News / Asia

Japanese Rescuers Amazed at Survival of Boy, Grandmother

80-year-old Sumi Abe (C) is helped by emergency workers after being rescued from under the rubble in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture, northern Japan, in this picture taken by Nikkei Shimbun on March 20 , 2011
80-year-old Sumi Abe (C) is helped by emergency workers after being rescued from under the rubble in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture, northern Japan, in this picture taken by Nikkei Shimbun on March 20 , 2011
Martyn Williams

A 16-year-old boy and his 80-year-old grandmother were in stable condition in a hospital on Monday after being rescued from the ruins of their home nine days after it was destroyed by a powerful tsunami. The number of dead or missing from the combined magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami now stands at almost 22,000, and continues to rise.

For a team of four rescue workers it was an amazing find.

While walking through the ruins of Ishinomaki, a coastal city that was destroyed by a tsunami more than 3 meters high, they heard a faint voice crying out.

Yoichi Seino, leader of the police rescue squad, spoke to the media on Monday and described what happened next.

Seino said his team immediately moved towards the voice. They found something that astonished them: 16 year-old Jin Abe on the rooftop of a destroyed house that he'd been trapped in for nine days. He'd managed to climb out and alert rescuers.

Still inside was his grandmother, Sumi, who reportedly burst into tears upon seeing rescuers.

The two were lucky. They had been trapped in the kitchen. Blankets were within reach to help them make it through freezing nights, and a few scraps in the refrigerator provided some nourishment.

On Monday Jin spoke to Japanese reporters from his hospital bed.

In a weak voice, he said he did not remember much about the tsunami hitting the house or his nine days trapped inside.

Jin looked exhausted and spoke few words.  But Michio Kobayashi, a doctor at the Japanese Red Cross Hospital in Ishinomaki, told a news conference that both Jin and his grandmother are doing well.

The doctor said both have been talking and have been eating food. When given a dish of white rice, both said it tasted delicious.

The rescue was broadcast on television Sunday afternoon, and made headlines around the world.

But more rescues are not likely. On Monday, the governor of hard-hit Miyagi prefecture, where Jin and his grandmother were found, told relief workers to turn their attention towards helping the 350,000 people living in shelters.

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