TOKYO — Hiromitsu Shinkawa was pushed out to sea while he clung to the roof of his home after a tsunami swept away his wife. For two days, he drifted off Japan’s northeastern coast, trying to get the attention of helicopters and ships that passed by – to no avail.
Finally, on Sunday, a Japanese military vessel spotted the 60-year-old waving a red cloth. He was about 15 kilometers (about 10 miles) offshore from the earthquake-ravaged city of Minamisoma, said Yoshiyuki Kotake, a Defense Ministry spokesman.
Shinkawa told his rescuers that the tsunami hit as he and his wife returned home to gather some belongings after Friday’s quake. His wife was swept away, Kotake said.
“Several helicopters and ships passed by, but none of them noticed me,” he was quoted by another defense agency spokesman, who refused to be identified by name, as saying.
Japanese troops used a small boat to pluck him from the ocean.
Military officials said Shinkawa was lucky that mild weather and relatively calm seas enabled him to stay afloat for nearly two days, the Kyodo news agency reported.
“I thought today was the last day of my life,” it quoted him as saying.
The term TSUNAMI originated as a Japanese word which literally means harbor wave. It is a series of water waves caused by the displacement of a large volume of a body of water, usually an ocean, though it can occur in large lakes. Tsunamis are a frequent occurrence in Japan; approximately 195 events have been recorded. Owing to the immense volumes of water and the high energy involved, tsunamis can devastate coastal regions.
Tsunamis is generated when the sea floor abruptly deforms and vertically displaces the overlying water. Tectonic earthquakes are a particular kind of earthquake that are associated with the earth’s crustal deformation; when these earthquakes occur beneath the sea, the water above the deformed area is displaced from its equilibrium position. More specifically, a tsunami can be generated when thrust faults associated with convergent or destructive plate boundaries move abruptly, resulting in water displacement. Movement on normal faults will also cause displacement of the seabed, but the size of the largest of such events is normally too small to give rise to a significant tsunami.