An 80-year-old woman and her 16-year-old grandson were rescued Sunday after being buried under rubble for nine days after the worst recorded earthquake in Japanese history and a massive tsunami toppled their home.
The two were trapped in their kitchen after the magnitude 9 temblor struck March 11 and survived by wrapping themselves in towels and eating yogurt and drinking, water, milk and Coke, Japanese news reports said.
Sumi Abe had been unable to free herself after her legs were wedged under the refrigerator. Eventually, her grandson, Jin Abe, dug his way out of the debris onto the roof of the home, where he was able to alert rescuers.
Public broadcaster NHK showed images of a woman with glasses and curly gray hair wrapped in a blanket and surrounded by rescuers. Sumi Abe was able to say her name and to tell rescuers that she was unhurt. Jin Abe suffered hypothermia and told doctors he had almost no feeling in his left leg.
The two were found in Ishinomaki in Miyagi prefecture, a city ravaged by the tsunami.
The miraculous discovery comes as more and more victims are being recovered. The chance of survival so long after such a two-prong disaster is considered minuscule.
The official death toll as of Sunday evening stood at 8,199, with 12,722 missing, according to police. But Japan’s Kyodo News service reported that as many as 15,000 people may have been killed in Miyagi prefecture alone, according to the local police chief.
Times staff writer Alexandra Zavis in Los Angeles contributed to this report.