Amid the silent corpses a baby cried out – and Japan met its tiniest miracle. On March 14 soldiers from the Japanese Defense Force were going door-to-door, pulling bodies from homes flattened by the earthquake and tsunami in Ishinomaki City, a coastal town northeast of Senda. More accustomed to the crunching of rubble and the sloshing of mud than to the sound of life, they dismissed the baby’s cry as a mistake. Until they heard it again.
They made their way to the pile of debris, and carefully removed fragments of wood and slate, shattered glass and rock. And then they saw her: a four-month old baby girl in a pink woolen bear suit.
The tidal wave literally swept the unnamed girl away from her parents’ arms when it hit their home on March 11. Since then her parents – both of whom survived the disaster – have taken refuge in their wrecked house, and worried that their little girl was dead. Soldiers managed to reunite the baby with her overjoyed father shortly after the rescue.
“Her discovery has put a new energy into the search,” a civil defense official told a local news crew. “We will listen, look and dig with even more diligence after this.” Ahead of the baby’s rescue, officials reported finding at least 2,000 bodies washed up on the shoreline of Miyagi prefecture. How the child survived drowning – or being crushed by fallen trees and houses – remains a mystery. (See pictures of the calamity of Japan’s quake.)
In a nation short on good news, other rescues have buoyed morale, too. In Iwate prefecture, northeastern Japan, the devastating tidal wave swept away an elderly woman along with her entire house – but it couldn’t extinguish her will to live.
Rescuers found the 70-year-old alive inside her home on March 15, four days after the black tidal wave wiped out much of the region. Osaka fire department spokesman Yuko Kotani told the Associated Press the woman is now receiving treatment in a local hospital. She is conscious but suffering from hypothermia. (See how to tend to Japan’s psychological scars.)
Elsewhere, 60-year old Hiromitsu Shinkawa survived two days at sea by clinging on to his floating rooftop. He was discovered 10 miles off the Japanese coastline. “Several helicopters and ships passed but none of them noticed me,” he said after his March 13 rescue. “I thought that was going to be the last day of my life.”