Japanese Tsunami Survivor Recalls Horror

When the tsunami alarm sounded in the coastal town of Rikuzentakata, Takako Suzuki knew where to run.

She followed instructions blasted through loud speakers, and she ran to the third floor of the civic center.

But as she was running up the steps, waves as high as 14 meters smashed through the building.

[Takako Suzuki, Tsunami Survivor]:

"Black water broke into the building through the windows with a rumbling noise, and I was just helplessly tossed around in the water."

The scene seems to be straight out of a movie - Takako was stuck in a room where the water was rising until it was just inches from the ceiling.

The water started to recede, but Takako and eleven others were still half-submerged and freezing, as winds swept through the broken windows.

They were surrounded by dead bodies.

Aftershocks were still shaking the building, and debris was falling.

Takako's suffering lasted 24 hours, before she and the others were rescued by a helicopter. An elderly man who was one of her companions died that night.

[Takako Suzuki, Tsunami Survivor]:

"I thought I was definitely going to die at that moment, but I'm a mother of three, so I was holding up through it only by thinking that I wanted to see my children... seeing my children just one more time was my only thought."

More than 3,000 people are either dead or missing in Rikuzentakata only. The town has been reduced to a land of debris. Thousands of houses were destroyed, and a well known pine forest was swept away.

Takako pitches in with her civil service colleagues at a shelter in a Buddhist temple.

She goes there everyday and has vowed to devote her time to helping other survivors.

[Takako Suzuki, Tsunami Survivor]:

"My life was given back to me. Now I have to take one step at a time and do my best with what I can do."

Such is the spirit of thousands of survivors who are trying to the pick up the pieces from the disaster.