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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Survivor's tale caught on camera

Kyodo

KAMAISHI, Iwate Pref. — The moment in which a local newspaper reporter was engulfed by the tsunami in Iwate Prefecture before narrowly escaping with his life was captured in dramatic photos taken by a government employee.

News photo
Swept away: A series of photos taken by a transport and tourism ministry employee shows Toya Chiba, a reporter for the local daily Iwate Tokai Shimbun, being taken by a tsunami in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, on March 11. KYODO PHOTO

After the magnitude 9 earthquake rattled the news room of the Iwate Tokai Shimbun in the city of Kamaishi on March 11, reporter Toya Chiba went to the mouth of the Owatari River to cover the scene after going home to make sure his family had fled to higher ground.

As he was taking photos, the 36-year-old reporter noticed the river rising.

"Tsunami is coming, run!" He heard a voice coming from a loudspeaker on the rooftop of the Kamaishi Port Office building.

As the tsunami came, the reporter saw it break the window of an office building and swallow it up.

At the time, Shoichi Sasaki, the Transport Ministry employee, was taking photos of Chiba from the roof of the port office.

It was apparently less than 20 seconds from when the water hit Chiba's knees until it engulfed the reporter and swept him away.

Chiba said he felt as if time had stopped and found himself surprisingly calm.

"I thought I was going to die, but then I said, 'I can't die," ' he said.

The tsunami carried him for about 30 meters, along with cars and vending machines, Sasaki's photos show.

Chiba was finally able to pop his head above the water after getting caught on an 8-meter coal heap.

He saw a rope dangling from the coal heap and grabbed it to climb on top. Chiba survived.

"I didn't think a tsunami of that scale would come. It was a complete error in judgment," the reporter said.



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