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Man Survives Tsunami After Driving Into Oncoming Wave

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Jinichi Sasaki, 48, was working at his office in a Minamisanriku community center last Friday when, at 2:46 JST, he felt the magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck off the coast of the region. He immediately considered the risk that a tsunami would follow.

Sasaki, a member of the board of education, "raced to his car and drove to close a floodgate, about 5 kilometers away," he told reporters for the Asahi Shimbun. Here's what happened next:

But after traveling 200 meters on Route 398, water began crossing the road in front of his car. Sasaki made a quick U-turn and tried to get away but water appeared in that direction, too.

"This could be the end," he thought. "Now let me face it."

Believing he was about to die, he drove in the direction of the sea.

Huge dark waves filled lumber and debris overwhelmed his vehicle and everything went dark. Sasaki's courage and the car's ability to temporarily withstand the swirling water and the dangerous floating debris saved his life.

But his vehicle tilted nose down and eventually water began to pour in. Sasaki desperately tried to escape but he couldn't get the door open. Just as he thought he was going to drown, a heavy timber smashed the rear window.

Through the darkness, he saw a faint light. Sasaki climbed toward it, trying to get out from the broken window by standing on the front seat's headrest.

But as hard as he tried, he couldn't escape as the car was carried away by the waves.

Just as he was about to lose all hope, he heard a man's voice calling to him from a second-floor balcony. "Grab the tire," the voice said.

Sasaki tried but couldn't reach it.

And then he saw an electric cable dangling nearby. He knew it could be his last chance. As he grabbed it, waves passed over his head. He choked on the muddy water and lost consciousness.

Sometime later, Sasaki came to as someone tapped him on the shoulder.

"You are safe. You did well," a man said. "Go up to the top of the hill before the second surge of waves arrives."

Some 9,500 people are still missing from Sasaki's home of Minamisanriku, a town in Miyagi Prefecture. At the end of his interview with reporters, Sasaki said he was on his way to help others who had survived and gathered in a nearby school. The only injuries Sasaki suffered were scratches to his hands.
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