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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Japan Nuclear Crisis; Water Dropped on Nuclear Plant; Civil War in Libya

Aired March 16, 2011 - 23:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. We're live here from Tokyo covering the ongoing nuclear catastrophe that is occurring.

The latest information we have earlier about an hour and a half to two hours ago or actually throughout this morning, helicopters -- four helicopters over time attempting to bring and drop water on nuclear reactors in an effort to cool; helicopter drops spraying water on the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The choppers were flown by Japanese military.

A cloud of radioactive steam preventing it earlier today, however; only one of the -- the missions actually was able to successfully drop water at all. At least four spraying operations taking place, but as I said, only one of them -- only one of them successful. Those operations have been suspended. Also word, 11 water cannon trucks will be on site, manned by Japanese forces. It could be crucial.

A government official on NHK saying the last hour, the pressure is rising in Reactor Number Five. That's one of the reactors we haven't really been focused too much on. Also, a dire warning today about the state of Reactor Number Four: that warning came from an American, not a Japanese official.

We also have some pretty astonishing new images tonight, new pictures of the plant showing what appears to be heavy damage to several of the reactors. We'll tell you what could be going on inside the wreckage. Remember, this is just one of two disasters unfolding here.

Also up north, destruction from the tsunami, total destruction in some areas. This is Kesennuma, take a look at this, block after block.

The damage is just extraordinary in some of these areas. What we've noticed in talking to people here in Tokyo is -- is a growing confidence gap in -- in terms of between what the government is saying and what is actually happening. We talked to a number of people here, all of whom said they simply don't believe what Japanese officials now have been publicly stating to them about the situation.

The -- the United States has now come -- come forward to -- the United States has come forward today saying that the -- the area around the plant, that should -- that -- that Americans should not be within 50 miles of this nuclear plant. That is very different than what the Japanese government has been saying over the last several days. They had put out a 20 kilometer or 12-mile evacuation zone around this plant. There was an additional ten kilometer zone in which they said that people should just stay indoors and not -- not have any ventilation going on in -- in their homes.

But now the U.S. government quite clearly coming out today saying there should be a bigger zone, 50 -- 50 miles for American citizens they were talking about, and -- and also they were saying that the energy secretary saying that the information that they have been receiving from -- that they have not been receiving enough information in a timely way about what is actually going on, that they don't really have a clear enough picture of what is going on, on the ground.

It seems that the information that the Japanese government is using comes from this private company, which is running the operation, running the plant.

I want to talk to the -- the spokesman for Japan's prime minister. He joins us now. I appreciate you being -- I appreciate you being with us Mr. Shikata. What -- who is in charge of this operation?

NORIYUKI SHIKATA, JAPAN GOVERNMENT SPOKESPERSON: Well, we established a joint headquarters between the -- the government and TEPCO, Tokyo Electric Power Company. And this headquarter is headed by --

(CROSS TALK)

COOPER: But what does that mean? Where -- where are you getting -- by the prime minister --

SHIKATA: Well actually now --

COOPER: -- where are you getting your information, though? Do you have a -- do you have officials on site?

SHIKATA: Yes, we do. We -- we have officials on site, as well as we have officials based in the headquarters of Tokyo Electric Power Company.

COOPER: But your information -- is it -- it is coming from -- from the -- the power company itself, correct? In terms of what is actually occurring in this plant?

SHIKATA: That's right. But we are now together in terms of getting the information out at the same time. So the lag of information being provided from the company to the government has been to nil at this point in time.

COOPER: But -- but -- you only established this, I believe, what, yesterday?

SHIKATA: Well, we -- we established the headquarters the day before yesterday, and of course, we have been closely working together. But we took an unprecedented step to locate our headquarters inside TEPCO, the private company and the government officials are stationed there. COOPER: Well -- it seems like the information that the United States government has -- that they -- that they said today in testimony before Congress saying that -- that spent fuel rods are completely exposed in one of the reactors and that there is no water covering them. That information has not been stated by the Japanese government. Why is that?

SHIKATA: Well, it's -- it's a bit difficult for me to explain the perspective of the U.S. official. But let me just tell you that two hours ago, there was a telephone conversation between President Obama and Prime Minister Kan. And they discussed further cooperation.

President Obama extended his willingness to dispatch a larger number of nuclear experts, as well as reconstruction assistance, and the Prime Minister really appreciated it.

COOPER: Well, I -- I'm glad he appreciated it, but my question is, why -- if there is no water covering spent fuel rods in -- in -- in one of the reactors, why are people in Tokyo only hearing that from U.S. officials, why aren't they hearing that from you? Why can you not comment on that?

(CROSS TALK)

SHIKATA: Actually, at this juncture, it is very difficult to make a judgment about the level of water. And I don't think -- you know anybody can definitively talk about the level of water, and -- and we are actually carrying out massive operations in terms of dropping water by self-defense forces and bringing in the -- the ground -- the police chopper to -- to spray water through a cannon truck.

COOPER: Do you -- there are -- many people I've talked to here in Tokyo frankly don't believe the statements that Japanese officials are -- are saying. They feel that the statements have been very vague, often contradictory, and that -- that information in the early days turned out to just not be true.

SHIKATA: Well, we are doing our best to provide the information by having the press conferences even during the early in the morning like 4:00 or 5:00 or late at night 1:00 a.m. or 2:00 a.m. And we are trying our best to provide information to the public. And we know that this is very important in terms of the -- the accountability of the government.

COOPER: Right. But -- but those press conferences, I mean, we've watched them, we've monitored them, our viewers have seen them and often the information is -- is vague. You know, yesterday at the press conference, it was made the announcement well, workers have left -- have left the plant and -- and we'll have more information on that later.

There was no information how many workers have left the plant, had all the workers left the plant, exactly what that meant. It -- it does not seem that information is being communicated in a way that -- that really gives people confidence. SHIKATA: Well, we -- we are trying to provide the information as much as possible. But please do understand that there are some issues which take some time to analyze. But we -- we will try to redouble -- redouble our efforts to provide such information.

COOPER: Well, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you. Obviously there's an extraordinary situation underway, unprecedented situation. I appreciate you taking the time to -- to speak with us.

When we come back, we're going to talk to our Dr. Sanjay Gupta and we'll talk to Jim Walsh all ahead. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And welcome back. We are live from Tokyo, Japan.

More on the breaking news situation, helicopter crews earlier today attempting to pour water on some of these spent fuel rods, fuel pods, unsuccessfully. It seems like only one helicopter was actually able to drop water.

Those helicopters manned by military personnel. Japanese military personnel are also now we understand on route with 11 water cannons to try to -- to douse these -- these rods with water from the ground.

They feel that would be more effective. They've only had a few water cannons; they had two that were given by the military previous to this. It's not clear how many water cannons they've had other than that, or -- or why they're now -- just now sending in 11 water cannons.

Again, it is a fast moving situation, a very fluid situation on the ground. America -- from America today, from America's top nuclear regulator today, we heard that the situation could be a lot more dire than Japanese authorities are saying. Given that assessment, the workers on the premises at that plant, some 180 workers now being rotated through, those workers could be in even more jeopardy than first thought.

360 MD Sanjay Gupta joins me along with Michael Friedlander, a former senior plant operator, with 13 years of experience at three different nuclear facilities; also our own Jim Walsh, a CNN contributor and also from MIT.

So Mr. Friedlander, in terms of this disaster, what are you watching most -- most closely? What gives you the most concern right now?

MICHAEL FRIEDLANDER, FORMER SENIOR OPERATOR AT POWER PLANTS: As you said, Anderson, there's really two priorities for the station operators at this point. It's absolutely essential that the reactor cores remain covered with water and so doing whatever is necessary to make sure that continues. And as we've seen it all for the last several days making sure that the spent fuel pool is filled with water. Those two elements are the number one priority.

The number two priority is of course restoring electrical power as quickly as possible because once that happens, then they will have available to them all of the systems and facilities that they would normally have available.

COOPER: And -- and they've said that they're trying to restore power to these facilities with a new power line, with a new electrical line. They said they are -- they're -- they're going to try to do that today, though it's not clear how immediate the impact of that would be.

Jim, in terms at this hour, what are you watching most closely, as well?

JIM WALSH, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, exactly what was just said; although and I was hopeful when they were reports that they were getting power in there and that's important. But you know, as soon as they get the power in there, they may run into other problems with the cooling pumps or other problems because of the damage from the hydrogen blasts.

So I think that's a step in the pot -- in the right direction, but that's no guaranty.

But let me back up for a second, Anderson. You just had an extraordinary interview with a Japanese government spokesman, which essentially was a microcosm of what we're going through right now.

You asked him about the fact that the top nuclear official in the United States has said that things are worse than the government is saying, the Japanese government. You asked him one time, and his response was, well, Obama and the Prime Minister had a phone call today. He completely ducked it.

And then you asked him a second time and he said --

(CROSS TALK)

COOPER: Right.

WALSH: -- well, you know, people disagree about how much water there is.

That, in essence, I think demonstrates what the nature of the communication problem is. And if I'm living in Tokyo, I know the media -- the media certainly is carrying the story that the head of the U.S. Nuclear Commission -- the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has said that things are worse than I'm being told. And you're going to read that in Tokyo and you're going to think to yourself, what is going on here?

And it goes to the heart of the credibility problem that they are facing, and we saw it play out right now not 15 seconds ago.

COOPER: It's interesting, Sanjay, when you're on the ground in these kinds of situations you always think -- well, somebody is in charge. Somebody has their hands around this. Or that's the hope at least.

But -- but you talked to people here in Tokyo and -- and there's a growing sense that they're not sure who is in charge.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That -- that's absolutely right. And you know, from -- from a reporter's stand point, you know, we're used to also being able to go to the places and see for ourselves.

COOPER: Right.

GUPTA: So you know, make sure that we can actually validate and verify information. This is a very unusual story in that sense because there is that huge evacuation zone around these plants.

So it becomes how much do you trust these officials? And I -- and I still can't get my arms around the fact that basic, basic mistakes have been made here that -- that have been significant in terms of human health. A thousand-fold difference in -- in what they're reporting in terms of these readings, a thousand-fold. I mean, this is coming from nuclear engineers.

(CROSS TALK)

COOPER: What -- what do you mean a thousand-fold?

GUPTA: Well, they -- they said the highest reading was 400 millisieverts. Again, most of us don't know what that means but in fact, the next day they came out and said oops, we meant actually meant 400 microsieverts, which is one thousand-fold difference in terms of those two numbers.

And -- and obviously micro is much better. You want it to be a lower number, but how do you know what to believe? People make decisions based on those -- that information and those decisions may be wrong.

COOPER: And Mr. Friedlander, it's interesting because the Japanese government has actually now raised the legal limit of radiation that -- that workers can be exposed to which is clearly an act of, I mean, that's you know, a sign of desperations, you just kind of raised the legal limit far beyond what would be in the United States or -- or in any -- anywhere else.

You've run plants, explain to us, I mean, the courage and -- and what conditions must be like for -- it was 50 and now we're told that it's 180 personnel who are on the ground there trying to -- trying to -- to save us all, trying to save everybody in that area.

FRIEDLANDER: Yes, it is impossible to overstate the difficulties that these people are encountering on a minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour basis. This plant has been without power for -- for now, six days almost seven days. The -- the -- imagine how these buildings are -- are cavernous. They -- they -- there is channel ways and stairwells that -- that by now certainly the emergency lighting is out.

They're wearing a full set of -- of protective clothing, they're probably have gone on a full face respirator which is very, causes very labored breathing, they've probably got on air packs, as well. And there are -- probably by now, the -- the main control room has -- has been rendered all but useless. And so any of the most minor plant evolutions that need to be done are even in fact occurring by dispatching plant operators into the plant, by using radios to coordinate actions and -- and even under -- even under the best of circumstances, this would be an extraordinarily difficult environment.

The potential for more hydrogen explosions, the potential for steam releases; very, very, very aggressive radiological and industrial safety conditions, really these -- these people, we can't overstate what they're overcoming to keep us all safe, as you -- as you suggested.

COOPER: TEPCO, which is now giving a press conference, says -- and I just received this information, that there is water in -- in Reactor Number Four. They did not say how much water. Excuse me, in the full -- in the fuel pond, they did not say how much water nor did they say whether or not the -- the pods were -- the -- the pods were exposed.

What do you make of that, Jim?

WALSH: Well, I -- I think actions speak louder than words. So if we're at the point now where we have helicopters who are throwing water at both -- the -- at Reactor Four's spent fuel pod and also Number Three, which the IAEA has highlighted as having -- being a second separate problem with respect to the nuclear waste being stored outside of the reactor, then if they're doing that, that means they're worried.

If you're -- if you're forced to the point where you have to do this that indicates that you have a significant problem. And you know problems with -- the -- the likelihood that you're going to make this work with helicopters seems very low to me. There's an accuracy problem. There's a water volume problem. Can you get enough water, can you sustain this overtime. The workers -- the helicopter operators, what they might be exposed to, you own -- you only -- you would never choose this as your first option. You're only doing this because things have gotten pretty bad.

COOPER: Michael Friedlander, where does this -- give me -- what's the -- the best case scenario for how this gets resolved, or any scenario for how this gets resolved.

FRIEDLAND: Yes, I mean, as the -- as the previous guest mentioned earlier in the segment, the -- the best case scenario is that they get some sort of reliable power supply restored and through the extended -- extensive system, the backup pumps and valves and heat exchangers, that they can somehow cobble together at least one sustainable, reliable set of long-term core cooling.

Once they get the reactors in a situation where they are effectively on a normal feed water injection system and the de-caging is being rejected to the normal sub-heat exchangers pumps and valves, they are then in a stable condition or certainly on their way to stabilizing the situation at the plant. (INAUDIBLE) So again, as I mentioned to you, we'll be looking for power being able to be restored to the site. The -- the immediate checks and everything that's necessary to again cobble together the set of systems and components that are going to allow them to get a long-term heat removal. So that will be the signal that this event is beginning to take a turn for the better.

COOPER: We'll certainly hope -- hope for that signal today. Michael Friedlander, I appreciate you being on. And Jim Walsh, we'll continue to talk to you and Sanjay, as well.

When we come back, we're going to switch gears; dramatic developments, some remarkable developments in the -- in the situation in -- in Libya.

Also in Bahrain, a very different situation but also one that's very important for the region and for the world.

I want to bring you both situations coming up. We'll talk to Dr. Fouad Ajami as well as our correspondents in the field.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And welcome back to our continuing coverage from Tokyo. We obviously are going to continue to cover the nuclear situation. We're monitoring a press conference and also we'll going to bring you the latest developments.

But we also don't want to forget about what is happening in Libya and also the emergency situation now happening in Bahrain. I want to show you some of the latest pictures, give you the latest information. We're going to talk to Dr. Fouad Ajami and also correspondents on the field in just a moment.

In Bahrain, graphic video of a protester being shot at point blank range, likely with a rubber bullet but at that range it could be lethal. We do not know what happened to this man. That video from YouTube.

The situation in Bahrain is very fast moving. Doctors in hospitals in Bahrain have said that authorities have taken over the hospital, have -- have beat doctors. But, again, the situation is very fluid on the ground.

In Libya also now, Gadhafi forces have been on the move over the last several days. In Benghazi, they are reinforcing the city. Four "New York Times" reporters are missing right now in Libya. The Libyan government says it has no information on them.

The U.N. Security Council has not reached any consensus on a resolution for a no-fly zone. Seven hours of negotiations today. More talks tomorrow. Air strikes being discussed as well as a no-fly zone.

Libya's deputy ambassador says Gadhafi has lost his mind. He used the word "genocide."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IBRAHIM DABBASHI, LIBYA'S DEPUTY AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: We think that in the future, in the -- in the coming hours we will see a real genocide in a -- in Ajdabiya if the international community does not move quickly and prevent him from attacking it with a large force.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Battles under way. We understand for the -- the city of Mesrata, also Ajdabiya, the last major point between government forces and Benghazi.

Arwa Damon is in Benghazi tonight, Nic Robertson is in Tripoli and Fouad Ajami is in Washington, he's of course with the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, as well as with the Hoover Institution.

Let's talk about Libya first. Arwa Damon in Benghazi, what are they doing? Are they expecting a full-on assault of Benghazi? Because Seif Gadhafi has said that this military operation will be over within 48 hours.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it seems as if they're at least bracing themselves for that. We have been asking military officials here about what sort of plan they might have. They're not disclosing details. They do keep assuring us that there is a plan in place.

We've seen basic measures being put into place, a small berm on the outskirts of the city and so on. But nothing that we saw that would appear like a massive build up, anticipating that the fighting as far as we know is still concentrated in Ajdabiya.

We have been seeing these ongoing demonstrations in front of the courthouse, however; a group of women earlier today walking by, carrying a sign with a simple message on it, Anderson. It said, "How many Libyans need to die until the U.N., the United Nations makes a decision that it is going to make some sort of a decision?"

We keep hearing that here, Anderson, people wanting to know how it is if the international community is in fact seeing the images coming out of Libya, they can still continue to just discuss and not take a decision.

COOPER: Nic Robertson in Tripoli, how confident is the Gadhafi regime? I saw a press conference -- well, it wasn't really a press conference; it was a sort of a pep rally for Moammar Gadhafi. How confident are they right now?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we traveled 600 miles today to get to the outskirts of Ajdabiya where the government forces are lined up at the west of that (INAUDIBLE) city. This is the most massive display of military force of Moammar Gadhafi's army we've seen since we've been here. Multiple multi-battle rocket launchers, multiple tanks, multiple artillery pieces, radar control, weapons systems, multiple soldiers, hundreds, possibly several thousands; multiple dozens upon dozens of large, heavy trucks full of ammunition, ammunition for anything from an AK-47 to large tanks.

The soldiers feel confident. The government feels confident. There was a real anticipation in the air of those soldiers on the outskirts of Ajdabiya today. There were other government troops inside the city skirmishing with rebels, we were being told.

But the troops told us they've had ten days of games. They feel very confident. They say the only thing that's holding them up is they say that the rebels inside the city are in civilian buildings. And they say, and we have no way of independently confirming this, they say that's going to make it harder for them to fight, particularly with those heavy weapons that they have.

We talked to soldiers in other battles here who told us that they've lost soldiers because they resisted firing too much on civilians. Again, these are things we can't confirm. But we're seeing the pictures of injured civilians here. And on our way to that battle from today, we passed through many towns that the government has taken and very few of them showed a lot of physical damage -- Anderson.

COOPER: You know, to hear the Gadhafi regime talking about being concerned about civilians, I think it's going to strike a lot of people as hard to believe, frankly, when we've heard from other reporters who were in Zawiya, for instance, who said a massacre took place, civilians being killed indiscriminately.

We've seen videos of police security forces, Gadhafi security forces firing indiscriminately on unarmed protesters.

Dr. Fouad Ajami, Professor Ajami is with us. Professor, do you really buy that the Libyans are holding back from launching an attack on Benghazi because they're worried about civilian casualties?

DR. FOUAD AJAMI, PROFESSOR, JOHNS HOPKINS SCHOOL OF ADVANCED INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Not at all. They will just do it on -- by their own sweet calendar. They would do when they want to do it. And I think if we do look at the story -- remember, this free Libya, this new Libya now based in Benghazi and battling for its life began on February 17. It has a name; it's the February 17 revolution.

We are now here on the night of March 17; in Libya it's already March 17. A month later, the world has changed. I believe that this revolution, this fight between Moammar Gadhafi and the free Libyans, if you will, has had a kind of tipping point.

The forces of revolution and the forces of change had a real chance from February 17 until about two weeks later. Two weeks later, the entire landscape changed and these people were always waiting for rescue. They were always for the cavalry to come from the United Nations, from the United States, from NATO. No cavalry came. There were always these remarks, all options are on the table, by the way, a process that should be banned. We should never allow any government spokesman in Washington to say all options are on the table.

So, a month later, we see the inevitable. We see the advantage of Gadhafi's gunships, Gadhafi's naval boats, Gadhafi's air power, Gadhafi's money and I think the disparity of power is there for all to see.

COOPER: And of course, so much of the media and the world, and I include myself in on this, of course, paying attention to the situation here in Japan and for understandable reasons.

Still, that doesn't -- it's the best thing frankly that could have happened to Moammar Gadhafi --

AJAMI: Absolutely.

COOPER: -- with this earthquake and nuclear situation because he's not being watched as closely as he was. Not that, frankly, we were able to do much about it.

It does seem to be also a turning point, professor, in Bahrain where now you have Saudi troops who have been brought in to suppress the population although they say they are not directly involved in activities with protesters.

We have this remarkable video of a man being shot point blank -- unarmed man shot point blank, by what looks like a rubber bullet, but at that range. What's going on in Bahrain as you see it?

AJAMI: Well, Bahrain was always in the Saudi sphere of influence and the 16-mile causeway built between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain was always built for a rainy day such as this.

But to be honest with you, Anderson, we've done this big Middle East story together for many, many days, you know, for the last month or so. I'm not that worried about Bahrain. I don't think in Bahrain you can turn the lights out and just kill indiscriminately. The Saudis can't do it. There is also an American presence in Bahrain. In Bahrain, the game would be fought in a very limited way.

We must return to the killing fields, to the desert of Libya and we must ponder the moral scandal of what we have allowed Gadhafi to do. We always had an excuse. We always were waiting for deliverance.

And we kept telling lies, if you will. We kept saying we will do this in Libya, but the Arabs have to give their green light for a no-fly zone. The Arabs gave the green light for the no-fly zone, we upped the ante. We changed the bar, if you will there. And we said the Arabs have to participate in the enforcement of a no-fly zone.

And I think the confusion morally and strategically in Washington and the unwillingness of Washington to come to the rescue of these people puts on cruel display the dilemma of the Libyans as they fight and die alone.

COOPER: Well -- and we continue to watch. Professor Ajami, I appreciate it. Arwa Damon in Benghazi, please stay safe; Nic Robertson, as well. We'll check in with you tomorrow.

Our coverage continues. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the situation here in Japan. We're obviously monitoring the nuclear situation very closely. The latest information that we have, as I said before, they attempted four drops of water via helicopter over the course of this morning, four separate drops. Only one of those drops apparently was successful.

They say they're focusing on Reactor Number Three right now. They were able to drop one load of water which is about 7 tons, 7.5 tons of water fits in one of those vessels that they open up over the site. But then they called off those operations and now they're trying to bring in 11 water cannons manned by Japanese soldiers, by members of the Japanese defense force.

Again, we're trying to follow this as closely as we can and bring you updated information, really by minute by minute.

But I do also want to focus on what is happening in the northeast of Japan, North of the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The efforts to help those who have survived the tsunami and the earthquake: U.S. search- and-rescue teams assisting Japanese rescuers, coordinating with British and Chinese teams.

The death toll has risen to 4,314. At least 8,606 people are still missing. More than 2,000 injured. Death toll of course expected to rise; time running out for anyone who may have survived and may be underneath the wreckage.

You know, one of the things you have to realize with this debris, it's not like in Haiti where you have an earthquake and buildings collapsed and you could kind of tell where people were going to be. You just have to search the structures and you can go street by street.

With the tsunami, it's not the earthquake damage necessarily that killed most people. It's the water. And so you have this fast-moving water, which swept people away and then there's also all this debris. There's cars and homes and houses and wood and steel in this water.

It would be very difficult for somebody to have survived in that water for long. And then they may have been deposited miles away from where they actually lived or where they were actually swept away.

So you have these debris fields, which are just huge -- 10, 15 feet thick in some places with all manner of debris. And in order to find out, find who may still be inside, more than likely dead, even to recover their bodies you would need heavy equipment to be able to kind of start to move that debris. And in a lot of these places they haven't been searched yet. They don't have any equipment to search in the way like a U.S. search-and- rescue team has. A lot of the searches are members of the Japanese defense forces. They deployed 100,000 of them. But they're walking around with sticks, and in many cases don't even have cadaver dogs to find people.

So there's no doubt that death toll is going to rise. And once you're actually in the debris field, you really get a sense of how difficult this search really is.

There's a lot to talk about. I want to go to our Brian Todd, who is up north with a U.S. search-and-rescue team. They're from Fairfax County, Virginia; also from Los Angeles.

Here's what he saw.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're in the town of Kamaishi, in northeastern Japan. Got here this afternoon to find this scene here; pretty much tells the story. Complete devastation in this neighborhood. These teams have to comb through all this rubble. It's very heavily concentrated.

And the houses clearly have been displaced, knocked into each other. There's a house that was knocked over and possibly into that other one over there as these guys try to enter that house. You can see them over there.

They're working against every conceivable obstacle over here; tons of mud, debris all over the place. You've got downed power lines and the weather obviously has turned very, very bad and risky for these crews.

What are the added complications here of the snow?

CHIEF ROBERT ZOLDOS, U.S. TASK FORCE ONE: There's a lot of complications here added by the snow. First of all, the slip and fall hazards are obviously there. But the snow adds a different element in that it does hide things. It makes a lot of the ground look identical all the way through. And it makes it much harder for a rescue to identify what may be a pit, what may be an entrance to a cellar as we could easily miss things. So I feel like we have to be much more direct on that.

TODD: It's a scene of complete destruction. But it's worth it for these guys to pick through every inch and make their way through the downed power lines over all the objects into the spaces, because the stakes are enormous, of course, but there is opportunity.

There are voids seemingly everywhere you look; under this house, spaces where people could be sheltering, waiting for these guys to arrive. Under here, everywhere you look, a possibility for rescue.

These guys have almost no room to operate as they try to get into this house that's been turned completely on its side. Look at this. They have slide through these openings; have nails around, all kinds of sharp objects.

Here's a guy coming out. What's incredible about these places is even with no sign of life, seemingly nothing to come back, people keep coming back. There's a couple over there picking their way through this rubble that you can barely walk through, trying to get to their house, maybe find something that they can take back.

Late in the day here, the hope of finding someone alive gave way to a desperate reality yet again; a body was found in this house in one of the crevices. They covered it in a flowered blanket.

So this area like so many others devastated by the tsunami. No survivors found here in the wreckage. So we move on to the next area.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Brian Todd joins us now. Brian, I've worked with these crews from -- these urban search-and-rescue teams from Fairfax County and also from Los Angeles. The men and women, they're so dedicated, that they're at great risk to themselves. It's difficult working.

Have they been able to find anyone alive at this point or because it's such a different situation with these debris fields from the water, are they basically just looking to recover bodies?

TODD: Anderson, they have not been able to find anyone alive so far, but they are still treating this as a rescue operation. They are determined to try to find anyone who could still be alive.

That could change, of course, very soon. It could change any minute, because as you mentioned, you talked about all the obstacles here; the water -- the force of the water just wiping everything away for miles. They're under no illusions that they're going to find a lot of people alive. This may turn into a (INAUDIBLE) operation for bodies. They have found a lot of bodies already.

This town that we're in right now, Unosumai, near that town where we just were, was completely wiped out in a matter seconds. I just was over here to my left a few feet, and a railroad track was knocked off its moorings by the force of the water here.

The people here told us that the tsunami warning siren was knocked out in the earthquake. Then the fire department came down the streets and just blared in a loud speaker for people to get to higher ground. There's really no word on how many of them did. This place, this particular town has been completely leveled.

COOPER: I'm told Gary Tuchman is also now joining us. Gary, where are you and what have you been seeing over the last 24 hours?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, this is Hachinohe, Japan about 100 miles north of Brian; one of the most important port cities in the country.

And take a look at this. This is just an incredible sight. This is a 130-foot fishing boat name Jenny Maru (ph). It weighs 200 tons, that's about 400,000 pounds and it's flipped over on its side. And we are about 100 yards away from the bay that goes into the Pacific Ocean.

There are at least six ships of this size that were flung out of the water and there's dozens of other ships that are sunk in the water. It's totally devastated the economy in this very important port city.

COOPER: And in terms of search-and-rescue, is there anything going on in that area? I'm sorry, we lost Gary --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: -- go ahead. We just lost him again.

Brian Todd is standing by. Brian, how long do search-and-rescue crews -- I mean how long are they going to stay for?

TODD: Well, that's a good question, Anderson, and that's been kind of up and down the whole time here. They have to get permission from Japanese officials to go everywhere. It's been a little constraining, a little bit frustrating to them.

They're committed to being here for probably at least another day, but they may be packing up soon because, of course, this is getting just to be more and more bleak, the situation here; less and less chance of finding anyone alive.

This house behind me, you can see a car over my left shoulder just blown into a house here; very typical scene. You're just finding carnage here; you're not finding really any signs of life. The people who survived, they're coming back here to try to pick through what they can but there's very few of them left.

COOPER: Yes. And you know, in case people think that's soon that they're going to be leaving. You've got to remember you need heavy equipment in order to start to move this debris in order to really start to find people. That is the reality of the situation.

This is not the earthquake in Haiti. This is not just an earthquake where buildings have collapsed and you know where to look. This is a mass movement of debris, of homes and cars and everything on a street crushed together in fields that just go on as far as the eye can see.

It's an extraordinary thing to witness and you really get a sense, not only of the power of the water which is the difficulty of the search for those urban search-and-rescue teams.

Brian Todd, appreciate it; Gary Tuchman, as well.

Our coverage continues. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We have an update on the nuclear emergency. I'm going right now. But first, let's get an update on some other stories with Isha Sesay in a "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Isha. ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the American CIA contractor, Raymond Davis, has been released from custody in Pakistan and has left the country. He killed two Pakistani men back in January after he said they attacked him. The incident has strained U.S.-Pakistani relations.

Today, Davis was pardoned by the families of the victims which is permitted by Pakistani law and the families received compensation. It's not known who paid the money.

Boxing great Muhammad Ali has made a personal plea as a, quote, "brother of Islam" to Iran's government. He's asking for the release of two jailed American hikers accused of spying. He wrote a letter to Iran's supreme leader asking him to show compassion to the young men the way he did with their friend Sarah Shourd who was released from custody and returned to the U.S. last fall.

The disaster in Japan unnerved investors on Wall Street again today. The Dow Jones tumbled 242 points, two percent of its value. The Nasdaq and the S&P have now erased all their gains for the year.

And Prince William is in New Zealand for a two-day visit. He's in Christchurch on behalf of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, and will meet with the people who were affected by last month's deadly earthquake.

Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Isha, thank you very much. We'll have an update on the nuclear situation in just a moment. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: I just want to give you a quick update on the latest information of what we understand is happening at the nuclear plants. Water cannons are now in position according to TEPCO, the company which is in control of these plants. They are now in position at the plant.

Japanese government says the main problem is now Reactor Number Three. That's what the chopper water drop today focused on. Only one of those drops was successful. They say spent fuel pool in Reactor Four does have water in it, though how much is unknown.

The U.S. government however, says the situation is much worse than the Japanese government is saying. President Obama spoke to Japan's prime minister tonight promising additional help if need. That's the latest information we have on the ground.

Our coverage continues.

Thanks for watching. I'll see you tomorrow.