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WORLD REPORT: Japan Nuclear Crisis; Libyan Civil War

Aired March 19, 2011 - 01:00   ET



NATALIE ALLEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Natalie Allen. This is WORLD REPORT. I want to welcome our viewers in the U.S. and around the world.

We are keeping an eye on two major stories this hour.

First, Japan.

Days after disaster struck, earthquake and tsunami disasters are remembering the thousands lost, as crews at a damaged nuclear power plant continue efforts to avert a catastrophe.

There is now some good news. The International Atomic Energy Agency says Japan's nuclear situation did not worsen Friday, even though Japanese officials did raise the crisis level.


ALLEN: This is the other top story we are reporting about. This was in Misrata, Libya, Friday, amid claims by the government and denial by the opposition that a ceasefire is in place. An international meeting occurred today could signal the result of implementing a no-fly zone ordered by the U.N. Security Council.

We'd begin our coverage in Japan where officials on Friday raised the nuclear threat level to five, that's on a scale of seven. Engineers say they are still working to restore power to the water pumps at the Fukushima Daiichi facility crippled reactors this weekend.

Let's go now to Anna Coren. She joins me now in Tokyo.

Anna, let's begin with the ongoing efforts at the nuclear plant.

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, we have just spoken to TEPCO, which is the power company that owns the Fukushima Daiichi plant. And they said they'd managed to drill holes -- three holes to both reactors five and six. Now, this is allowing hydrogen gas and steam to release from those reactors. So, certainly, progress is being made. We also know that power has been restored to those reactors through backup generator.

They also are hoping that power can be restored to one and two through a power line. That hasn't been achieved just yet but they're hoping that will be done by the end of today. And then if that is successful, three and four by the end of tomorrow. Of course, restoring power to all six by the end of tomorrow -- that, of course, is the best-case scenario.

Now, that operation on the ground with the use of fire trucks and water cannons, that is still in operation. They are trying to cool those reactors with the use of water. And there are some 300 workers involved, normally inside the plant but also outside. They're trying to contain this situation.

Natalie, we spoke to the prime minister's office this morning and they said that these men are certainly risking their lives -- Natalie.

ALLEN: And, of course, the nuclear disaster is one part of this crisis, Anna. Let's talk about one week on from when we first saw the devastating pictures and all the people lined up for petrol and food. What is the situation with the rescue efforts for people and people in shelters?

COREN: I think the scale of this disaster, Natalie, just continues to grow. The death toll stands at some 7,000 and the toll of missing is in excess of 10,000. It is just simply enormous. Officials say it could grow even more.

That relief operation that is under way is involving some 82,000 military and police. So, this is -- this is certainly on an enormous scale.

We are hearing reports, though, that there are frustrations in that community because some 16,000 people remain isolated. They are cut off. So, they are trying to get to those people -- get to those isolated communities to get the food, the water, the fuel, bedding, supplies -- you know, basic necessities like medicine. This is all so important for these people who are now more than a week into this disaster -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Absolutely. And they'll be there awhile. Thanks so much -- Anna Coren for us there in Tokyo.

Japanese officials now say the problems at the crippled nuclear plant are more serious than originally estimated. The government raised the accident classification to level five, as we mentioned. That's on the international scale. CNN's Tom Foreman breaks that down for us.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What officials have now that they did not have before is more information. Let's zoom in and take a look at what's been happening. These were the facilities one, two, three and four before this all happened.

This is what they look like now in the latest image from digital globe. You can see all the damage. People have been covering this a lot more closely now and getting more pictures, looking closer, and they can see the damage, too. Look at this photograph taken right after the tsunami. You don't see apparent damage. But when you look at the current picture, you can see how things have broken down through hydrogen explosions, the heat, the intensity, the radiation, particularly here on number four.

So, they have changed the rating.

One of the reasons they've done that is the radiation readings. Common exposure is three millisieverts per year. We all get that from the sun and everything else. But the highest exposure of this is going to be 400 millisieverts per hour. That was on March 15th. They registered that here.

Over here, the building, an annex over there, where they are trying to establish a power line in here, they have a reading of 20 millisieverts per hour. That's one of the reasons they are concerned about this. Remember, that's three millisieverts per year, 20 an hour.

It's up and down. It's not uniform throughout here see you can't read too much into that. But it's important to look at.

In any event, what it has done is changed their rating. If you look at number five here, which is where they are now, they're talking about wider consequences, the real potential of radiation leaks, or maybe we already had them they believe. You might have some deaths associated with this. You might have broader contamination.

That's where we are. That's about the Three Mile Island range from 1979. The next step above, are serious accidents, number six, and all the way up to Chernobyl in 1966. These are big jumps, too. It's not an easy change to make here.

So, that's what authorities have. They looked at more information and so they are intensifying their efforts like the cooling efforts, you can barely see it here, the spraying to try to cool down unit number three.

The bottom line is: things have not worsened today from all we can tell. It looks relatively stable in one, two, and three. Five and six to the side have diesel power supporting them a little bit. Number four remains the serious problem because they still don't know and they're still debating how much coolant they have in the spent fuel rod pool and whether they are right or wrong and can tell you how much radiation will come off. This can affect all the rest of the operation.


ALLEN: So, let's bring in the meteorologist Ivan Cabrera from the international weather center.

And, Ivan, the question: are winds a concern in Japan right now?

IVAN CABRERA, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: Yes, we can talk about the winds and I know where they're going to be blowing from. But the point made is how much radiation is there and that's going to be key, because I can tell you, where the radiation is going to be taken, but how much, what concentration as, when the peaks occur and what the winds are at that moment. And there are so many variables here which is why we have that evacuation zone. And, hopefully, it is large enough.

We've been talking about the winds. Again, these are surface winds. We're not talking about upper level winds that carry things across the Pacific. That's not happening and we're not talking about that. Current winds at the surface -- this is a regional situation here with any radiation exposure and a wind shift.

What we want is an offshore wind. That means the winds are going to be blowing from land to sea in this direction here. So, that is what's been happening and that is what we have currently. These are current winds out of the southwest and west.

The problem is, is that as winds at the surface do, they change depending on what kind of weather pattern we're in, whether we have a high, whether we have a low, whether there's a front moving through. And well, this is what's going to happen here. We started in the south and west but then you see this rotation here that is onshore flow. That is what we don't want.

The good thing here is that we're not looking at northeast or east winds at 40 and 50 kilometers per hour, which would be significant force towards populated areas here. But it is an onshore flow and that is not what we like to see. That eventually will go back to the south and west.

So, I think at this point, nothing is significant as far as any onshore wind that would blow these radioactive materials away from the dangers zone. We'll just have to watch and wait.

And then what happens with precipitation? If there's enough, of course, in that region, it goes to the soil. And then things get complicated. So, precipitation is also an issue and I'm going to be talking more about that and about the situation with the flooding along the coast, renewed flooding there when I see you in just a few minutes -- Natalie.

ALLEN: That's unfortunate. OK. Ivan, thank you very much. We'll see you in a bit.

Well, at first, it seemed amazing -- rescuers polling a young man from beneath the tsunami devastated wreckage of a home eight days after the disaster struck. But now, authorities say that's not what happened. Crews in the devastated city of Kesennuma, 135 kilometers north of Sendai, pulled a man from the rubble of the house early Saturday and said they thought he had been buried there for more than a week. In fact, they now say he was staying at a shelter and only went back to his house to check on it and then fell asleep. That is where rescuers found him, put him and an ambulance and took him to a local hospital.

But the search for other possible survivors will go on. Well, as we mentioned, more than 10,000 people are still missing in Japan and rescuers faced the dangerous task of searching for them, often entering damaged buildings that could easily collapse in an aftershock.

But as Brian Todd reports, they're willing to put themselves in harm's way if it means finding just one person alive.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tom Carver and Brad Haywood have to move fast, someone could be waiting. They sledgehammer, kick, shoulder their way into every available opening.

(on camera): You guys look like you like to break things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it's a Type A personality.

TODD (voice-over): They are called technical rescue specialist with the Fairfax County, Virginia team, more like storm troopers. But they're like more storm troopers. These guys have to barrel into the most dangerous structures after an earthquake or tsunami and look for survivors. They lower their way into unknown danger, contorted into every possible opening and ascend taller buildings that seem to be on the verge of collapse. It's one of the most treacherous you could imagine.

(on camera): What was your closest call?

TOM CARVER, FAIRFAX COUNTY SEARCH-RESCUE: In Haiti, we were tunneling through a building and there were some decent aftershocks. And, you know, when you are in a small hall, hard way in, hard way out. So, sometimes you have to protect in place and hope for the best and knowing your team is behind you to come get you if there is something happens.

TODD (voice-over): On that day, Carver tunneled his way out. On this one, we're an Ofunato, Japan, with the tsunami waters came up to the third floor of this hotel. We followed this team as they navigate blocked staircases, scale walls and squeeze through narrow cracks, knowing the floor could give way with any step or an aftershock could bring the whole building down on us.

(on camera): Not only very dangerous but kind of painstaking as well. We are combing through the basement of this building and they've got to check basically every door that's shut, that's wedged shut. Here's the door to a small bathroom on the off chance that someone could be in there, under the sink here, every crevice in a building like this with millions of crevices has to be checked.

(voice-over): When we emerge, a distinct mark is painted on the building, a signal to other rescue teams who might pass.

(on camera): This signifies you didn't find anything?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No victims, no hazards, that identifies the scene.

TODD (voice-over): Though no one is found here, Carver thinks what could be in the next teetering structure and he recalls a moment in Haiti.

CARVER: We went to a university and we had -- as we entered the building, there was, you could see a guy's face through the concrete -- took us numerous hours to get him out found a lady on the other side of him, took 32 hours to get her out. And just knowing that, you know, we are making a difference in people's lives. That's what it's all about.

TODD: As satisfying as it is to come out of a building with no casualties inside, it's weighed against the fact that they've got to comb through others for several days, through an entire city that's just been ruined.

Brian Todd, CNN, Ofunato, Japan.


ALLEN: Amazing work they are doing.

Well ahead here, we will turn to Libya.


ALLEN: The government and the opposition have different views of what is going on, even after a strong U.N. resolution. We'll have the view of both sides in just a moment.


ALLEN: Two days after the U.N. Security Council ordered a no-fly zone over Libya and demanded a ceasefire, we have conflicting reports coming out of the North African nation, rebel fighters and the opposition say their positions suffered heavy artillery fire and bombardment from pro-Gadhafi forces Friday. But the government in Tripoli says it is serving a ceasefire and is inviting the world to see it.


KHALED KAIM, LIBYAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER: I think the situation on the ground needs observers as soon as possible to assess the situation on the ground. This is now the credibility of the international community at stake. And it's very, very important for the observers to be here as soon as possible.

Otherwise, we will be in the situation where we have claims and counter-claims, and which is not good rather for the civilian nor for the country and the international community. That's why we are reiterating our call for observers as soon as possible. Otherwise the situation will be disastrous.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ALLEN: An international meeting in Paris today will discuss how to implement the U.N.-ordered no-fly zone over Libya. That could put some real pressure on Gadhafi's forces. For opposition fighters, the sooner that happens, the better -- as we learn from CNN's Arwa Damon who is there.


ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Explosions, gunfire -- voices desperately crying "God is great."

This is the battle in Misrata. In this video posted on YouTube by the freedom group, we see dramatic images and found civilians coming under heavy (INAUDIBLE).

Civilians under the newly passed U.N. resolution is supposed to protect. But the immediate ceasefire the resolution calls for has yet to materialize or be enforced.

Outside of the Ajdabiya, an ambulance carrying a wounded fighter briefly stops. The situation chaotic. A tank maneuvers into position.

"Gadhafi's forces have been pushing through and encircling us," 20-year-old Hasan Khaled (ph) says of the Libyan leader. "This resolution is coming too late. Too many people have died."

(on camera): This is the same checkpoint that we were stopped at on Wednesday, told that the fighting in Ajdabiya was simply too intense. But then it was only manned by a handful of fighters.

Now, we are seeing a significant build-up and they have their personal assault weapons with them. There are even anti-aircraft machine guns here. And we keep hearing explosions coming from the fighting we're told just a short distance down the road.

(voice-over): The opposition is struggling to hold its position. And there are rising fear that the delay in implementing the U.N. resolution is giving Moammar Gadhafi ample time to continue with his onslaught.

(on camera): It's been just around half an hour since we heard the news that the Libyan foreign minister announced an immediate ceasefire. That information does not appear to have trickled down here. The fighters around us are still very tense. And we continue to hear the sounds of explosions from the battleground just down the road.

(voice-over): A couple hours of later, a convoy of fighters and ambulances comes barreling down the road.

(on camera): The ambulance drivers are telling us they were just inside, the fighting was so intense, the artillery bombardment was so intense, they weren't able to reach people that they said were dead or wounded in the streets. And they've just fled out. And other the gentleman in the car is saying what kind of no-fly zone is this. And we can hear the sound. We're hearing it again right now.

(voice-over): We also catch up with a group of fighters, fresh out of battle.

ABDUL RAHMAN, VOLUNTEER FIGHTER: I just heard ceasefire, but there's no ceasefire. And they're still attacking us.

DAMON (on camera): And would you trust anything that the Gadhafi regime says about a ceasefire?

RAHMAN: Absolutely not. He is a liar.

DAMON (voice-over): And with reports that Gadhafi's forces are closing in on Benghazi, the opposition is readying itself to fight it out, but hoping that international help comes before it's too late.

Arwa Damon, CNN, outside of Ajdabiya, Libya.


ALLEN: And that is the latest from Libya.

Now to Egypt -- Egyptians head to the polls Saturday for their first fully free election in decades. They will vote on constitutional amendments that are supposed to assist the military in the transition to democratic rule after Hosni Mubarak. Thousands gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square Friday, many said the amendments don't go far enough.

Well, we have seen the images -- people returning to their destroyed homes in Japan. Among those sifting through the wreckage: one elderly woman in search of her granddaughter. She found a glimmer of hope growing from the ground.

And we'll have her story when we come back.


ALLEN: More images from Japan.

Amid the misery and total destruction, one woman in the city of Miyako has found a symbol of hope and resolve. Japanese broadcaster NHK has that story.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some people have not been able to join with their loved ones yet. Mrs. Shimiko Sasaki (ph), she was living with her son's family within Miyako city. This is her granddaughter, Yui (ph), was 1 8 months old and she remains missing.

She says that her granddaughter didn't realize even though she was called by her name, and she hopes she is somewhere. And Mrs. Sasaki returned to home for the first time in one week. And everything was washed away. But she found a small plum tree in the garden. And this is -- this was planted by the family after her granddaughter was born. And she says that she doesn't know how many years it will take, but she will make this big and this plum tree now has a small bud and Sasaki- san is hoping for the safety of Yui.


ALLEN: How very touching.

Well, coastal areas of Japan are seeing renewed flooding, not from tsunamis but from normal tides.

Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera joins us again with more about that -- Ivan.

CABRERA: Indeed, and you would think, why would you get flooding from normal tides, if they're normal? And the reason for that is that what's abnormal is the fact that Japan is now sitting lower than where it was. And so, the normal tides that normally did not flood coastal communities are now doing so. And so, they're going to have to take steps here because this is going to be a permanent situation there.

We are talking along the immediate coast. This is not something that's going to come in like a tsunami. It is going to impact many regions.

So, we'll show you the pictures in a second so you get a sense of what it's going to look like here. But again, it's the increased risk because we have sun. So, the normal high tides are going to be a problem.

The issue is, is that not only are we talking spring tides -- remember, spring tides when the moon, earth and sun align that is when you have the greatest gravitational pull, that happens twice a month. And so, that's when you have the higher tides, usually about 15 percent to 20 percent higher.

The issue that we have this weekend is that not only do we have the spring tides coinciding but we also have the moon passing at its closest point to the Earth. It's also going to be a full moon. So, essentially, it is going to be the highest tide that we are going to record the entire year.

And, unfortunately, it comes very close to the situation there, that is ongoing in Japan with the recent tsunami, astronomically high tides that are going to produce flooding. In fact, they're worried enough that they have continued to issue, for the low-lying coast, especially, coastal flood warnings there, tidal surge advisories from the Japan Meteorological Agency.

And as far as risks, these are the tides that we're going to watch here again through Saturday and Sunday afternoons and then at Monday, we begin to see those numbers coming back down.

But as far as the kind of damage that we could see, take a look at pictures here again. Again, it's not catastrophic flooding. But when you try to recover from a catastrophe, the last thing you need is additional flooding. And this is going to impact some communities, especially the low-lying communities -- Ishinomaki one of them there, Natalie. So, we'll have to watch that too closely -- devastating to see those pictures with more water where it shouldn't be.

ALLEN: Absolutely, that's all they need. Ivan, thanks so much.

Well, it has been more than a week since the quake and tsunami devastated Japan. We'd like to take a look now at some of the moments and image that have defined this continuing catastrophe.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I lost them all.

JAPANESE EMPEROR AKIHITO (through translator): Currently, the entire nation is putting forth its best effort to save all suffering people.

NAOTO KAN, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We don't have any room to be pessimistic or to be discouraged. We cannot do so. We are going to create Japan once again from scratch. That is the strong resolve that we all must share.


ALLEN: And when we come back with more news in 30 minutes, I'll talk with the Red Cross about their efforts there to help people. We'll continue to follow any developments from Japan. I'm Natalie Allen. Thank you for watching.

IReport for CNN is next. And I'll be back with the headlines.


ALLEN: And hello again from CNN Center. I'm Natalie Allen.

Here's what we are following right now:

Eight days after Japan's massive earthquake and tsunami, the names of the missing are posted throughout the country. Nearly 11,000 people remain unaccounted for. Nearly 7,200 are now confirmed dead.

Workers are drilling holes on the ceiling of nuclear reactors at Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi power plant to release hydrogen gas and steam. This as firefighters pump tons of water on the facility hoping to cool overheating fuel rods.

France is meantime convening a meeting in Paris today to talk about implementation of the no-fly zone ordered by the U.N. On the ground in Libya, opposition forces say they're still under attack despite the government's claim it is observing a ceasefire.

I'm Natalie Allen at CNN Center. We'll be back with more news in 30 minutes. Stay with us now for "IREPORT FOR CNN."