Man stranded in empty Japanese town since tsunami
Published : Apr 10, 2011 - 16:54
Updated : Apr 10, 2011 - 16:54

(Kunio Shiga listens to a battery-powered radio in the living room of his home in Minami Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, inside the deserted evacuation zone established for the 20 kilometer radius around the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex in northeastern Japan Friday, April 8, 2011. The 75-year-old man was stranded alone in his farmhouse ever since Japan's monstrous tsunami struck nearly a month ago. / AP-Yonhap News)

MINAMI SOMA, Japan (AP) _ The farmhouse sits at the end of a mud-caked, one-lane road strewn with toppled trees, the decaying carcasses of dead pigs and large debris deposited by the March 11 tsunami.

Stranded alone inside the unheated, dark home is 75-year-old Kunio Shiga. He cannot walk very far and doesn't know what happened to his wife.

His neighbors have all left because the area is 12 miles (20 kilometers) from the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant -- just within the zone where authorities have told everyone to get out because of concerns about leaking radiation.

No rescuer ever came for him.

When a reporter and two photographers from The Associated Press arrived at Shiga's doorstep Friday, the scared and disoriented farmer said: ``You are the first people I have spoken to'' since the earthquake and tsunami.

``Do you have any food?'' he asked. ``I will pay you.''

Shiga gratefully accepted the one-liter bottle of water and sack of 15-20 energy bars given to him by the AP. With Shiga's permission, the AP notified local police of his situation.

On Saturday, a police official in charge of missing persons called the AP to say Shiga had been rescued and taken to a shelter.

The official, who did not give his name because he is not authorized to speak to the media, said Shiga was expected to be fine.

Shiga had said Friday that he was running out of supplies and food. He was unable to cook his rice for lack of electricity and running water. His traditional, two-story house is intact, although it is a mess of fallen objects, including a toppled Buddhist shrine.

Temperatures at night in the region have been cold, but above freezing.

The Odaka neighborhood where he lives is a ghost town.

Neighboring fields are still inundated from the tsunami. The smell of the sea is everywhere. The only noise comes from pigs foraging for food.

Local police acknowledged they have not been able to check many neighborhoods because of radiation concerns.

As radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant has fallen in recent days, however, the police have fanned out inside the evacuation zone to cover more areas.

On Friday, they were busy searching for bodies two miles (three kilometers) from Shiga's farmhouse.

Hundreds of police, many mobilized from Tokyo and wearing white radiation suits, pulled four bodies in an hour from one small area in Minami Soma. They had found only five bodies the previous day.

The AP crew, which had been watching the police search, later broke away to see if it could find any residents living inside the evacuation zone. Some construction workers directed them to a part of town where some houses were intact.

The farmhouse where Shiga's family has grown vegetables for generations is at the end of a long mud- and rubble-covered road blocked by fallen trees and dead and decaying animals.

The journalists spotted the relatively undamaged house about 500 yards (meters) away. Unable to drive on the road because of the debris, they navigated the rest of the way on foot, sometimes crawling over large branches.

Shiga was seen wandering in front of his house but went inside.

The journalists went to greet him.

He said he spent his lonely days since the disaster sitting in bed in his dark home and listening to a battery-powered radio. A scruffy beard covered his face.

``The tsunami came right up to my doorstep,'' he said. ``I don't know what happened to my wife. She was here, but now she's gone.''

Shiga said he was aware of the evacuation order but could do nothing about it, since he is barely able to walk past the front gate of his house. His car is stuck in mud and won't start.

Although Shiga moved to a shelter, he had said Friday that he was not sure whether he really wanted to.

``I'm old and I don't know if I could leave here. Who would take care of me?'' he said, staring blankly through his sliding glass doors at the mess in his yard.

Tokyo News Editor Eric Talmadge, along with photographers David Guttenfelder and Hiro Komae, were reporting from the evacuation zone of Fukushima Prefecture in northeastern Japan.

(Kunio Shiga poses for a photo at his home in Minami Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, inside the deserted evacuation zone established for the 20 kilometer radius around the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex in northeastern Japan Friday, April 8, 2011. / AP-Yonhap News)

<한글 요약>

쓰나미후 약 1달간 홀로 지낸 일본 노인

일본 주재 AP 통신 기자들은 후쿠시마 원전 반경 20km 이내에 거주자가 있는지 확인하고 있던 중 한 마을에서 손상되지 않은 집 한 채를 발견했다.

그 집은 쓰러진 나무와 죽은 돼지 시체, 그리고 진흙으로 뒤덮인 길 끝에 있었는데 기자들은 그 집을 발견하고 걸어서 그 곳까지 도달했다.

그리고 발견한 것은 한 노인이었다. 기자들은 집 앞에서 서성이고 있다가 집안으로 들어간 노인을 발견하고 인사하러 가까이 다가갔다.

기자들이 집 문 앞에 다가갔을 때 두러움에 질리고 혼란스러워 보였던 그 노인은 “당신들이 내가 처음 말해본 사람들이요” 라고 말하며 음식이 있냐고 묻고, 돈을 내겠다고도 말했다.

75세의 쿠니오 시가씨는 기자들로부터 생수 1리터와 15개에서 20개 정도의 에너지 바를 받았다.

그는 필요한 생필품이 다 떨어졌고, 전기와 수도가 작동하지 않아 밥을 지을 수도 없다고 말했다.

그는 쓰나미가 자신의 집 바로 문 앞까지 않다고 말하면서 아내한테 무슨 일이 일어났는지 모르겠다고 말했다. 아내가 바로 여기에 있었는데 없어졌다고 말했다.

시가씨는 대피령에 대해서 알고 있었다고 하나 앞문까지 겨우 걸을 수 있는 상황에서 아무것도 할 수 없었다고 했다.

AP기자들은 시가씨의 허락을 받아 지역 경찰에게 신고하고 경찰서에 가서 홀로 남겨진 시가씨에 대해 알렸다.

하지만 시가씨는 경찰이 온다 해도 남아있는 것이 차라리 남아있겠다고 말했다.

“나는 나이가 들었고, 여기를 떠날 수 있을지도 잘 모르겠어요. 누가 나를 돌봐주겠어요?” 라고 말하면서도 시가씨는 “아무데도 가기는 싫은데 여기서는 물도 없고, 음식도 없어요.” 라고 말했다.