Tuesday 12 December 2017

Survivor (70) offers hope to rescuers

Fujiko Chiba (70) is rescued after five days in an isolated evacuation centre
Fujiko Chiba (70) is rescued after five days in an isolated evacuation centre

Martin Evans and Andrew Hough

Fujiko Chiba (70) is rescued after five days in an isolated evacuation centre.

AMID the death and destruction along Japan's east coast there were rare moments of hope for rescuers combing through the rubble and matchwood wreckage for survivors.

Five days after the devastating earthquake and tsunami struck, rescue workers pulled one 70-year-old woman from the remains of her home.

When the earthquake struck last Friday, Sai Abe, had refused to leave her house in the port city of Otsuchi.

Her home withstood the initial tremor, but was completely destroyed an hour later when the 30ft tsunami swept through her neighbourhood.

When rescuers found her she was suffering from hypothermia due to the freezing temperatures throughout the region, but was otherwise unharmed. Her son, Hiromi Abe, said he was overjoyed, but was still desperately trying to find his father.

Elsewhere a man in his 20s was pulled from the wreckage of his home further down the coast in the city of Ishimaki. Rescue workers heard him calling out for help and managed to locate him using specially trained sniffer dogs. He was not badly injured, but was also suffering from the effects of cold and hunger.

Another elderly woman was pulled from a car wedged among wrecked buildings. A search team spotted her through the car's unbroken windscreen when she moved. She was also being treated for hypothermia in hospital.

Weather worsened in the region making the conditions for those still trapped even more difficult. And forcasters have predicted snow for the coming days.

On Monday a four-month-old baby was found alive in the remains of her home, giving rescuers a boost.

But as the search for survivors entered its sixth day, hope of finding anyone else alive in the wrecked towns and villages along the coast diminished.

The UK search and rescue team spent the day in the town of Ofunato which has been devastated by the quake and subsequent tsunami.

While a large number of bodies were found, no survivors were located in the area. Despite the lack of success so far the searches were due to resume today.

Irish Independent

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