A 60-year-old man has been found on the roof of his floating house nearly 10 miles out at sea, two days after the tsunami that devastated the north-east coast of Japan.
Hiromitsu Shinkawa must have resigned himself to his fate when he was swept away by the retreating tsunami that roared ashore in his home town of Minami Soma in Fukushima prefecture.
As the wave approached, Shinkawa took the fateful decision to return home to collect belongings. Minutes later he was out at sea clinging to a piece of the roof from his own home.
Incredibly, he was spotted by a maritime self-defence force destroyer taking part in the rescue effort as he clung to the wreckage with one hand and waved a self-made red flag with the other. He had been at sea for two days.
Reports said that on being handed a drink aboard the rescue boat, Shinkawa gulped it down and immediately burst into tears. His wife, with whom he had returned home as the tsunami approached, is still missing.
He was quoted as saying: “No helicopters or boats that came nearby noticed me. I thought that day was going to be the last day of my life.”
Officials said Shinkawa was in good condition after being taken to hospital by helicopter.
“I ran away after I heard a tsunami was coming,” he told Jiji Press. “But I turned back to fetch something from home and was swept away. I was rescued while hanging on to the roof of my house.”
The self-defence forces said the good weather and calm waters had allowed Shinkawa to stay alive during his 48-hour drift.