Akaiwa said he was at work a few miles away when the tsunami hit, and he rushed back to find his neighborhood inundated with up to 10 feet of water. Not willing to wait until the government or any international organization did, or did not, arrive to rescue his wife of two decades — whom he had met while they were surfing in a local bay — Akaiwa got hold of some scuba gear. He then hit the water, wended his way through the debris and underwater hazards and managed to reach his house, from which he dragged his wife to safety.
“The water felt very cold, dark and scary,” he recalled. “I had to swim about 200 yards to her, which was quite difficult with all the floating wreckage.”
With his mother still unaccounted for several days later, Akaiwa stewed with frustration as he watched the water recede by only a foot or two. He repeatedly searched for her at City Hall and nearby evacuation centers.
Finally, on Tuesday, he waded through neck-deep water, searching the neighborhood where she’d last been seen. He found her, he said, on the second floor of a flooded house where she’d been waiting for help for four days.
“She was very much panicked because she was trapped with all this water around,” Akaiwa said. “I didn’t know where she was. It was such a relief to find her.”