The fate of some of those in the footage is unknown as the water rises so quickly that they simply disappear in the swell carrying cars and buildings.
Residents from the town, believed to be called Minami-sanriku, are seen running up the side of a hill to safety as the water behind them closes in on them.
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However, many people don't make it and the water simply swallows them up despite the efforts of other people around them.
A group can be seen towards the end of the footage desperately trying to pull what are believed to be sick or elderly people up a steep ridge.
A person in a blue coat runs back down the hill to the aid of someone who is stuck. He is aided by another person in a red jacket and as it looks like they are about to succeed the water rises and pulls them into the water.