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Special Report

Japanese Ambassador Updates Search, Rescue Efforts

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," March 11, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

 

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: No "Grapevine" tonight because of the breaking news out of Japan. Hundreds are now believed dead after the country's strongest earthquake on record and the most powerful in the region in 1,200 years. The 8.9 magnitude event was followed by dozens of severe aftershocks.

Radiation surged around a nuclear plant 170 miles from Tokyo and inside grew to 1,000 times normal levels, prompting the evacuations of thousands of people. More than four million buildings in and around the capital city were without power.

The quake spawned a 23-foot tsunami and prompted warnings as far away as the U.S. western shore. The tsunami slammed in to Japan's eastern coast, sweeping away ships, cars and homes and sparking widespread fires. Seven-foot waves hit Hawaii. Two coastal California towns report damages to boats and docks.

President Obama today has alerted FEMA, and said the U.S. stands ready to help the people of Japan.

Joining me now is Japan's ambassador to the U.S. Ichiro Fujisaki. Mr. Ambassador, welcome. First off, our sympathies and condolences to you and your country.

ICHIRO FUJISAKI, JAPANESE AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: Thank you very much. As you have said, this is a very big tragedy, the biggest earthquake we have ever had. In 1923, there was a very big earthquake, a magnitude of 7.9. But this is a large city that with 8.8, and we are now still in the process of finding how bad it is really.

And first of all, in this situation what we have to do is search and rescue, put out the fire, and secure the safety of transportation, nuclear and other infrastructures. And what I want to say is that we are very grateful to the United States, administration, politicians, and people. President Obama has called our prime minister. And Secretary Clinton is expressing her condolences, Secretary Gates as well, the vice president and all the people, NGOs, people are calling us and we are very grateful for that.

BAIER: Mr. Ambassador, at this hour we're getting alerts from the Associated Press that Japan officials, Japanese officials are now putting a second nuclear facility on alert, evacuating around a second facility. We had reported earlier that one facility had reached a heating point, 1,000 times the normal levels. That was in the city north of Tokyo. What is happening with the nuclear situation as you know it at this hour?

FUJISAKI: This nuclear power plant you are talking about is the Fukushima area, which is north of Tokyo. And the prime minister has declared that people has to evacuate those people within the ten kilometers area.

And now we are trying to identify what is happening. And the prime minister himself is just flying over the situation with atomic energy commission experts and trying to find that out so that he could decide what kind of measures he has to take.

BAIER: I mean, is there a sense of real concern? Obviously, if you are evacuating two areas, there is a concern about safety.

FUJISAKI: I think we -- because it concerns nuclear -- the safety of people is the top priority. So first the government has ordered that the people within three kilometers would evacuate, but now we have expanded to ten kilometers. And this is very -- so we are taking a very cautious attitude.

And up till now, yes there [is] information that radioactive substance is increasing, but right now we're now trying to identify what it is and how it has come and the situation. We're trying to identify the situation.

BAIER: Last thing, there are now reported hundreds dead. That number is expected to rise. Personally, as you look at this and for the people of Japan, can you put words in to the extent of this devastation?

FUJISAKI: The death toll is approaching 200, and the missing is approaching 600, and I have to say it's increasing hour-by-hour. So this is a very difficult situation for Japanese. And we are very grateful not only to the United States but to the international community, the good will that has been expressed.

And we are trying to tell the people, be transparent as much as possible, what the situation is. And we'll -- as soon as we have identified the situation, our agencies will make it public.

BAIER: Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much for your time on a very busy day. And we wish you the best.

FUJISAKI: Thank you very much. Thank you very much for your time.

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