Nobuko Kikuchi, a 72-year-old resident of Iwanuma, Miyagi Prefecture, couldn't hear the emergency sirens that followed the 9.0-magnitude earthquake that struck on March 11, 2011.

Nor could she hear the public announcement urging people to evacuate to higher ground as a massive tsunami approached the coast of northeastern Japan's Tohoku region.

Kikuchi is deaf. She owes her life to a neighbor who came to alert her. Kikuchi narrowly escaped the monster wave, which uprooted and washed away her house.