Man rescued from sea 9 miles off Japan coast

Image: Rescue of Hiromitsu Shinkawa
Sixty-year-old survivor Hiromitsu Shinkawa waves from wreckage, as crew members of Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF) Aegis vessel Choukai rescue him.  Jiji Press / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: staff and news service reports

A 60-year-old man was rescued two days after he was swept miles out to sea on the roof of his house by the huge tsunami which hit Japan Friday, the Agence France-Presse news agency reported.

Hiromitsu Shinkawa was plucked to safety at 12:40 p.m. local time Sunday (10:40 p.m. Saturday ET) after he was spotted nine miles off shore by the crew of a Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer, the AFP said.

Shinkawa, from the devastated city of Minamisoma, was conscious and in "good condition," the agency reported citing ministry officials.

"I ran away after learning that the tsunami was coming," Shinkawa told rescuers, AFP said, citing Jiji Press. "But I turned back to pick up something at home, when I was washed away. I was rescued while I was hanging to the roof from my house."

Other survivors caught up in the devastating earthquake and tsunami shared harrowing stories and their fears.

Among the voices:

Harumi Watanabe
She told the U.K.-based Guardian newspaper that she had driven "as quickly as I could" to her elderly parents' house in the coastal town of Shintona after the earthquake, arriving shortly before the tsunami wave struck.

"There wasn't time to save them. They were old and too weak to walk so I couldn't get them in the car in time," she told the paper. Her parents were ripped from her grasp and dragged down by the water.

She was trapped in the house and said the water rose up to her neck as she stood on furniture. "There was only a narrow band of air below the ceiling. I thought I would die," she told The Guardian.

Ichiro Sakamoto
"Is it a dream? I just feel like I am in a movie or something," said Sakamoto, 50, in Hitachi, a city in Ibaraki Prefecture. "Whenever I am alone I have to pinch my cheek to check whether it's a dream or not."

Yuko Abe
"I am looking for my parents and my older brother," Yuko Abe, 54, said in tears in Rikuzentakata, a nearly flattened village in far-northern Iwate prefecture. "Seeing the way the area is, I thought that perhaps they did not make it....I also cannot tell my siblings that live away that I am safe, as mobile phones and telephones are not working."

Satako Yusawa
She teared up as she scanned the landscape of debris and destruction, looking at the patch of earth where Japan's massive tsunami erased her son's newly built house.

Despite destruction and loss, the 69-year-old widow said she was thankful: Her son and his family were out of town when Friday's offshore, 8.9-magnitude quake sparked huge surges of water that washed fleets of cars, boats and entire houses across coastal Sendai like detritus perched on lava.

"This," she said, "is life."

Yusawa said she was having tea at a friend's house when the main quake struck, shaking the ground massively for more than two horrifying minutes.

"We were desperately trying to hold the furniture up," she said, "but the shaking was so fierce that we just panicked."

Koichi Takairin
The 34-year-old truck driver from Sendai spent the day recounting his harrowing ordeal.

"The tsunami was unbelievably fast — cars were swept around me. All I could do was sit in my truck and pray," he said.

He hunkered down inside his sturdy 4-ton truck as homes, cars, and trees swept past him.

Hours after waters receded, Takairin said he walked out of his wrecked truck and joined scores of others who were as stunned by loss.

Fumiaki Yamato
The 70-year-old was inside his vacation home in a mountain village outside of Sendai when the temblor struck, The New York Times reported. He was driving toward Sendai trying to find the rest of his family when he spoke with a reporter. "I’m getting worried,” he said, adding, "I don’t know how many hours it’s going to take." Roads were impassable.

Lucy Craft
After the quake, the freelance correspondent in Tokyo spent each moment trying to locate her teenage son.

"The phone lines are still down ... I haven't been able to get in touch with him by cell phone, I haven't been able to contact anybody there. I have his teacher's phone number ... the phones aren't working," Craft told CNN on Saturday. Her son was attending a high school near the epicenter in Sendai. "It's a very upsetting situation, as you can imagine."

Masanori Ono
The 17-year-old watched workers wearing white masks and protective clothing use handheld scanners to check everyone arriving for radiation exposure from evacuated areas around a crippled nuclear power plant.

"There is radiation leaking out, and since the possibility (of exposure) is high, it's quite scary," said Masanori Ono, queuing at a center in Koriyama city, in Fukushima prefecture.

Yohei Yonekura
The 31-year-old entrepreneur at one emergency center, a baseball practice facility in Koriyama, was among dozens of people huddled under blankets and tried to sleep.

"My home is in Minami Soma and I still have people who I haven't been able to contact and there have been reports of the nuclear leak. I'm really concerned about their safety."

Reiko Takagi
Like 51,000 other people around the nuclear plant, the middle-age woman struggled to get away.

"Everyone wants to get out of the town. But the roads are terrible," said Takagi, standing outside a taxi company. "It is too dangerous to go anywhere. But we are afraid that winds may change and bring radiation toward us."

Yoshio Miura
The 65-year-old man was in his small trucking company office when the rumbling started, sending him under a table and dislodging heavy metal cabinets.

"These cabinets fell down right on top of me, and luckily they were stopped by this table," he said, gesturing across an office in shambles, its contents strewn across the floor by the quake and then coated in a thick layer of grime from the tsunami.

"The shaking was mostly side to side, it was very strong. ... Look at what it did to this building!" He points to a large shed that was lifted off its foundation.

Then came the water — massive waves that swept some 6 miles inland — and chaos.

Naomi Ishizawa
The cell phone saleswoman was working when the quake hit in the mid afternoon. She said it took until nightfall to reach her house just outside Sendai and check on her parents, who were both OK. Their home was still standing, but the walls of a bedroom and bathroom had collapsed and debris was strewn throughout.

And yet, she was lucky. The tsunami's inland march stopped just short of her residence; other houses in her neighborhood were totally destroyed.

Like many people throughout Japan's northeast, she had not heard from others in her family and was worried.

"My uncle and his family live in an area near the shore where there were a lot of deaths," Ishizawa, 24, said. "We can't reach them."

Michiko Yamada
The 75-year-old spoke from Rikuzentakata, where several neighborhoods were completely swept away.

"The tsunami was black and I saw people on cars and an old couple get swept away right in front of me."

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.