds of earthquakes that produce these big kinds of tsunamis.
SESAY: Now, I know that Japan has a very, very sophisticated seismic sensor system and a tsunami warning system. How well did it work in this -- on this occasion? GAHERTY: So the -- the seismic sensor system is really to -- we put seismometers, motion detectors that we can put on land all over the globe really, and very rapidly the -- the energy that emits from the earthquake comes out through the hard rock of the -- of the earth. It travels very, very rapidly and are detected on those sensors. And we can often quite quickly get an estimate of the location of an event and an estimate of its size.
And so in places like Japan where they have early warning systems put into place, they can make use of that information very quickly and within seconds literally after an earthquake occurs start to get a handle on the fact that there may be a lot of damage associated with that earthquake.
If it happens to be in a place where it's offshore they also then can -- can very quickly try to make an estimate of whether there's the likelihood of a tsunami from that earthquake.
SESAY: And now Jim, one -- one last thing that I want to bring up with you, the fact that we're seeing scores of aftershocks, some very, very powerful, measuring over six on the Richter scale. Does that mean that there's a likelihood that we could see more tsunamis hit coastal Japan?
GAHERTY: So there's always -- there is always the chance that in general aftershocks, they -- there's kind of a rule of thumb that they tend to be on the order of about -- about a factor of ten smaller than the main shock would be the largest aftershock.
And -- and really to generate a large damaging tsunami, you really do need an event that's a magnitude 8.5 to a magnitude 9. Those tend to be the kinds of events that can produce the types of really damaging tsunamis like we saw today.
Smaller events do produces a tsunami but they often are only a few centimeters in height and they'll -- they'll often pass by mostly unnoticed by -- by most of the population.
So in -- so I think roughly speaking, we would not expect necessarily a lot of tsunami activity associated with the aftershock activity. But you never can be sure. There -- there always can be additional events that that -- that can follow up and be produced by these -- these stresses associated with these large events.
SESAY: Jim I know that Chad Myers wants to jump in. He has a question for you. Chad, go ahead.
MYERS: Eliot Spitzer asked me a question earlier that I couldn't answer. And I don't like questions that I can't answer. So I'm going to ask you.
Is there any way to estimate how far the land literally was thrust upward by this wave, by this -- by this earthquake? Was it five feet, ten feet, did it thrust upward, I don't know, 30 feet? Is there any way to tell that? GAHERTY: Absolutely. So there's -- I mean, there's -- there are around Japan a number of very good instruments. They are basically they're GPS instruments and they measure the position very accurately of each of those sites. And so those scientists I know right now are -- are trying to -- very quickly analyze that data to get a handle on -- on the amount of displacement that the surface itself underwent in response to -- to -- to the -- to the earthquake itself.
And I think some initial reports that I heard today were actually from -- from many tens of kilometers away from the epicenter there were meters of displacement.
GAHERTY: And so that's -- that's a very large number; it clearly was a very large surface displacement associated with this event.
MYERS: All right, thank you.
SESAY: Chad Myers and Jim Gaherty, my thanks to you both; some great perspective there.
Now there are some truly amazing sights and sounds of the quake and the tsunami right as they were happening. People grabbed their cameras inside office buildings and grocery stores, capturing some incredible images; and some of the most terrifying video is of houses and cars just being swept away as the tsunami moved in.
We're going to show you some of the most compelling moments as this disaster unfolded. Stay with us.
SESAY: It's been almost 24 hours since the massive earthquake hit, and the aftershocks continue in Japan. When the quake started, witnesses we talked to say they knew it was a big one. It started at 2:46 p.m. local time, and across the country, people in grocery stores and office buildings grabbed their cameras and documented what we now know is the strongest earthquake that has ever hit Japan.
Here's some of the sights and sounds they captured.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN MCDONALD, EARTHQUAKE EYEWITNESS: It is still going. Oh, my God, the building's going to fall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Truly frightening. Well, because the quake struck offshore, it triggered a powerful tsunami. But before we show you the big picture of that, I just want to play you some new video of a tiny episode.
A city street and around the corner down the block comes a small fishing boat. I don't know how well you can see it, but it appears there's somebody at the helm. Backwards down a city street in a boat -- a serene moment, almost, barely, in the middle of a catastrophe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Major earthquake hitting Japan on Friday afternoon. Japan's meteorological agency says the quake measured 8.4. The agency has issued a tsunami warning for Japan's Pacific Coast.
That tsunami obviously engulfing some areas in Miyagi Prefecture; this we are seeing from our live helicopter coverage in Sendai in northeastern Japan's Iwate Prefecture.
The tsunami waves are over four soon after the quake. The agency is warning the tsunami could reach between six to ten meters. Japan's meteorological agency has revised the magnitude of 8.4 from 7.9, the largest earthquake since the great Honshu earth back in 1995. During that time the tsunami -- during that time the earthquake was the size of 7 on the Japanese seismic scale of 0 to 7. It is the same highest level, 7 on the Japanese seismic scale of 0 to 7.
Obviously you can see from this live coverage from our helicopter in Miyagi Prefecture, Sendai, Japan, a big part of that area has been flooded from the tsunami.
The Pacific Warning Tsunami Center has issued a tsunami warning not just for Japan; once again, for Russia as well, Marcus Island, Northern Marianas, Guam, Wake Island and Taiwan. For those of you living near the coast or are near the coast, please move to higher ground as soon as possible.
Another tsunami is hitting Miyagi Prefecture, Sendai in Japan. It looks like that tsunami wave is moving upstream rapidly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Well, Japan's earthquake is the biggest story in the world tonight but we haven't forgotten about Libya.
Coming up, the very latest: including a promise from Gadhafi's son to crush the opposition. CNN's Ben Wedeman says that opposition is all but falling apart in Ras Lanuf. That's next.
SESAY: The devastation in Japan is certain to take some of the world's attention off the civil war in Libya. But this program is committed to continue reporting on what's happening there.
Tonight, opposition fighters in Libya are retreating to the Eastern part of the country that they still hold. And it appears that Colonel Moammar Gadhafi's well-armed forces are on the move after them. Gadhafi's son, Seif, vowed to crush the opposition.
And today, Gadhafi's troops pounded the key oil port city of Ras Lanuf, routing the opposition that controlled it. CNN's Ben Wedeman reports that Gadhafi's forces bombarded the city and set part of an oil refinery on fire. Well, despite mounting international pressure against the regime, the Gadhafis are vowing to retake all territory held by the opposition. Yesterday, they launched a violent assault to oust opposition fighters from Zawiya.
Today, our Nic Robertson was there as Gadhafi supporters celebrated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Well, this is completely the reverse of what we saw here about two weeks ago. This square was full of government opposition. Now it's filled with gunfire, blaring horns and the government celebrating victory. More gunfire going off.
But here's the truth. Here's what happened here. Look at the trees over here. Look at the devastation. Look at the destruction here. This is what the government wants us to see, these people celebrating their victory here.
But this is the truth about what happened in Zawiya: tank tracks through the park in the middle of the city. This had been turned into an impromptu graveyard by the government opposition.
And over here you can see the scale of the destruction, and you can see, as well, more green-flag-waving supporters of Moammar Gadhafi being trucked in so they can show us they've got control.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Earlier tonight, Anderson spoke to Nic Robertson and our very own Ben Wedeman.
COOPER: Ben, what's the latest from Ras Lanuf?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What we've seen, Anderson, is that the opposition forces are really beginning to fall apart, fall away from Ras Lanuf.
We were on the outskirts of the city, because they no longer allow the media inside the town. But we saw the town getting pummeled for hours by artillery, by what appeared to be mortar or rocket fire.
We saw airplanes flying overhead. One of them flew over the refinery, and just minutes later, the refinery, there was a huge plume of black smoke coming out of it.
You definitely get the sense that they're losing confidence in their ability to stand up against the forces of Moammar Gadhafi, who obviously outgunned them by several factors. They're moving further back towards the east, and there's a sense that there's a possibility that this offensive that's been begun by the forces of Tripoli could start moving steadily eastward in the direction of Benghazi. COOPER: Nic, I understand you and your team got roughed up today by government thugs. What happened?
ROBERTSON: Well, this was a pretty organized campaign by the government. As you know, they don't let us go to some places, even though we've been told we're here, we're free to go where we want, when we want, talk to whom we want.
But the reality is different. There were no government officials to go out with us, when we wanted to go to Friday prayers today, which was a week ago today. That's when the protesters were fired upon with -- by the police with tear gas. And boy, we wanted to go out there today.
A lot of journalists headed to the east of the city here, and we got out there. We were barely on the street, talking to a couple of guys at the side of the road in the entrance to a building and two cars pulled up. A couple of guys got out with AK-47s and motioned for us to get into the car. Producer, Tommy Evans was kicked as he was dragged out of a car. We were pushed into a car, our phones taken away.
And this was so well planned and coordinated. They knew exactly who to call, because they knew they were after journalists. This just wasn't random. They didn't happen upon us. They were planning to get us off the streets and grab us off the streets.
By the time we got back to the hotel, several dozen journalists, we found out, had all been picked up in the same area. This was a government not only stopping protesters getting out, but making a controlled, concerted effort with government, I guess, security forces. They're plain clothes guys with AK-47s, making sure we didn't get the story.
Of course, what they say is they're worried that if we're there then people will protest. The protesters feel -- when we talk to them, that they feel safer when we're around there -- Anderson.
COOPER: And even though journalists were there present last Friday after prayers and people did incredibly, bravely go out in protest, nevertheless government forces shot at them, even though journalists were present.
The regime, Nic, also took you to Zawiya today, which is the city that has now fallen, which last report we had from another journalist who was there, is they were desperately trying to clean up the evidence of what -- of what other journalists had called a massacre. What did you see?
ROBERTSON: Well, Bill Neely from ITN, who you talked to yesterday, described it as a mix between a massive IRA bomb blast, a tank battle, and an artillery barrage. His analysis and description couldn't have been better. That's exactly what it looked like. And the destruction was so bad, there's no way the government could clear all this up. They've managed to take away some of the destroyed vehicles. What they've done to cover up this tank fire that had gone on, blasting at rebels in the building. We know that happened because I talk to a soldier, and he told me that they used tanks to blast at the building where the rebels were. They'd hung these big white and green drapes down the side of the building, seven stories of them, anchored by rocks on the ground to try and sort of cover up the destruction there. But of course, you can't cover up destruction like that.
We know we found one very forlorn sign, a poster that the protestors had had out there on the square a couple of weeks before, and it said, "We will overcome." And they were wrong. They were overcome by the government forces.
The other thing we've heard from the government tonight, Anderson, is that they're going to take us -- they say they now feel confident as the rebels lose confidence in the east, as Ben is telling us here, the government said it's going to take us to Ras Lanuf tomorrow. That's how confident they feel.
Of course, if they do, we'll believe it when we see it. We've heard this before. But this is how confident they're feeling in the east now -- Anderson.
COOPER: Ben, Seif Gadhafi told "Time" magazine, and I quote, "The big war is over," the main opposition has basically been broken. What's to stop them now from -- the government forces from getting to Benghazi, which is the second largest city?
WEDEMAN: Anderson, they did suffer a defeat in Ras Lanuf, but they haven't been defeated. A lot of the rebel forces have simply pulled back, and they are being reinforced. So I think it's by no means over.
And certainly the hope is that they'll be able to reinforce their defenses around the town of Brega, which is about an hour's drive to the east of Ras Lanuf.
And you need to keep in mind something. This is not a situation where one side can basically lose and live. If the Gadhafi forces come to Eastern Libya, come to the city of Benghazi, which has been so openly in revolt against his rule, there will be a massacre. There will be another massacre. There will be a blood bath.
And so I think, even though the opposition forces may have overextended themselves in pushing toward Ras Lanuf, if they are pushed back further toward Benghazi, they'll put up an even bigger fight.
They have problems, though. They're clearly apparently running out of ammunition. A lot of it has been wasted firing in the air. But they don't have the sort of supplies, the arsenals, the armaments that the government in Tripoli has. So they're being pushed to the wall. But the closer they get pushed to that wall, I suspect the harder they're going to fight. This fight is not over, in no sense -- Anderson.
COOPER: Do opposition leaders worry that the outside world may have given up on them? And the first -- I've got to tell you, one of the first thoughts I had when I saw the tsunami hitting Japan and the earthquake there, is I thought this is the best thing that could have happened for Moammar Gadhafi, if the world stops paying attention to what's going on in Libya.
WEDEMAN: There's a real change of atmosphere at the front line; whereas before, until basically today, we were always welcomed by the fighters. They were happy to see us. They were shooing us toward the front lines.
Now they're very hesitant. They're even a bit suspicious, and there's an element of resentment. They were hoping that there would be some sort of foreign support, a no-fly zone. Many of them are hesitant to the idea of foreign forces in Libya.
But they feel like they've been let down. They feel like, you know, they revolted against Moammar Gadhafi, a dictator of 42 years. They talked about their desire for democracy, for freedom, and they thought -- they were expecting, and we've seen this from almost the moment we entered Libya, that the world, the so-called free world would come to their defense.
And now they've gone as far as they could militarily. They're starting to be pushed back, and they're saying, "Where is the world?" So there really is a change of atmosphere here from this sort of buoyant, optimistic, enthusiastic sense, to one -- one that they may be facing what could be annihilation -- Anderson.
COOPER: Ben Wedeman, stay safe. Nic Robertson, as well; my best to your crew, Nic. Thanks.
SESAY: Up next, more of our coverage of the earthquake in Japan. The video tells the story of the sheer power and force of nature.
SESAY: New video just coming into us we want to show you. These are images coming to us from an area 100 miles north of Sendai; Sendai, of course, the city closest to the epicenter of this 8.9 quake that struck off the coast of Japan. Pictures that really bring home the scale of the devastation that has occurred. You see there are cars tossed in amongst bits of wood -- it looks like one big gigantic trash heap. But this is an area that had obviously been devastated by the force of nature. Everything that stood in the path of the tsunami, of the results -- that was the result of the quake essentially battered and left in pieces.
You know, Japan is prone to earthquakes because of its unique geological position. It sits on top of three major tectonic plates.
Now one American scientist is warning that despite what happened, Japan is still at risk for another major quake. And yet, this morning's quake is the most powerful to ever strike Japan in recorded history. Even for a country that's as prepared as it can be, today proved once again that nature cannot be tamed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCDONALD: It is still going. Oh, my god, the building's going to fall.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of a sudden, bam, it just hit. And you could tell this was different.
The ground was rolling for an extended period of time. I wasn't exactly sure what to do or where to go. I had never been prepared for anything like this.
My wife and I stood outside and basically held on to the outside of our house. You couldn't even stand up. I mean literally, at the peak of these waves that were washing over the ground, you literally could not stay on your feet. You had to kind of crouch down in a ball or put your back against something.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole ground is shaking so much. It was unreal. I can't describe it. It just felt like someone was just pulling me back and forth, like side to side (INAUDIBLE).
An inferno, fire-breaking out on an oil refinery in Chiba Prefecture north of Tokyo.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it looked like the tsunami has engulfed several cities in Miyagi Prefecture. Live footage at Miyagi as the tsunami has struck the area, obviously engulfing farms, homes, alongside the river.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It started off like so many other earthquakes where, you know, you get a little shaking going on and you think, well, it's going to stop in a minute or so. But this did not stop; this just continued shaking and shaking.
And then it started to get really violent. This was beyond scary. This was the scariest thing I've ever experienced in my life. I'm still trembling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Incredible pictures there that really showed the scale of the disaster.
We'll be right back.
SESAY: Thanks for watching 360.
On Monday night, Anderson will be reporting from Japan.
"PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" starts now.