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    Mar 10, 2014

    He trawls tsunami waters to find wife


    MR YASUO Takamatsu, 57, grunts with the effort of hoisting a scuba diving tank onto his back, as he prepares to step into the cold waters off Japan's tsunami-ravaged coast to look for the body of his wife, one of thousands still missing three years on.

    A swell lifts the wooden boat as he tugs on an oversized rubber drysuit that will protect him from the chill when he sinks into the murky, March-grey Pacific Ocean, just days before the anniversary of the disaster.

    "She was a gentle and kind person," said Mr Takamatsu. "She would always be next to me, physically and mentally. I miss her, I miss a big part of me that was her."

    Mr Takamatsu, a bus driver, was not a natural candidate for learning to scuba dive, and was worried he would not be able to do it.

    But he feels driven to the water when he thinks about the last time he heard from his wife, Yuko, before the nearly 20m wave engulfed her.

    In a text message sent at 3.21pm, half an hour after a huge undersea earthquake shook Japan on March 11, 2011 and unleashed a towering tsunami that travelled with the speed of a jet plane towards the Japanese coast, she said simply: "I want to go home."

    Mr Takamatsu said: "That was the last message from her.

    "I feel terrible thinking she is still out there. I want to bring her home as soon as possible."

    Weeks later, the woman's mobile phone was found and returned to Mr Takamatsu.

    He dried it off and fired it up to see that she had written a text message he had never received.

    "'Tsunami huge.' That was all she wrote in the very last one," he said.

    Officially, more than 15,800 are known to have died in the disaster, Japan's worst peacetime loss of life. Another 2,636 are listed as missing.

    No one thinks they will ever turn up alive, but for the bereaved, it is important to be able to find their bodies and finally lay them to rest.