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Young Acton woman survived tsunami in hardest-hit area of Japan

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Published on March 17, 2011 in The Boston Globe MetroDesk Blog

A 22-year-old Acton resident has left the Japanese town where she narrowly escaped the tsunami to travel to a nearby city, where she hopes to find better shelter, her anxious mother says.

Caitlin Churchill, who was in Japan to teach English, was able to outrun the waves that swept up some of her students and co-workers and killed her supervisor, in the village of Minamisanriku, said her mother, Sharon Cassidy. Minamisanriku was perhaps the hardest-hit town in Japan, with as many as 10,000 people swallowed by the sea.

Churchill earlier this week told the dramatic story of her escape to an Associated Press correspondent who was on the ground in Japan.

Churchill spent the night in the forest after escaping the massive wave, her mother said Wednesday. Since then, Churchill has been staying at a shelter where there is no heat, no electricity, and limited food and blankets. So Churchill and two other English teachers have decided to try to travel to the nearby city of Sendai, hoping for better shelter.

Cassidy spent some tense days after the tsunami hit. Minamisanriku has made headlines, with networks broadcasting video showing the giant wave destroying the town. But through NBC-TV’s Today Show, Cassidy was able to reestablish contact with Caitlin via an NBC satellite phone at about 3 a.m. Monday.

Since then, Cassidy said, she has been in and out of contact with Churchill via her cellphone. But Cassidy believes her daughter’s cellphone battery has now died.

Cassidy said that the family is “kind of in limbo” because Churchill is still trying to honor her obligation to the teaching program, the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme.

“She could disregard that and flee but she doesn’t think that she should. … My fantasy is we rent a plane and go get her, but it’s not that easy,” Cassidy said.

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Written by jdunccc

March 17, 2011 at 10:29 am

Posted in MetroDesk Blog, The Boston Globe

Tagged with ,

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