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Four years after tsunami, 1 mil. tons of debris still afloat

A Japanese boat in Oregon © Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife/Flickr Commons


Environment News

Debris from 2011 tsunami still washing up on west coast shores

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 17 March, 2015 - Portland, Oregon - Yesterday, Portland's KGW featured a special report: almost four years after a massive tsunami—caused by a magnitude-9 earthquake in northeastern Japan—cause countless deaths, and the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, debris is still washing ashore stateside. 

And it gets worse: the report claims that an estimated one million tons of debris is still floating in the Pacific Ocean, making its way eastward.

Though the earthquake was not the largest nor dealiest (that title goes to the 2004 Sumatran earthquake, a 9.1 that killed more than 230,000), the disaster was particularly devastating, as the combination of both an earthquake and a tsunami was beyond what researchers had ever predicted. 

The earthquake struck just off the coast of Japan, where two tectonic plates meet, at 2:46pm on March 11,  and lasted 6 minutes. Tokyo residents were given a one-minute warning. Less than an hour later, the first of several tsunamis struck Japan's coast. By the day's end nearly 18,000 lives would be lost. 

In the years past, much has been made of the fallout from the Fukushima plant, a level-7 nuclear meltdown. But more obvious effects can be seen all along the west coast of the United States. The debris began to arrive in late 2011, and has kept arriving since.

According the KGW, "The first pieces of debris to float across the Pacific Ocean included light items like chunks of foam that could easily be carried by the wind. Heavier items sitting lower in the water, like wood and tires, soon followed...Since June 2012, Oregon's Tsunami Debris Hotline has received 1,742 phone calls."



Ashton Goggans

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