West Coast Preparing For Japan Tsunami Debris

The West Cost is bracing itself for debris from the devastating tsunami that hit Japan more than a year ago. Millions of tons of wreckage washed into the Pacific Ocean. Most of it sank, but roughly 1.5 million tons remains afloat.

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Earlier this week Los Angeles Councilwoman Jan Perry filed a motion calling for a report on the Harbor Department's "protocol for responding to Tsunami debris washing up along the Los Angeles coastline, including such areas as Venice Beach, Hyperion Treatment Facility, and the Port of Los Angeles." The motion is scheduled for review by a city panel on June 22.

Some debris has already reached the U.S. and Canada. A soccer ball and even a piece of a large dock have washed ashore in the U.S. In Canada, a shipping crate containing a Harley-Davidson motorcycle was found in British Columbia.

A fishing vessel that had been washed away by the tsunami waves was spotted in Canadian waters in late March.

A month prior, the U.S. Coast Guard sunk a Japanese boat that had reached Alaska.

Communities are starting to prepare for debris. In Los Angeles, Heal the Bay plans to conduct surveys for rubble over the next two years. Farther south, San Diego County is monitoring the situation, with experts noting that, although it's unlikely much of it will travel that far south, debris could take between one to three years to reach the coast, according to Fox 5 San Diego.

One oceanographer said the West Coast may even find human remains -- particularly shoes with human remains-- and cautions individuals to be extremely sensitive. "We're expecting 100 sneakers with bones in them," said Curt Ebbesmeyer, who expects most debris to reach the U.S. in October, at a tsunami symposium. "That may be the only remains that a Japanese family is ever going to have of their people that were lost," Ebbesmeyer said. "We're dealing with things that are of extreme sensitivity. Emotional content is just enormous. So be respectful."

A powerful earthquake off the coast of Tohoku triggered violent tsunami waves that claimed the lives of at least 15,854 people on March 11, 2011. More than 3,155 people are still missing. The World Bank has estimated that the economic cost of the tragedy is about $235 billion, making it single most expensive natural disaster in world history. It was the greatest earthquake ever to have hit Japan and one of the strongest since record keeping began in 1900.

About the Author

I am a journalist and researcher, and have written numerous research and investigative pieces. My work has been published with several notable organizations, including Annenberg Digital News, CAMERA, KCET, the Middle East Forum, P...
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