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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
New Tsunami Warning; New Nuclear Plant Blast
Aired March 13, 2011 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome back to our continuing coverage. We are live in Japan.
And welcome back to our continuing coverage of the emergency here in Japan, ongoing emergency. Yes, the disaster of three days ago, the tsunami, the earthquake in the area around Sendai and north of Sendai. But, also, there's an ongoing emergency in the area on Fukushima, to the south of Sendai, nuclear emergencies, twin nuclear emergencies at two nuclear power plants, and at least two reactors in one of those plants, a plant called Fukushima Daiichi.
Two reactors out of six are believed to have had a partial meltdown. Authorities aren't sure. They have not been able to confirm, because the reactors are too hot, at this point, too conferment.
They're planning on pumping in sea water. A very unusual maneuver, a desperate maneuver, it's fair to say. We're going to have the latest on that. They've already evacuated an area 20 kilometers, about 12 miles around that Fukushima Daiichi plants. A number of people have already tested positive. Some 160 people have tested positive for some form of radiation.
All today, though, we have been getting a new video of the moment the tsunami hit. And I know you all saw a lot of tsunami videos in the wake of a tsunami in the Indian Ocean when it hit (INAUDIBLE) in Sri Lanka and Thailand. But we are seeing more videos probably than ever before of this event, an event which was carried live on television.
In addition to those live images, just today in the last 48 hours, we've been getting a number of new videos as well. I just want to show you three of them, and I'm not going to talk over them. I just want to show it to you as the people in those towns experienced it, in towns along the northeast of Japan, along the coast. Let's watch the first one.
COOPER: Unbelievable images of the waves as they hit the shore.
Sanjay Gupta is standing by in Sendai, Japan. He joins us now.
Sanjay, what are you hearing? I understand there's a tsunami advisory.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, Anderson, just as we were getting ready to do a live shot here, all these vehicles with sirens came by, and Japanese obviously warning of another tsunami coming.
We have a lot of people now running down the street away from where the ocean is. About 500 meters to a kilometer inland. And, obviously, there is a heightened sense of panic and fear here.
If you remember, when we were in Haiti, similar sort of things were happening. There was intermittent concerns, worries and panics about a tsunami after that earthquake which did not materialize. We have been here for a few minutes now.
We have not seen any evidence of water coming in, but these sirens and there's obviously a real sense of panic now in this area. About an hour and a half north of Sendai. One of the harder hit areas of the original earthquake and tsunami.
And we're just looking out here. And I don't see anything. As I'm talking to you, I'm looking toward where the water would come from. Like I said, a few people who are here evacuating, but we're not seeing anything in particular right now. We do have an exit strategy. If we start to see something, we know to go to higher ground, which is pretty much the exit strategy for anybody in this particular area.
COOPER: Sanjay, I think I speak for all the viewers when I say, if you want to go now, you should go now. Do you feel the need for --
GUPTA: Well, you know, Anderson, it's one of those things where, again, I'm not sure. I think, you know, having been through these situations, as you have as well, there is a real heightened sense of fear and panic and understandably so, considering what has happened in this community recently. But, sometimes, these are sort of false rumors that start to get propagated and just incite more fear and panic in people. So we're trying to as you do --
COOPER: We've seen a lot of that today actually.
GUPTA: Yes, we're trying to make sure that we're reporting what is actually happening. And we're not seeing that actually happen on the ground here. I mean, there is no evidence of it.
Again, I think what happens is again, what we saw in Haiti was one person will start to say this, it will start to spread and becomes a real rumor mill and it's unclear whether it has any genesis in fact in the first place or not.
COOPER: There was an aftershock at the start of our program. There was an aftershock about 45 or 50 minutes or so ago.
GUPTA: OK, they are still saying that the tsunami is coming to this area. That's what they're saying, a translator in Japanese, Anderson. So we are going to move at this point. These seem like official warnings now coming in as opposed to just citizens frightened, so we're going to make a move.
COOPER: All right, go to higher ground, Sanjay. We'll check in with you and try to get us on the phone once you get to higher ground. Again, we've had a number of these situations throughout the day, tsunami advisories. And as I said, there was an aftershock. I believe I was told, according to local media, that registered about a 6.2. That happened earlier on the program.
Maybe at some time, we can re-rack the tape and show you. I think we are on air when the ground kind of shifting in the area that I'm at. I'm in an area between Fukushima and Sendai. Soledad O'Brien, who is an hour north of Sendai didn't actually feel that aftershock, but I understand the people in Tokyo did feel the aftershock.
So, again, this is an ongoing situation, ongoing emergencies, not only related to the tsunami and to the earthquake, and recovery and relief efforts still very much under way and still very much early days. There could still be still a lot of survivors trapped underneath the wreckage as we've seen in other situations, sometimes days after, people are still found.
And the situation to the south of us in the city of Fukushima, where you have a number of nuclear plants, that there are emergency situations in, in particular, in this one plant, two reactors, 2 out of 6 of the reactors believed to have experienced at least a partial meltdown. Government authorities have not been able to confirm that, though. We will have some reporting on that in the hour ahead.
We're going to take a quick break and our live coverage continues.
COOPER: Welcome back.
We're trying to get back in touch with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, if you were with us right before the break, there was a tsunami warning on loud speakers. Officials telling everyone to move to higher ground, in the area where Sanjay is. The area we are is a very different area. It's on higher ground, but Sanjay finally heeding those warnings. We haven't gotten back in touch with him. We're trying to get in touch with him. So just stay tuned for that. As soon as we are able to get him, we will give you an update on what's been going on in the area around Sendai where he was.
Brian Todd is in the area much farther north. He's with a search and rescue team from Fairfax who recently flown in with one of their pre- eminent search and rescue teams that have done work in a lot of places all throughout the world, including -- I think I worked with them in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Let's check in with him on the phone. He joins us.
Brian, when did you guys get in and how quickly do you hope to be able to get out and start to the ground?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Anderson, we landed probably about 20 hours ago here at Misawa Air Base in northern Japan. We're on our way to the town of Ofunato, which is just northeast of Sendai, which has been very hard hit by the earthquake and the tsunami with two urban search and rescue teams, actually the one from Fairfax County and one from Los Angeles County, both of whom were in Haiti that you saw after the earthquake there.
It's been a massive, massive logistical haul to get everybody from the other side of the world to this air base and now we're convoying to Ofunato with some 60 tons of equipment, 150 personnel and eight canine teams, inflatable boats for swift water rescue and bringing just a massive amount of gear with them. It's taking a lot longer than people hoped to take, but still, they're getting there as fast as they can and now we're in a convoy over land towards that very hard hit city.
COOPER: I can tell you I also did work with the L.A. Urban Search and Rescue team. They are remarkable men and women. They do an incredible job, saved a lot of lives in Haiti.
What is their plan? I mean, usually, they try to make a grid of the city or village and go systematically street by street.
Is there that level of organization here? I mean, who are they taking their orders from? And, today, what are they going to do when they get there?
TODD: It's been kind of a tough swath so far because you had to get two governments coordinating this. You know, they had to clear everything that they've done through both the Japanese and U.S. government. That's what's taken them longer than they had hoped. And yet the plan is to get to Ofunato, establish a base camp first and then almost immediately start to fan out and as you said, Anderson, they do establish a grid and kind of work in teams, they work in a 12- hour shift and just sweep through the city and coordinate communications as to where, you know, people might be trapped.
They send the canines teams out. You saw them at work in Haiti. They do a remarkable and they're very, very eager to get on the ground. A little bit of a frustration that we haven't been able to reach there yet, but they are hoping to get there within the coming hours.
COOPER: All right, Brian, we'll check in with you when they do get there. And let's hope they're able to get to work because I know, as you said, they are eager to get to work. Remarkable men and women from the Fairfax team and also from the L.A. County team.
I want to check in with Kyung Lah, who is also in Sendai, and is also been hearing the tsunami warnings.
Kyung, what's going on there?
KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Actually, we just felt the earth slightly move. You know, we do want to say that, we have felt these aftershocks over and over again, and that the tsunami warnings, the way the authorities are reacting is really almost as if they are being victimized as well again, because, you know, you get that warning again and again, and how they are reacting is that they're feeling the effect of the first one. So, you know, we have to try to kind of keep that in perspective. That this feeling that we're getting from the authorities as well. We have to remember that they live through that first tsunami so, you know, certainly, they are trying to be very, very cautious as they deal with all of the victims of all of this.
Where I am here, Anderson, is a little further inland, the center of Sendai. And this where the people in this line say, they are truly worried that this may be the verge of a second crisis. These are people who have already been hit in the first tsunami. And you can see what greets them. Let's say rich, dry land.
There are long lines of anywhere that there is food and water available. That is just one section of the line. Take a look at the hours that it takes for them to move through this line. You can see how many children there are here. There are also elderly people, and they have to wait to get to the front, all the way over there. And this store is closed. It has no power. It has no running water, but they are selling ramen, cup of noodles. They are selling tea, bottled water as well.
Those are essential, life-saving items that this facility is hoping to share. They're limiting it, though, to only 10 items per person. And so that's why there's rising concern among people here that if they run out of food and water, they really don't know what to do next. So they are certainly hoping that there will be more international assistance to start helping the people get the food once they are rescued and put on dry land -- Anderson.
COOPER: So, Kyung, when there is tsunami advisories, those warnings, and they are saying for people to leave, do the people waiting in line leave or is that higher ground from where maybe Sanjay was?
LAH: This is higher ground. This is actually further inland than where Sanjay was. But where I was in one of the devastated areas of Sendai yesterday, I have to tell you, frankly, we heard four tsunami warnings and the authorities came over to us and said, get out of here. We chose to stay, because we didn't see the military immediately pulling up and leaving. Maybe some of the rescue authorities were starting to pull back. We simply made an eyeball look around, making sure that we could get to higher ground like a second level of a house, if we could.
The thing that we have to keep in perspective and what the people here are also keeping in perspective, because we're feeling all these aftershocks, is that they are quite alarmed because of what they have been through. We're only less than 72 hours after that initial tsunami. Many people are still trying to figure out where their loved ones are. They are still shell-shocked. And so to field these alerts and warnings again, it is hard to keep that perspective, but they are certainly trying to keep that.
COOPER: Yes. All right, Kyung, appreciate it. We will talk to you shortly.
When we come back, we're going to talk about the nuclear emergencies that are happening, a little bit south of where I am in Fukushima.
We're going to talk to our Jim Walsh, a CNN contributor, about that. A nuclear expert. We'll be right back.
COOPER: I just want to give you an update, Sanjay Gupta -- Dr. Sanjay Gupta who is in an area, in a low-lying area in Sendai evacuated to try to get to higher ground, because of some tsunami warnings that we're just given out. We're still trying to maintain, trying to get in touch with him.
We talked to Kyung Lah, who did not, has not seen any kind of tsunami activity in that area. She's on slightly higher ground. Before he left though, we thought of -- Sanjay filed a report about some of the people who are now stranded, refugees from other towns or other places who are sheltering, receiving food from the government and trying to find their loved ones. Here's what Sanjay saw.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GUPTA: You can hear those sirens in the background just north of Sendai. You immediately get a scope of the damage that was done by the earthquake and the tsunami. And also just how logical it is in some ways as well.
For example, on this street, you see a relatively normal appearing building on one side. And then over here, you see a car that's obviously been destroyed by the tsunami and another normal appearing building. But here's where it gets very strange.
All of the sudden, in the middle of the street, seemingly coming out of nowhere, you have this house. It just seems dumped right here in the middle of the street. And if you go over here and start to get a look inside, you get a sense of remembrances of what this life was like for the people who lived here. Kids' books on the ground scattered. A jigsaw puzzle over here. Some kids toys as well. If you look inside, you see the clothes and drawers still. You see little mementos on the walls such as a Donald Duck and Ping-Pong paddle.
This is a life just immediately abandoned and immediately left as a result of this devastation. And this is just how strange, how weird it is to look at the aftermath.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Our Soledad O'Brien has also apparently had to evacuate because of these tsunami warnings. I want to check in with her. She joins us, I think, on the phone.
Soledad, what's going on where you are?
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson.
We're actually on the top of a two story building now. You know, we heard these tsunami sirens going off, and we've been told by the folks who are here reporting yesterday that in fact it happens fairly regularly that the local officials had the jurisdiction to say if they thought that the water is going high and they could sort of set up these tsunami warnings.
It's been pretty tight in the area as people are going back to grab their stuff. And, you know, tensions are high, as you can imagine. So we heard the first sirens go off, we were sort of inclined to ignore them a little bit, because we hadn't felt any earthquake, and of course, without a big earthquake, you know, there's not going to be a tsunami.
And then I was listening to you interviewing Sanjay taking about the quake that you felt earlier, aftershock that you felt earlier that I did not feel here about an hour north of Sendai. And then Sanjay was saying that it started, it sound official that it wasn't just sort of local people saying, hey, tsunami, tsunami, as we were hearing people running by and saying there's a tsunami, tsunami, we in fact heard that it was more official so we sort of high-tailed it and grabbed all our stuff as fast as we could and then climbed up to the highest structure, which a 2-1/2 story building. And where we're camped out right now, we've been able to set up our (INAUDIBLE) and our phones so that we can dial it in and just tell you what we're doing.
So we're told because there are choppers going over and some small planes as well, that it's 3 meters high at this point. So that's what we're expecting, a wave about that high to come in. And because this is about a kilometer from the sea, but everything's wiped out, so there's not a lot blocking it as far as I can tell at this point. We're just sort of sitting here and waiting to see if this wave comes through, if it does happen.
COOPER: You know, it's interesting, Soledad, I think a lot of times, people kind of think they see the earthquake that took place Friday and the horrific tsunami and scenes that we all watch on Friday as it unfolded. And you kind of think, well, it's over. That what happened is done, and now it's just the aftermath. But that's really not the right way to look at this. This is an ongoing disaster. I mean, not only with tsunami warnings and concerns about that, you also now have this nuclear emergency, which is very much very real and very ongoing to the area south of where we are.
O'BRIEN: Yes. And, you know, everyone's very tense obviously for the people here who have live through, the ones who have been able to live through a massive disaster. Everyone's on edge. They've come back to grab those few things that they're going to be able to salvage, though, you know, you are sort of inclined to say, well, I didn't feel anything, I'm hearing sirens, maybe this one is -- they haven't gotten it right, but everyone is sort of tightly round because all around us, I can see damage.
COOPER: Soledad, I'm sorry. I got to break in here. I got to break in here, Soledad. I'm sorry.
NHK is reporting white smoke seen at nuclear reactor. Is it number 1 or number 3? I'm being told white smoke rising from -- a blast was heard in reactor number 3, smoke rising from reactor number 1. We have Jim Walsh here, a nuclear expert, CNN contributor, standing by.
Jim, what does this tell you? What does this tell you, Jim?
JIM WALSH, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: As soon as you started to say that, Cooper, I said unit number 3. The government had been earlier concerned that hydrogen was building up. Remember, at unit 1, we had an explosion. It turned out that that explosion did not compromise the core facility. But the same process. What's we're seeing here, it's deja vu all over again.
We lose a cooling pump. We had problems at one reactor. The hydrogen builds up, then it explodes. That happened at unit 1. Apparently now that's happened at unit 3, and we're going to have to assess how significant the damage is.
Hopefully, it's just the outer structure. The concrete of the building itself and has left unaffected the reactor and unaffected the containment vessel. Because if it were to affect those things, that would be bad news. And by the way -- oh, and by the way, they're actively trying to pump sea water into that unit number 3 in order to cool it down, and so we're going to have to wait and see whether that's going to affect that process and that would certainly be unwelcome.
COOPER: Jim, just hold on. I want to ask you a bunch of question, but first I just wanted to ask my crew some question.
How far are we from Fukushima?
North? OK, which way is the wind blowing?
West. All right.
I'm just concerned, Jim, if there is an event like this, you now have evacuation zone around Fukushima 20 kilometers, which is 12 miles. We're now, we're about 100 kilometers to the north of this reactor.
Do you expect Japanese authorities to be expanding the evacuation zone?
WALSH: It all depends on the particulars of this explosion.
COOPER: A subtext here, Jim, should I get out of here?
WALSH: Yes. I hear you, Anderson. And, of course, I want to air on the side of caution for you here. My guess is that you're OK, but I don't want you to sue me if I'm wrong.
COOPER: I appreciate that, yes.
WALSH: I'm inclined to think that you are OK insofar as the government authorities had warned earlier that hydrogen was building up and that there might be problems with that.
The most likely scenario is this is similar to what we saw yesterday. And if that's the case, then you should be fine, but you know, there's a lot of uncertainty here and we're not going to know for a little while.
COOPER: There has been releases of I guess some gas, and correct me, I flunked science, so there had been releases yesterday, I think it was, and they had said that because of the way the wind was blowing, basically whatever was released went out over the ocean.
What was released? Why were they doing those kinds of controlled releases, if you can explain that to our viewers?
JIM WALSH, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Sure. What happened is it's getting very hot inside that reactor core because they're not able to cool it down. And there's water -- the water that's already inside there is getting boiled. As it boils, it turns to steam and to vapor, and then the pressure begins to build up inside the reactor.
Well, you don't want that pressure to build and build and build and then cause some sort of problem or cracks or melting of the nuclear material. So, you know, it's not the best choice, but compared to the alternatives, the choice is to release some of that vapor, which is mildly radioactive. It's not the same thing as to what might be released if there was an actual full-blown meltdown. It's mildly radioactive and they're also able to screen it.
In some circumstances, they're able to screen it so that they can pull out some radioactive material that is being released. But in any case, they released it into the atmosphere and then hopefully, it blows out to sea, but it's not going to be a major health threat.
You know, it's not welcome, you don't want to do that. But it's not going to be a major health threat and it certainly far better than letting the pressure build and build and build until something much worse happens.
COOPER: Well, we'll be watching to see if Japanese authorities do start to expand that evacuation zone. There also been a lot of talk about Japanese authorities handing out iodine pills. I've yet to see that happen. We haven't had any and we've yet to see that actually occurring around this area. But again this is a situation, a fast moving situation.
Jim, if you could hold on, I'm also been told we've got Sanjay on the phone. And Sanjay, what are you hearing about waves nearby?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, we are at higher ground now, Anderson, the highest ground we can find. What we're hearing and this again are coming from official reports, we're being cautious on how we are telling you this, but helicopters flying over the coastline here say they have spotted waves about 3 meters high. Now when the warnings went off, Anderson, when we last spoke, at that time, they usually give you about 15 minutes' notice. And that was about 10 minutes ago.
So they say, you know, we're looking here at the coastline. We don't see any activity yet. And again, we're very cautious here, but we're getting some official reports that helicopters have seen waves coming this way toward Sendai, north of Sendai where we are about an hour north and we're just observing it.
We're on the coast now earlier. They have moved all the vehicles out of there. There are long lines of vehicles all heading uphill away from the coast and security is now out there. Moving vehicles out of that particular area.
Again, you know, right now, I'm looking at the water. I know it's still a few minutes away and they say before these waves hit, it's pretty calm right now. We're just sort of standing by.
COOPER: And, Sanjay, how often are these kind of warnings? Is there like a loud speaker now continually going or was this just something that occurred a while ago, now has stopped in terms of the warning?
GUPTA: Well, it's interesting because at first it seemed kind of sporadic and, you know, at first, it just seemed the locals were sort of shouting and running and yelling about it. And again, as I told you and you and I saw it together in Haiti, it's hard to verify that and hard to know what that means. Sometimes these rumors can start. But since then, there have been almost consistent warnings now. Sirens are certainly at lower level. We are higher level now so we hear them more in the distance, but if you're at lower level those sirens were constant.
There are emergency vehicles moving around, sort of really urging people, almost forcing people out of that area. They are also giving out public information on a local radio saying that the tsunami warning that went off was a 15-minute warning and they have seen these waves, they're saying 3 meters. I don't know how you know that from a helicopter, but that's what they're saying in terms of the projected size of these waves right now -- Anderson.
COOPER: And how far away did they say the wave was?
GUPTA: They gave a 15-minute warning about 10 minutes ago. They're saying in about five minutes is what they're saying again on these local radio stations. We are here at the highest ground that we can find with officials from this particular, what is a refugee camp.
They take schools often, Anderson, as you know. They take schools and they turn them into a refugee camps because schools are often built at higher ground and built to withstand earthquakes even more so in terms of their building codes and other buildings. That's where we are now. There are 100 refugees in the building here and we are just looking at the ocean. There are a lots of officials here who are giving us this information from local radio and local reports. That's how the information is being transmitted right now.
COOPER: So you can actually see the water. How far from the water are you? GUPTA: I'd say we're about a kilometer away from the water, between 500 meters and a kilometer away. I can see it. We are in a higher ground. There are some buildings out here between where we are and the water, but we can see it pretty clearly. We can see a couple of big boats, maybe almost ships in the water. They seem steady. They don't seem to be moving. The water seems calm where we can see it right now. But if you look at a map and you look at where the Sendai is, you'll know that there are a lot of sort of various coves almost. So we're not looking at a constant coastline here. We're looking more at one of the coves here, one of the coves that particularly affected by the tsunami a few days ago.
COOPER: OK, so we're following two now ongoing breaking situations, one possible, according to officials that Sanjay has heard from, a possible 3-meter wave heading towards shore again. I don't want to make that sound more dramatic than it may sound or than it should sound, a 3-meter wave, again. We can't confirm that independently. That's what sources are telling Sanjay. People are seeking higher ground in the area he's in.
We've also now an NHK reporting that smoke has risen from one of the reactors at the Fukushima plant, one of the plants in Fukushima, the Daiichi plant. Smoke has been seen rising from one of the reactors. We're going to talk with Jim Walsh about that.
OK, we're showing live pictures right now of that facility.
And, again, what was it again? It was smoke from reactor 1, and what was from reactor 3? Some sort of a blast reported by NHK at reactor 3. Do we still have Jim Walsh with us?
If we do, Jim, if you could just, I know you went over it once, what would explain a blast at reactor number 3 and smoke out of reactor number 1?
I can speak to the second one better than I can speak to the first. Essentially what may have happened at unit number 3, and again we don't know, but this is something officials, government officials publicly warned about earlier in the day, Cooper, and it's what we saw at unit number 1 yesterday, which was you have a build-up of hydrogen, it ignites, and then blows off, you know, explodes. And in the case of unit number 1 yesterday, it didn't do so inside the reactor, did so in the reactor building, so you have the concrete which is essentially the concrete housing the reactor collapsed and then you saw a big cloud of dust, but the reactor itself was not compromised and the containment vessel was not compromised.
So it was not a welcome event, but it wasn't something that was terrible. This is something Japanese officials were worrying about. They were so of, you know, making a devil's bargain. You vent some of this pressure, some of the vapor, you have to so you don't have something horrible happen. But if you do that, then you run other risks. And this was one of the other risks.
Now as to unit number 1, if there's new smoke at unit number 1, that's open to speculation. I can't comment on what might be causing that. But, clearly, that's already a compromised plant.
Earlier in the day, we had gotten good news about unit number 1. That they had made progress in flooding it with sea water. Even though the sea water was going to kill the plant forever, it at least had the positive effect of cooling it down. So people were feeling pretty good about unit 1 through the course of the day. And if there's smoke there, you know, it's unclear what that would mean.
COOPER: Jim, Stan Grant is joining us from Tokyo with more with what's going on with the reactor.
Stan, what are you hearing?
STAN GRANT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we're just hearing what Jim has largely sketched to you there, Anderson. We can't expect to what this smoke may be from reactor number 1, although there was a hydrogen explosion there just the other day.
And as Jim pointed out, this has been expected. They were expecting this buildup of hydrogen at reactor number 3 to ignite. And Jim, also, it made the very salient point there that when there was the explosion just the other day at that reactor number 1, it was not in reactor itself, it was in the outer wall containing the reactor. And that's what authorities, officials here had been saying for some days now. They're expecting a hydrogen explosion at reactor 3, but in the outer casing, in the wall that holds the reactor itself.
Interestingly, too, the other day, when that explosion happens, when they were venting steam from the reactor, that's when some of the radiation seeped into the atmosphere. Of course, there's radiation that was higher than normal, but once again authorities were very keen to stress that we're not at a level that was going to be physically harmful. But it leads to expanding the exclusion zone after the 12, 13 miles, 20 kilometers that it currently used. So here's a hydrogen explosion that's what's being reported in Japanese media now at reactor number three, but as we say, it's expected to be in the building housing that reactor -- Anderson.
COOPER: Stan, I'm also getting an update right now from Japan's meteorological society, which is apparently now saying that the threat of some sort of tsunami wave has now dissipated. That is no longer a threat. I'm not sure if Sanjay is hearing that from his -- the people he's been hearing from on the ground. We'll try to check in with him in just a moment.
We're going to take a quick break and our coverage continues live in a moment from Japan.
COOPER: And we have some grim breaking news to report. I have just been informed, CNN reporting based on the Kyoto News Agency that 2,000 bodies have been discovered in the Miyagi prefecture, which is the area all around Sendai. 2,000 bodies on Monday. Obviously, the official death toll, which was 1600 as of a few hours ago, it's not been officially raised yet. But 2,000 bodies found in Miyagi. This is the same prefecture where a police official was quoted by NHK yesterday as saying that the death toll could rise into the tens of thousands.
As of Monday, they found 2,000 bodies in this prefecture and the day is not even half over. Obviously, a very disturbing announcement that has just been made, and probably the first of many like it in the days ahead.
Paula Hancocks has been here. She got into Sendai I believe about 24 hours after the earthquake and tsunami hit. She joins us now on the phone.
Paula, in terms of the -- I mean, you've been now on the ground for two days, in terms of the recovery effort, the rescue effort, how ramped up is it now compared to what it was given yesterday.
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we're certainly seeing more military trucks on the roads and assume that they're carrying aid. We're seeing more helicopters in the air.
The small fishing town of 18,000, which has been completely wiped out. There were fears that thousands have died there. There weren't a huge amount of rescue teams. There were some. They were picking through the rubble. And, obviously, there have to be rescue teams in every single small town along this coast. It's an immense area to cover. But there didn't seem to be a huge amount.
And the problem they're finding at the moment, which we just found as well, is there are constant tsunami alerts. Every time there is an aftershock, there is often a tsunami alert after it. And, yesterday, when we were in that region, all of the rescue teams and the police had to desert their vehicles, the JCB, they had to run to higher ground. And every single alert, they did run to higher ground. There was sheer panic in their eyes when they heard that alert. Obviously looking around them, they could see the devastation from the last tsunami that hit there, and so that just makes the recovery process so slow. At this point they're saying it is still a search and rescue operation in that area, but they must know that window of opportunity is closing very quickly -- Anderson.
COOPER: And how hard is it for rescue crews just to get around. I mean, just to make it to some of these small villages?
HANCOCKS: Well, the coastal roads in some parts are pretty much inaccessible. So what we had to do and what they're probably have to do if they're going by road is to move inland, go north and then go out to the coast again.
Within that fishing village itself, miraculously, the main road through the town was almost intact. You can pretty much get through, and they cleared that obviously the first day to try and get to the people who needed it. But this is a town that was about 3.3 kilometers from the coast inland. We walked the entire road and all around us was devastation and there must have been many bodies within that devastation. It will be a huge task to try and find and account for everybody. And, of course, they basically said to us at this point, it is a search and rescue operation. They're looking for any signs of life. And so the bodies they found at this point will just have to be left there until they can rule out the possibility that anyone else could still be alive there.
COOPER: Is it clear at this point how much warning people have about the tsunami on Friday?
HANCOCKS: When I was talking to quite a few residents within this one town because many of them had actually come back to see what was left of their house, which it is the vast majority of cases was nothing. One local government worker who was working in an office on the sea front said that as soon as the earthquake, the tremors were felt and everyone fell to the ground, then the tsunami alert started very shortly afterwards, he said about half an hour, maybe 25 minutes between the earthquake and the tsunami.
Now between you and me, that sounds like an awfully long time. But when you are absolutely panicking and you have to run an awful long way inland, 3.2 kilometers or two miles where the water reaches and devastated, then it isn't that much time. He was saying that many people had to leave elderly relatives or disabled relatives, relatives that couldn't move onto the second floor in the hope that they would be safe. But looking around that town, it's clear that the second floor just wasn't high enough.
COOPER: I saw one video on Japanese television, I'm not sure if we have it yet of a tsunami, of the waves coming through a town and the woman trying to get into her vehicle and people were yelling at her screaming at her, warning her what was coming and she didn't know how close it was, and the camera panned off at the last second so you don't know what actually happened to her.
But, I mean, again, we're just getting these new images throughout the day of just the power of that water. And I know we've seen them all, but, every time, it stops me in my tracks seeing it.
Paula, I appreciate the reporting. We will continue to check in with you as our coverage continues. We're going to take a quick break and we'll be right back.
COOPER: We've seen that so much already today and the day is not even half over here in Japan. I want to show you some of the sights and the sounds that our crews and others have seen all along northeastern Japan, as they search for anyone who may still be alive underneath the wreckage, as they seek to recover those who have perished.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It was a gigantic earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0. This man says he thought he was about to die as he was being washed away. There are several people who made narrow escapes. Ishikawa says he was pushed into a wave after his house collapsed. 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 on to. 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.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): 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 round 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.
This man says his family is safe, but his house has been destroyed. He says that beyond the houses still standing, there were still more houses but they're all gone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I lost everything's in an instant. I could save my life. I'm alive but I don't know if it's good or bad. I don't know if it's good or bad that I survived.
COOPER: There is so much pain and so much pain yet to be discovered. 2,000 bodies discovered today, we're told, in Miyagi prefecture. No doubt in the days ahead, many more bodies will be discovered. Hopefully some of them, some people still alive underneath the wreckage, and as recovery crews, rescue crews from the United States, from all around the world, from the Japanese defense forces continue to pour into the area, let's hope we hear more positive stories of people being found alive underneath all that rubble.
Soledad O'Brien joins us now on the phone.
Soledad, are you still on top of that building?
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): You know, we are, because just after we heard that the official tsunami warning had been cancelled, a chopper flew over and said, the tsunami is on its way, the tsunami is on its way. As you can imagine the people over here trying to pick up whatever they're able to find in what's left of their home are sort of perplex.
But, you know, we are on top of this roof that's right above where we were doing our live shot. In fact, Mark, if you come this way, you can show folks right down below is where I do my live shot earlier, you can see. So now we are at little bit, the second floor level, so we are protected. Down, straight down this way, about a kilometer is where the ocean is, and that's where we were set up earlier and kind of get a little warm up that street.
We're trying to wait to get official word, to confirm official word so we can go back down and start reporting again from the ground. Obviously, one of our big concerns is down, this where our satellite truck is now set up. Because when we were hearing that, you know, 3 meters of water was coming our way, all of our gear is ground level and that would take everything out.
So we're hopeful that the news that you are reporting is, and getting officially, is correct. And that what we are hearing from the choppers flying above us is incorrect, that the tsunami is not coming and that we will be able to get down off this roof and start reporting again.
COOPER: Well, I hope so.
Our coverage is obviously going to continue on CNN International. And we're going to be here all week, as will you, Soledad and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and the entire CNN team. We continue to deploy new resources in the field to bring you the most accurate information, the up-to- date information from this wide area of the disaster zone as possible. So I hope you stay with CNN in the hours and the days ahead.
Thanks very much, Soledad. Stay safe. And Dr. Sanjay Gupta and all our correspondents and producers and camera -- people in the field. Our coverage continues in a moment.