Hiromitsu Shinkawa and other miraculous tales of tsunami rescues


Picture released by the Japanese Defence Agency on March 13, 2011, shows 60-year-old survivor Hiromitsu Shinkawa (R) as crew members of the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF) Aegis vessel Choukai sail to rescue him off Fukushima prefecture.



A Japanese rescue team Sunday managed to save the life of Hiromitsu Shinkawa, a 60-year-old man who survived Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami by clinging to the top of his roof.

Shinkawa was found close to 10 miles out at sea.

"I thought today was the last day of my life," Shinkawa told his rescuers, reported CNN.

He and his wife returned to their home in Minamisoma after the earthquake to collect their belongings but were then hit by the tsunami that slammed the city. He watched his wife be swept out to sea, but he managed to stay alive by grasping to his home. He drifted in the Pacific Ocean for two days.

Rescuers on a Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer saw him, waving a red flag, and sent a smaller boat to save him.

Shinkawa told workers after his rescue that other boats and helicopters had passed him but had not noticed him among the debris.

He was able to survive on his roof because of the mild weather conditions and calm seas after the tsunami, according to military officials.

Shinkawa's town, Minamisoma, has been reportedly razed to the ground by the disaster. Parts of the town are now no more than mud and debris.

About 15,000 people have been rescued so far as Japan struggles to cope with the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami that devastated much of the country Friday, according to Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

At least 10,000 people are expected to have died in the biggest crisis to hit Japan since World War II.

Tens of thousands of troops and rescue workers have descended on disaster-hit areas, reports GlobalPost's Justin McCurry.

In another miraculous recovery, an elderly woman was pulled from her completely collapsed home in the city of Natori.

And a 34-year-old truck driver survived the tsunami in Sendai by locking himself in his truck as the debris flew around him.

"Smaller cars were being swept around me," he told the BBC. "All I could do was sit in my truck."

Despite some rescues, ongoing aftershocks have prompted repeated tsunami alerts and hindered the search-and-rescue efforts.

Read more from GlobalPost on the disaster:

Japan PM calls tsunami the worst crisis since WWII

Global economy to take a beating after tsunami

-- Hanna Ingber Win