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'We're gonna die': Dashcam footage shows Tochigi couple's ordeal in car flooded by typhoon

Shigeru Shimada explains how he and his wife escaped from their car, still left at the scene, after it was pushed into a paddy field due to flooding caused by Typhoon Hagibis in Ashikaga, Tochigi Prefecture, on Oct. 16, 2019. (Mainichi/Kodai Tamai)

ASHIKAGA, Tochigi -- A couple have released video footage from their car's dashcam showing their vehicle being swept into a paddy field by floodwaters from Typhoon Hagibis on Oct. 12, and being before they could escape.

Shigeru Shimada, 67, and his 62-year-old wife decided to evacuate to an elementary school about 1 kilometer from their home in Ashikaga, Tochigi Prefecture, north of Tokyo, as the rain got heavier that evening. Shigeru was sitting in the front passenger seat and his wife was driving.

The dashcam footage, lasting about 4 minutes in total, started as the couple left their home at 8:41 p.m. It showed heavy rain pelting against the windshield as they drove through a residential area then proceeded onto a road surrounded by paddy fields in the pitch dark.

About 2 1/2 minutes later, the couple came to a flooded road. Shigeru advised her wife to "go straight forward." Immediately afterward, water came gushing from the paddy field to the right. The car's alarm sounded and its rear left wheel was pushed off the road and got stuck. "We're gonna die," Shimada was recorded saying several times.

He tried to escape but the door next to him would not budge due to the water pressure. Shimada eventually pressed his whole body against the door allowing him to stick his left foot in the approximately 10-centimeter opening that he had made, and the two squeezed through the gap, making it outside. Around this time, the vehicle's headlamp was submerged by the floodwaters and the footage went dark from 8:45.

Shimada says after they got out of the car he leaned forward to avoid being swept away by the stream of water that came up to his waistline, and led his wife by the hand to a nearby prefectural road that was not flooded. They miraculously survived without any injuries.

Shimada told the Mainichi Shimbun on Oct 16 that he does not remember the incident very well as everything happened "in the blink of an eye." He commented, "I'm glad we somehow survived, but the best thing to do is to evacuate at an early stage. If it's dangerous, then it might even be better to evacuate a day before (the disaster)."

(Japanese original by Kodai Tamai, Utsunomiya Bureau)

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