JAPAN DISASTER: Survivors Found Under Rubble - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

JAPAN DISASTER: Survivors Found Under Rubble

UPDATE>>> Japan restricts sales of vegetables from prefecture surrounding Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Health Ministry says.

TOKYO - An 80-year-old woman and her teenage grandson were rescued Sunday in northeastern Japan when the youth was able to pull himself out of their flattened two-story house nine days after the devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Jin Abe, 16, was seen calling out for help from the roof of the collapsed home in the hard-hit city of Ishinomaki, according to the Miyagi Prefectural Police. Like other homes in northeastern Japan, they had lost electricity and telephone service in the March 11 earthquake.

He led them inside to his 80-year-old grandmother, Sumi Abe. Both were conscious but weak, and had survived on the food they had in their refrigerator, said Shizuo Kawamura of the Ishinomaki police department.

The woman could not get out of the house because she has trouble walking, and the teenager, who was suffering from a low body temperature, had been unable until Sunday to pull himself from the wreckage, Kawamura told The Associated Press by telephone.

They were found by local police who realized they couldn't get the woman out of the collapsed house and had to call other rescuers, he said.

National broadcaster NHK showed video of the stunned but coherent woman being placed on a stretcher. She was able to give her name and told rescuers she had been in the house since it collapsed in the quake.

When asked if she was hurt, she said no.

The police said they were trying to learn if there had been other relatives living in the house and their whereabouts.

NHK showed them being taken by helicopter to a hospital.

Kawamura said that while the rescue was a reason for joy, the police had "too many other victims to find to take the time to celebrate."

The rare good news punctuated the traumatic hunt for bodies and missing people.

"This morning my next door neighbor came crying to me that she still can't find her husband. All I could tell her was, 'We'll do our best, so just hold on a little longer,'" fire brigade officer Takao Sato in the disaster zone said.

About 257,000 households in the north still have no electricity and at least 1 million lack running water. Food, water, medicine and fuel are short in some parts, and low temperatures during Japan's winter are not helping.

Race to avert disaster
Meanwhile, Japan made some progress in its race to avert disaster at a nuclear power plant leaking radiation after an earthquake and tsunami that are estimated to have killed more than 15,000 people in one prefecture alone.

Three hundred engineers have been battling inside the danger zone to salvage the six-reactor Fukushima plant in the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl 25 years ago.

"I think the situation is improving step by step," Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama told a news conference.

But rising cases of contaminated vegetables, dust and water have raised new fears and the government said it will decide by Monday on whether to restrict consumption and shipments of food from the quake zone.

Food beyond Japan's borders was also reportedly tainted. Radiation was detected on fava beans imported from Japan to Taiwan, Taiwanese officials said in what appears to be the first case of contamination in Japanese imports.

Taiwan's Cabinet-level Atomic Energy Council Radiation Monitoring Center said in a statement that a small amount of iodine and cesium had been found on a batch of Japanese fava beans imported to the island on Friday. The center said 11 becquerels of iodine and 1 becquerel of cesium were detected.

Higher death toll
Police said they believed more than 15,000 people had been killed by the double disaster in Miyagi prefecture, one of four that took the brunt of the tsunami damage. In total, more than 20,000 are dead or missing, police said.

The unprecedented crisis will cost the world's third largest economy as much as $248 billion and require Japan's biggest reconstruction push since post-World War Two.

It has also set back nuclear power plans the world over.

Encouragingly for Japanese transfixed on work at the Fukushima complex, the most critical reactor — No. 3, which contains highly toxic plutonium — stabilized after fire trucks doused it for hours with hundreds of tones of water.

"We believe the water is having a cooling effect," an official of plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said.

Work also advanced on bringing power back to water pumps used to cool overheating nuclear fuel, and temperatures at spent fuel pools in reactors No. 5 and 6 were returning to normal.

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