Woman swept out to sea while swimming on Japanese beach was rescued 37 hours later and 50 miles away


TOKYO (AP) — A Chinese woman who was swept away while swimming at a Japanese beach was rescued 37 hours later after drifting more than 80 kilometers (50 miles) out into the Pacific Ocean in an inflatable swimming ring, officials said Thursday.

The Japanese Coast Guard launched a search for the woman, identified only as a Chinese woman in her 20s, after she received a phone call from her friend on Monday evening saying she had disappeared while swimming in Shimoda, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) southwest of Tokyo.

According to experts, she was probably swept out to sea from the mountains by a current and an evening wind. Her swimming ring made it more difficult to move against the wind.

The woman was spotted by a cargo ship early Wednesday morning, about 36 hours after she disappeared off the southern tip of the Boso Peninsula, the coast guard said.

The cargo ship called a passing LPG tanker, the Kakuwa Maru No. 8, for help. Two crew members jumped into the sea and rescued the woman, officials said. She was airlifted to shore by a Coast Guard helicopter, authorities said.

In a video released by the Japanese coast guard, the woman — dry and wrapped in a light blue blanket — stands on the deck of the tanker with a crew member standing beside her in case she loses her balance, while others quietly watch. A coast guard helicopter hovers above. Once she is attached to a rope and safely brought into the helicopter, she waves to the tanker’s crew.

Crew members of the tanker who helped with the rescue told TV Asahi that they shouted at the woman not to give up as she bobbed up and down in waves that were about 2 meters (6.5 feet) high. Two of them jumped into the water and tied a rope around the woman, while other crew members pulled her toward the tanker, they said.

A crew member said everyone was relieved the woman had survived, even though she appeared exhausted.

Social media was filled with messages praising the crew members who assisted in the rescue as “heroes” and saying they had done a “good job”, while others praised the woman’s perseverance and the fact that she had survived in good health.

The woman was mildly dehydrated but in good health and was able to walk away after being checked at a nearby hospital, authorities said.

The Coast Guard said the ship had drifted more than 80 kilometres (50 miles) and was lucky to have survived, despite the danger of heatstroke, hypothermia at night or striking a ship in the dark.

Hidetoshi Saito, a senior member of the Society of Water Rescue and Survival Research, said in a television interview that the woman’s survival was a “miracle.”

The Chinese Embassy in Tokyo noted on Thursday that the woman had been safely rescued in cooperation with the Chinese Consulate and Japanese authorities, as had the tanker’s cargo and crew. In the message, the embassy urged Chinese residents in Japan to monitor weather and maritime conditions, exercise caution when visiting the beach or participating in maritime activities, and choose locations where lifeguards are present.

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