NAHA, Okinawa Pref. – Adrift on a small boat for 15 days, a 77-year-old fisherman has been rescued by another fishing boat in the East China Sea.
Doctors who treated Yoshimoto Ikari quoted him as saying he had only 10 liters of water and no food during the ordeal.
According to the Japan Coast Guard, Ikari went fishing alone aboard his 0.6-ton boat Misawa Maru from the village of Uken on Amami-Oshima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture on the morning of May 21 and failed to return by nightfall.
On Thursday morning, a fishing boat from Naha reported rescuing Ikari from a boat that was found drifting about 300 km southwest of Uken.
He was conscious but was suffering from serious dehydration and weakness, coast guard officials said.
Ikari was taken to Aguni, an Okinawa island near where he was found, and was airlifted Thursday evening to a hospital in Tomigusuku on Okinawa after receiving initial treatment.
He wept in joy as he talked to his son by telephone from the hospital.
A doctor at the hospital said Ikari repeatedly complained that he was thirsty. He was able to clearly answer questions about his name, address and date of birth, according to the doctor.
Officials said Ikari cannot walk on his own and has a severe sunburn on his face. He will need to be hospitalized for five to seven days.
“Maybe because of his career as a fisherman, he looked stout for a 77-year-old,” the doctor said.
Ikari has been fishing for 50 years.
Ikari told doctors his boat started drifting three days after he went to sea and was unable to sleep for days due to high waves from Typhoon Linfa that recently hit southern Japan.
The coast guard found Ikari’s boat Thursday evening near Aguni.
The vessel showed no sign of collision but was nearly out of fuel and the battery was dead, officials said.
“I did not carry any food on the boat and only 10 liters of water because I was planning to return by the end of the day,” Ikari was quoted as saying.
He also said he wore two life jackets when the typhoon hit.
The coast guard had been searching for Ikari, who normally fishes for tuna near Amami-Oshima. Nearly a dozen of his fellow fishermen helped out, but the search was terminated when the typhoon hit the area.
“All the people here are ecstatic,” Kazunori Nakata, a 43-year-old official of the fisheries cooperative in Uken, said as local fishermen gathered to celebrate the news of Ikari’s rescue.
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