Grandmother and teen rescued after nine days under the rubble
Nine days after they were believed to have been killed in the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, an 80-year-old woman and her grandson were rescued from the rubble of their flattened home yesterday.
Sumi Abe, and her grandson Jin Abe (16) were trapped in the kitchen when their two-storey house collapsed around them in the devastated coastal city of Ishinomaki.
The boy told doctors he was able to reach the fridge and had fed his grandmother on yogurt, bread, Coca-Cola and water, and stayed close to her to keep her warm.
He eventually climbed through a small hole on to the collapsed roof of the building and shouted for help. He was heard by passing police officers who called a rescue team.
After 45 minutes removing debris they reached the kitchen, where they found the elderly woman lying on top of a fallen cupboard and wrapped in blankets.
She broke down in tears when rescuers reached her. The grandmother seemed stunned but coherent as she was placed on a stretcher and winched away by helicopter.
When asked by rescuers if she was hurt, she said "No".
The boy was said to be shivering and to have lost all feeling in one ankle.
The authorities had all but given up hope of finding anyone else alive by the end of last week amid freezing conditions. One British search and rescue team reported having been told there was no more work for them as the effort moved to recovering bodies.
The Japanese military announced on Saturday that they found a man thought to have survived more than a week in a half-destroyed house. But it later turned out that he was an evacuee who had simply returned to his home later.
However, police seemed satisfied that the latest rescue was a genuine cause for celebration.
A police spokesman said: "An 80-year-old woman and a 16-year-old boy were found under debris. Their temperatures were quite low but they were conscious. They have been rescued and sent to hospital."
It provided a rare glimmer of hope for rescue workers as the death toll from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami continued to climb. Japanese police said 8,450 people had been confirmed dead and 12,931 were officially listed as missing.
Miyagi prefecture, the worst hit area, had a confirmed death toll of 5,053. But the local police chief said he expected that to rise to more than 15,000.
Among the harrowing stories still emerging was the fate of 53 elderly people at a nursing home in Ofunato. When the earthquake hit, staff members rushed them into a courtyard using wheelchairs and stretchers. But they were then swept away by the tsunami.
More than a week after the natural disaster, about 360,000 people are displaced from their homes and have taken shelter in evacuation centres. The Save the Children charity said that included about 100,000 children along the north-east coast.
Spokesman Ian Woolverton said: "We found children in desperate conditions, huddling around kerosene lamps and wrapped in blankets.
"They told me about their fears about radiation." (© Daily Telegraph, London)