Woman in iconic tsunami photo looks to future

Tue Feb 28, 2012 7:59am EST
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By Yuriko Nakao

ISHINOMAKI, Japan (Reuters) - The young Japanese woman clutches a beige blanket tight around her shoulders as she stares into the distance. Behind her hulks twisted metal and splintered wood left by the tsunami that devastated Ishinomaki, her hometown.

The photograph, taken by Tadashi Okubo at the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, was picked up by Reuters and other agencies around the world, becoming an iconic image of the March 11 disaster that killed 20,000 people.

The woman's name is Yuko Sugimoto. She is now 29 years old.

When the photo was taken, around 7 a.m. on March 13, she was looking in the direction of her son Raito's kindergarten, which was partly submerged and surrounded by piles of debris. Nearly two days after the quake she had yet to find the four-year-old.

"At that point, I thought there was only about a 50 percent chance he was alive," she recalled recently.

"Some people told me the children at the kindergarten were rescued, but others told me that somebody had seen the children all swept away by the tsunami."


Link to a slideshow: link.reuters.com/kaz76s   Continued...

Yuko Sugimoto, wrapped in a blanket, stands in front of a pile of debris caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, northern Japan in this file photo taken by Yomiuri Shimbun on March 13, 2011. REUTERS/Yomiuri Shimbun