Tiny miracle offers hope in search for survivors
A FOUR-MONTH-OLD baby who survived for three days amid the devastation of Japan's worst ever earthquake offered a rare moment of hope yesterday for rescuers engaged in a race against time to save lives.
The girl, wrapped in a pink woollen bear suit, was kept alive by her parents amid what remained of their home in the town of Ishinomaki in the north-east of the country.
Looking clean and well-fed, she was briefly cradled by Japanese soldiers after they reached the town, searching for survivors.
But in a stark illustration of the perilous situation still facing those who lived through the disaster, the panicked couple snatched her back moments later, preparing to make a dash for higher ground amid fears that another tsunami was imminent. In the event the warnings turned out to be a false alarm.
Half of the town of 165,000 is estimated to have been engulfed by the tsunami that followed Friday's earthquake. The survivors have been left without power and water in sub-zero conditions.
Groups of people, many of them elderly, were yesterday huddled around campfires, wrapped in blankets in what were once streets, as they waited to be rescued.
But as rescue workers from around the world began to reach the worst affected areas, tales of survival became rarer and rarer.
In the town of Natori three elderly people were pulled alive from a car that had been tossed on to a rooftop.
They were spotted by passers-by on the street level who raised the alarm after seeing figures in the car wedged on the rooftop. Elsewhere in the devastated region, a mother told how she had clung to the branches of a tree as the current swept past her, eventually taking her chance and grabbing on to a floor mat as it drifted by. Her daughter was not so lucky.
In the coastal city of Sendai, one of the worst-hit areas, Miki Otomo, a mother-of-three, recounted how she slammed her foot on the accelerator and managed to escape the wall of water as it swept up behind her during Friday's tsunami.
"The tsunami wave was coming and I grabbed grandfather and our dog and drove," Mrs Otomo said. "The wave was right behind me, but I had to keep zigzagging around obstacles to get to safety."
Other members of her family had an even more dramatic escape. "My older sister was in a bus when the wave came," she said. "The bus driver told everybody to get out of the bus and run. My sister was able to get away but some people just couldn't run fast enough."