14 Mar 2011

Tsunami survivor rescued from house debris at sea

10:34 pm on 14 March 2011

In a remarkable tale of survival following Friday's earthquake in Japan, troops have rescued a 60-year-old man who floated out to sea on the roof of his home after the tsunami hit.

The 9.0-magnitude quake sent a 10-metre wave surging through towns and cities, picking up houses, cars and ships in its path.

Hiromitsu Shinkawa was pulled from the sea about 15km off the town of Minamisoma, in Fukushima prefecture, after he was spotted waving a red cloth, the BBC reports.

Mr Shinkawa told his rescuers the tsunami hit as he and his wife returned home to gather some posessions after the earthquake, and his wife was swept away.

Other survivors have recounted harrowing moments of loss as the tsunami struck.

Etsuko Oyama from Rikusentakata, in Iwate prefecture, says she grabbed a support with one hand and held on to her daughter with the other, but lost her grip in the powerful surge, and her daughter was washed away.

The Japanese public broadcaster NHK says a doctor working in a five-storey hospital in Minamisariku - now called the town that disappeared - has told how the tsunami swamped the hospital, reaching up to the fourth floor.

About 100 patients were in the hospital at the time but staff say they could evacuate patients only on the fourth floor.

The doctor told the broadcaster a third of those were evacuated. The others remain unaccounted for.