March 11th, 2011
02:36 PM ET

Earthquake and Tsunami Hit Japan: Watching the Disaster Unfold

[cnn-video url="http://cnn.com/video/?/video/world/2011/03/11/sot.tsunami.hit.japan.cnn"%5D

There are some days in a TV newsroom you’ll never forget. Here in Hong Kong, I’d had an eye across the morning’s events as I sat at home, fully expecting further dramatic developments in Libya. Only upon my arrival in the office did I hear of the Japanese quake. 

Certain news stories are best told with astonishing pictures and minimal words. As we started to see ground-level shots of cars and boats being swept by a torrent of water, we sensed this was one such occasion. But when aerial footage from Miyagi Prefecture began to stream live, the entire newsroom was left in unusual conflict: trying to put this event across to millions of viewers, while unable to tear our eyes away from what we were watching. 

As the pictures kept coming (homes being ripped from their foundations, cars attempting in vain to evade the rushing wave, an oil refinery enveloped in smoke and fire), the realization dawned on us that it could take weeks before we knew the extent of the damage, both human and physical.

And then there was the other development: tsunami waves heading out into the ocean, with the entire Pacific Rim apparently at risk. How powerful would the waves be when they hit distant shores? Were we watching a premature echo of events in 2004? 

As we went to air, Hawaii was braced for a tsunami. Of several individuals we spoke to in the archipelago, one stood out. Ryan McGinnis told us he was just meters from the shore, as waves clearly began to build – and water lapped onto the streets. As we left him at the end of the hour, we could only wonder if we were watching the next chapter of a devastating story being written. 

And as we return to our desks (some of us over the weekend, some on Monday), we will truly begin to reflect on the scale of what could become the story of the year.

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soundoff (60 Responses)
  1. Renee Klaus

    DO NOT SEND OUR MONEY TO JAPAN! PLEASE SAVE IT FOR OUR WEST COAST.(Hawaii is already getting hit and Oregon coasts are being evacuated as we speak) We spent billions in the 1940's to destroy Japan.(provoked) We spent billions in the 50's to rebuild Japan and we lost billions in the 60's to their economy, and now we will want to spend billions of dollars to come to their aid when we have STARVING CHILDREN here at home... EXCUSE ME but I don't think so! GOD please help them because we cannot. Peace.

    March 11, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Reply
  2. ghfvg


    March 11, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Reply
  3. No one


    March 11, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Reply
  4. myspork

    Renee, you are a horrible, selfish person.

    March 11, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Reply
  5. jhovany

    ahahahah we have starving children at home? please enlighten me and show me proof.

    March 11, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Reply
  6. Cassie

    Renee: I will send my money wherever the hell I want to, it is MY money. I will try to help out wherever is needed, Japan, Russia, Hawaii, California, WHEREVER. You want to send your money to the West Coast, that indeed is fine, I'll decide, as will millions of others, where my money will go to.

    March 11, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Reply
  7. brenda farrow

    your comment is beyond offensive right now. Who are you to tell us what we should do.

    March 11, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Reply
  8. Helen

    Wth is he talking about?!! The one good thing is that there's houses in the waves? Stupid news guy!!!

    Btw, Renee u races beyatch!! STFU u cold hearted b*tch!!

    March 11, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Reply
  9. Mike

    Renee, did you just tell people not to help other people who need help? Because they live far away enough that you don't have to look them in their eyes perhaps? Forget about countries and governments and borders and nationalities. It's just one world, and we are ALL people living here together. You say Don't help them, they are not us. I say they are. I am an American. But above that my allegance is to the human race. And ALL of it's members who need help.

    March 11, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Reply
  10. JCC

    @Renee Klaus: That is one of the most distasteful and disgusting things I have heard. You should really be ashamed of yourself. You may be too naive and uneducated to form other opinions, but at least have the decency to keep those opinions to yourself.

    March 11, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Reply
  11. Adam Z

    Wow...In times like these people should come together not push people aside. I am appalled that some people would be so harsh and so selfish when it comes to human lives. When and how have you become so broken. For those who are most closely touched by this tragedy, may God be with you and I am sorry for your pain and loss.

    March 11, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Reply
  12. Somebody

    Excuse me...how can you write that....think how you would feel when you would have been in trouble and no one would be ready to help you....
    It's our duty to save them and even the western coasts...
    it's up to you how much you want to help them...or even not..

    March 11, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Reply
  13. Erwin

    Renee, you are the reason that comment boards like this need user moderation. Your comment is not only extraordinarily misinformed, but also incredibly disgusting. Japan was the epicenter of the earthquake, the largest in the last 140 years since they began recording them.

    Hawaii and the US West Coast will hardly experience anything on the magnitude of what Japan is now experiencing. The city of Sendai has, for all intents and purposes, been completely destroyed. The death toll is steadily increasing and will continue to do so once reliable data rolls in and the degree of the disaster on both an economic and human scale won't be understood for weeks.

    I don't understand how you can ask people to not send aid to a country experiencing an enormous disaster. Regardless of the problems that exist in our country, your type of rhetoric is both disgusting and morally reprehensible. I hope to your "GOD" that he adjuges you to be unfit for reward, because I know that I hope that you haven't had children to affect with your brand of inhumane and morally corrupt bullshit.

    You disgust me on nearly every moral level.

    March 11, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Reply
  14. DonMac

    This is a time when we all respond in the name of humanity – there are no borders that are important here. Thankfully, Hawaii has been spared a potential disaster which empowers us to be able to assist in any way we can. In response to Renee Klaus, get a life and travel the world befor complaining about "starving children" in the USA. Only in America are "poor" people fat, have TVs, cars and enough money to have substance abuse problems. The only reason we are short of money here is we use tax dollars to support Cowboy Poet Festivals, National Endowment of the Arts, protection of endangered snails, multi-million dollar studies of drug use by Vietnamese male prostitutes, and a hundred other worthless liberal givaway programs. we throw hundreds of billions of dollars down the drain every year – we need to stop this and be better stewards of our resources.

    March 11, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Reply
  15. ana

    i wasn't going to comment but RENEE!!! watch what you say!!! i would trade one of those lives for a selfish american like you anyday!!! keep God out your mouth you know nothing of Him.

    March 11, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Reply
  16. Christian D.

    I think the better point Renee intends convey is that you should wait a couple hours to send your money. Decide where to send it when we know the full repercussions of this tsunami.

    March 11, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Reply
  17. ercbeer

    Renee...wow...I agree with the other commentors...

    you are terrible.

    Hawii will most likely see minimal damage...while Oregon probably won't see much at all...

    As for your history lesson...different times call for different measures...people of the past are not the same as the people of now...yes..there are starving PEOPLE here in the US...but the reason you help others is because thats what good people do...selfless opposed to selfish...and you obviously have heat with Japan/Japanese..

    March 11, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Reply
  18. Paul


    Your comments are some of the most foul, base, isolationist, and racist words I have read in a long time. Every time I start to think we have made significant progress in society, someone like you comes along and shows just how much work is left to do! Thanks for correcting my perspective in that regard.

    March 11, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Reply
  19. Louann Meehan

    tell that to the victims of hurricane katrina! they are STILL waiting for aid! you want proof that we have starving children in america? try checking the homeless shelters or under bridges in any major city! just pray that if you do send money IT GETS TO THE PEOPLE IT'S INTENDED FOR (remember haiti?). she (renee klaus) isn't saying not to care or help but the governments can't be trusted with your money!! i would rather spend my time and money actually going there to help then to trust government run agencies to do the right thing. GOD HELP US ALL

    March 11, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Reply
  20. Victoria Podbelsek

    That is extremely rude. I will send my money ot Japan and Amercia and wherever relief is needed.
    Please stop making bigoted comments about things you clerly have not studied and know nothing about. Don't bring up history if you can't back it and make blanket statements you know nothing about. Thanks.

    March 11, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Reply
  21. WorldCitizen

    Yes, WOW. Ignorance is bliss, but only if you are ignorance.

    March 11, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Reply
  22. george fallup

    fact is we OWE Japan about 650 Billion, that's Billion with a capital B.

    like most knee jerk right-wingers (or liberals) you have a myopic view of the world that you translate into fact....ummmm, no, you have an opinion, nothing more, and in this case, a misinformed, xenophobic, twisted, self righteous and well, just plain sad representation of how out of touch some americans have become. here's an idea, do some fact finding next time.

    as far as starving children go, are you taking some in at your house ? are you doing anything ? we spent about 110 million on food assistance programs last year. yet we spend nearly 1 TRILLION on defense. and you finish your rant with GOD and peace, tyou DO see the irony don't you ?

    March 11, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Reply
  23. Ed Burke

    And on the Last Day the King will say, " Come beloved of My Father, into the kingdom that was prepared for you from the foundation of the world, For when I was Hungry, you gave me food, and when I was thirsty, you gave me Drink, naked and you clothed me." And those on His right responded, " When Lord did we do these things for you?" And the King Replied, " Whatsoever you did for the least of these My Briethern, you did for Me "

    March 11, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Reply
  24. sheetsd66

    Helen, I think what the broadcaster was saying is that it is fortunate the wave was moving through farm land.....he was also trying to give a play-by-play of what was displayed on the screen. In any case, he's an idiot....there isn't "one good thing" to comment on in those images.
    Renee, you're a moron.

    March 11, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Reply
  25. seph

    No matter if Renee is right or wrong she doesnt need everyone ripping her a new one. Maybe she is sick and tired of the United States helping everyone out when other countries do nothing. i dont blame her for being upset. Like i said..right or wrong she doesnt need to be yelled at for her opinion.

    March 11, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Reply
  26. caleb

    lol, you all do not know a troll when you read one?

    March 11, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Reply
  27. Peace

    Wow, sounds as if Renee unintentionally started a Tsunami of her own. Remember what your knees are for. God Bless!

    March 11, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Reply
  28. Ellen

    Renee is absolutely right, the most help we can provide for Japan is our prayers. What happened is unfortunate, but we need to look at our own problems before we go fixing everyone else's. You are ignorant not to realize the issues we have here. People are STILL recovering from Hurricane Katrina, we still have people, including children, who are starving, homeless, and in need of clothes. How long will it take us to recover from another natural disaster? Our money belongs in the United States.


    March 11, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Reply
  29. DavidB

    Renee, you and people that think like you do are what is wrong with this world. To everyone else that commented, you give me hope that there are still good people out there.

    March 11, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Reply
  30. Joe Allen

    when will we realize you cant throw money and expect the problem to be fixed. it takes human power in the end to heal these disasters. i say this is another good opportunity to show that past events of war and hatred are over and we are all here to help each other.

    March 11, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Reply
  31. CL

    Excuse me...I have relatives over in Japan....you have NO idea how it feels not to know if they are all right, alive, dead.....this IS a UNIVERSAL catastrophe so if anyone is going to be self-centered and pompous get off this site and keep your ignorant comments to yourselrf. This could happen anywhere at anytime to anyone. Have you even looked at the footage!!!!!!!!! SHAME ON YOU Renee. I have some pretty nice colorful metaphors I wish to call you

    March 11, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Reply
  32. Renee Klaus

    Thank you Christian and Louann. All I am saying is that we should not trust any Government to actually put any of the money that is sent to them to the use for what it is heartfelt intended for ( the people of Japan) not the governments fat pockets. This includes any government including our own. Remember Katrina and Haiti? They are still waiting for real help to arrive. I would rather give my money to all of our homeless veterans. I did not mean to offend anyone. My thoughts and prayers are with all of the people in Japan. If I can find a way I would pack up my bags right now to join the Red Cross teams who I am sure are gearing up right now to go help where it is truly needed. Would you? Lets not forget that one day the same thing WILL happen here.

    March 11, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Reply
  33. Helen

    Renee – that was not what your were trying to say in your first message!! Don't try to twist and turn things because people put you on blast! You didn't say anything about the government. All you said it that we spent some much money on Japan and we shouldn't help them out now!

    March 11, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Reply
  34. Brittany

    If you feel called to help, help. America is the most generous nation in the world for that very reason. We'd loose a part of our identity if we didn't do anything.
    I agree with Renee to a certain extent though. Americas government shouldn't send tons of money to Japan because we're broke. Individuals, however, can send their money wherever they want.

    March 11, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Reply
  35. jack

    haha...nice get troll...being first..and getting everyone riled up...but if you are NOT a troll...i feel sorry for your sad pathetic life and dim view of the human race...go die in a hole because no one will care of your existence on this planet.

    March 11, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Reply
  36. person

    Renee- before you go and state that our government should not send money in the aide of Japan, maybe you should research where OUR government got the money to give extra money in our tax returns a few years ago, or just simply research that amount of money we owe to other countries with Japan being the number one country we owe money to. what it comes down to is WE OWE IT TO THEM, and its just what we should do HELP PEOPLE NO MATTER WHERE THEY LIVE. people are dying and all you have to think about is what we shouldn't do for them.

    March 11, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Reply
  37. Renee Klaus

    In response to Helen... I do not give a damn if people (such as yourself) do not like what my opinion is or do not like what I have to say. BLAST AWAY! Do you have any opinion about what is going on? Or just an opinion about what I meant or did not mean? Discussion and controversy are a good thing. It helps people to get off their butts in their comfort zones to come up with new ideas. Unlike all the commentators who wish to call me names and disrespect my opinions... I myself respect and welcome all opinions. Good, bad or indifferent.

    March 11, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Reply
  38. Renee Klaus

    Jack. Wow! By your reply it sounds like I am not the only one with a sad pathetic life and dim view of the human race. Is that how you feel about Japan as well? At least I am not a HATER. I guess whatever helps you sleep at night. Even you are in my prayers.

    March 11, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Reply
  39. Cat

    Could it be that people have become so desensitized to others problems and issues? Suffering is suffering. No matter where it's happening. As a MEMBER of the human race, I will help anyone at anytime. I'm Canadian – and I've taken people in during times of uncertainty when they're lives are unravelling – does anyone remember when the planes were redirected during 9/11?. Where do you think ALL those people stayed for a week? I would hope someone would do that for me.

    Pain is pain and suffering is suffering. If everyone got off their touche and helped out, this entire planet would be a nicer place to be...because based on comments from certain people, I don't like it much now.

    March 11, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Reply
  40. Renee Klaus

    Cat,Thank you for putting into words so graciously of which I could not. If I am one of those certain people, and I am certain that I am. I'm at least glad that you are the someone who finally said something that truly makes sense. God bless.

    March 11, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Reply
  41. Renee Klaus

    I think that as individuals we should send aide through relief agencies such as the Red cross. But not through our government unless Japan would be willing to take that aide off of our debt. Who is to say that the Japanese Government would actually use that money as aide to rebuild the country. Would there be any accountability? To those that are interested in donating through Red Cross: Text redcross to 90999 to make a $10 donation. The charge will appear on your next phone bill. Donations can also be made through the website.

    March 11, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Reply
  42. Renee Klaus

    http://abcnews.go.com/WN/story?id=4293398....(FEMA Trailers for Katrina Victims Tainted by Toxic Chemical
    Tens of Thousands Will Need to Evacuate Contaminated Mobile Homes. the government finally admitted that FEMA trailers, used by Hurricane Katrina survivors, contain a toxic carcinogen, formaldehyde, and now, those hurricane evacuees must leave their trailers.

    Steve Huckabee and his family survived Hurricane Katrina, only to live through a second disaster — their FEMA mobile home.

    "I was wondering why my family was sick, and we finally realized, oh, it's formaldehyde," Huckabee said. FEMA won't give exact numbers, but by the time this debacle ends, one estimate suggests the total program could cost about $9 billion — $60,000 for each trailer. Send your donations to Japan as I will do what I can some how some way just please do not trust the government with money to do the right thing. Make sure that your money is going where it is supposed to please. I wish that I would of posted this in the first place.

    March 11, 2011 at 6:37 pm | Reply
  43. N.V

    Prayers and thoughts for the people of Japan. Its so sad to know that innocent children were victims, as well as the elderely...my prayers for ALL that was effected by this terrible nature tragic. May GOD be over them to comfort them in this time of sorrow and need. Lord, you are the HEALER of all HEALERS...may your grace be upon Japan.

    March 11, 2011 at 7:12 pm | Reply
  44. Jeri

    WOW. God please help Renee because she can not help herself.

    March 11, 2011 at 8:06 pm | Reply
  45. Cameron Szabo

    This is repulsive. I cannot believe that there are even two people on this board stupid enough to post and say not to send support.

    Renee, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki [which is what I think you are referring to] was completely uncalled for. Though it may have swayed the war to American favour, it decimated millions of homes and crops, and killed even more people. The damage caused cost billions more dollars to repair than were spent to create it. The fact that you are telling people not to send support to anyone in need simply because they are not living within the same country as you are is disgusting. I hope for Japan's sake that no one takes your post to heart. And I hope for your sake that your "God" does not exist, for I am sure it wouldn't be too impressed with your words.

    As a side note, if you truly respected and welcomed all opinions as you say you do, you would not have made that first post to begin with.

    March 11, 2011 at 10:35 pm | Reply
  46. No name

    @Renee Klaus:
    DOnt be so selfish, Japan needs help too, is MY Money, I can send to wat ever place I want, is not under your control .

    March 12, 2011 at 12:02 am | Reply
  47. concerned!!

    Hey Guys

    Think its best everyone just calms down and just take a moment to think about what is actually going on theres a bigger picture!

    This type of talk really is not helping anybody.

    Positive thoughts to those in Japan and New Zealand at this tragic time.

    Peace people Peace!!

    March 12, 2011 at 4:56 am | Reply
  48. jason

    maybe it is time we all stopped spending dollers on WAR &made better buildings not that it will stop a wave from doing its wavey thing

    March 12, 2011 at 8:54 am | Reply
  49. kramer

    1800,mile long wave how do you stop something like that,have to look after the only planet we have

    March 12, 2011 at 9:05 am | Reply
  50. Tisha

    Does anyone know if Saki Japan was hit by the earthquake/Tusanmi ? I think it might be in the district of Nagasone-Cho ? I would appreciate the help. Thanks

    March 15, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Reply
  51. Ryan420

    @ Renee mostly if you read your original post you come off very racist based off historical events where there is very few people alive anymore to testify to them. Also secondly what does people starving have to do with others who are victims of such a HUGE tragedy like this. ALSO 60 countries(rough number) helped in aid relief during the Katrina disaster including Japan. Of course you are one to sight history and make yourself come off racist. I hope in your case you are not and in the future look to wording ones self a little better. That's my 2 cents, peace, pot, and microdots.

    March 17, 2011 at 1:33 am | Reply
  52. SteveG

    US Embassy offers flights out of Tokyo for citizens


    March 17, 2011 at 11:16 am | Reply
  53. MarthaB

    What a bunch of HYPOCRITES! Attacking Renee, when she clearly has a point. Nothing wrong in suggesting to help our country before others, because I don't see any other country comming to our rescue, who did when Katrina hit? Let me ask you all something; Would you help a stranger before your blood? I don't think so. It's just putting priorities in line. Yes, it's one world that we all live in, and we should help each other, but it's a "two-way" street too, and why should we be the only one to help. Off course we'll send help, we've been doing it for years, but it's nice to think about our country first, for once. It seems like this country is being taken over by other countries, and by idiots too. We're heading towards idiocracy.
    Renee, I don't judge you, I understand you, and, THREE WORDS: FREEDOM OF SPEECH!

    March 17, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Reply
  54. MarthaB

    Obviously she does not have the power or control to tell you all what to do with your money. I believe to be smarter than that. She obviously is yelling out a frustrating situation to this country. Does she know anyone of us in particular? NO. Let's not take things soooo personal, MY GOD. I don't know what's worst.

    March 17, 2011 at 6:24 pm | Reply
  55. MarthaB

    Everyone here's thinkgs they're GOD. Otherwise why are you all so judgemental over an expression? Also, the fact that some assure people that dissasters like the one that just happened would not happen in Hawaii, really? Can you guarantee it? Gee, I wish I was that sure. Nothing is for sure in this world, there are no guarantees. It's great to see people wanting to help. I've been donating forever with the American Red Cross on a monthly basis, which comes out of my checking account, and they're the ones to choose how & whom to help. But, who are you to accuse someone that you don't know, just because they have an opinion about this countries ways of helping.

    March 17, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Reply
  56. Tina

    I agree with Renee! Help the people in the UNITED STATES first! Are you not aware of OUR economic problems going on now! I understand it was not due to an earthquake or tsunami. I can't believe you are all that stupid to not realize there are millions of people in the USA that need help too!

    March 21, 2011 at 8:06 pm | Reply
  57. Renee You Are Terrible

    I hope that my name shows how i feel. You are a horrible, racist, selfish person.

    April 6, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Reply
  58. Ryan420

    Honestly Martha none of us really think we are god or the such. Mostly I just think people tire of hearing racist comments come out of huge disasters like this. Everyone is allowed their opinion no doubt, but in this day and age of social networking you can't post a opinion and not expect backlash when you are unconventional in your thinking and wording. Not to say that Renee is even racist but that "maybe" one should think before spouting things like this. Regardless I hope people relaize that helping other human beings is something required of us no matter what country, etc it happens in.

    April 10, 2011 at 8:33 pm | Reply
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