OKAYAMA -- While a large number of people died in widespread flooding and landslides across western Japan, several isolated residents here had a narrow escape after strangers in boats arrived at their homes and saved them.
More than 2,400 residents in the Mabicho area of the city of Kurashiki in the western prefecture of Okayama were temporarily isolated after a swollen river burst a bank.
On the afternoon of July 7, Yoshiteru Amatatsu, 78, had fled to the second floor of his relative's house in the same area. As he couldn't evacuate with his 44-year-old third daughter, who has an eye problem, and his 54-year-old nephew, who has a leg disability, he waited with them and other relatives to be rescued.
Amatatsu then spotted a light blue boat with three middle-aged men outside the house, and waved to them, calling out, "Help us!" The boat was approaching the house, but Amatatsu asked the three men to first help other elderly people who were also waiting to be rescued.
"Don't worry. We won't abandon you," one of the three men, who was tanned and looked to be the eldest, said to Amatatsu. The boat came back and rescued Amatatsu, his family and relatives at around 5 p.m. the same day. "If they hadn't come to help us, we wouldn't be here. I can't thank them enough," Amatatsu said.
Another resident, Tatsuo Nose, 85, escaped with his wife into a 1.5-meter-high space between the roof and ceiling of their single-story home, after it was flooded to near its ceiling in the early morning hours of July 7. When Nose mumbled to his wife, "This is the end. This is our final farewell," he looked out a small window and saw a yellow boat heading toward his house.
"Help us," he called out. Two men wearing climber's hats, who appeared to be in their 50s, came and rescued Nose and his wife. Nose remembered hearing that the two men were from the city of Okayama but at the time he wasn't in the frame of mind to ask them for their contact information. He now has a message for them: "Thank you. You saved our lives."
(Japanese original by Nana Hayashida, Okayama Bureau)