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Japan Tsunami Debris Could Reach U.S.

February 29, 2012 by staff 

Japan Tsunami Debris Could Reach U.S., Lumber, boats and other debris ripped from Japanese coastal towns by tsunamis last year have spread across nearly 5,000 kilometers of the northern Pacific, where they could wash ashore on the United States west coast as early as a year from now.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated the first bits of tsunami debris will make landfall soon on small atolls northwest of the main Hawaiian Islands. Other pieces were expected to reach the coasts of Oregon, Washington state, Alaska and Canada between March 2013 and March 2014.

NOAA’s tsunami marine debris coordinator, Ms Ruth Yender, said yesterday that agency workers were boarding Coast Guard flights that patrol the Hawaiian archipelago. NOAA also asked scientists stationed at Midway and other atolls to look for the debris.

Debris initially collected in a thick mass in the ocean after tsunamis dragged homes, boats, cars and other parts of daily life from coastal towns out to sea. Most likely sank not far from Japan’s eastern coast.

In September, a Russian training ship spotted a refrigerator, a television set and other appliances west of Hawaii. By now, the debris has likely drifted so far apart that only one object can be seen at a time, said Dr Nikolai Maximenko, a University of Hawaii researcher and ocean currents expert.

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