Sunday, November 29, 2015         

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Oregon sets up tsunami debris hotline

By Jonathan J. Cooper


SALEM, Ore. >> Oregon is creating an easy way to report Japanese tsunami debris thats beginning to wash up on the Pacific coast.

The state is asking residents and visitors to call 211 to report their findings. Beginning today, the hotline will be staffed during business hours and will take recorded messages at other times.

I just want to make sure that Oregonians understand that we are on top of this, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber said.

Its important to quickly collect and throw away tsunami debris to keep beaches clean and prevent the introduction of invasive species, said Brig. Gen. Mike Caldwell, deputy director of the Oregon National Guard and interim director of the states Office of Emergency Management. Officials are asking that people not take home debris to keep as souvenirs, but they say theres little chance of the debris being harmful to human health.

People should be especially mindful of items that might have sentimental value or personal significance to someone in Japan, officials said. When such items wash up, Oregon will work with the Japanese consulate to return them.

Oregon will work with California, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii to request money from the federal government to help with their efforts. If the debris had washed up all at once, it would unquestionably qualify for federal disaster funds, Kitzhaber said. But since its emerging in pieces, the states will have to work harder, he said.

The Japanese government has estimated 1.5 million tons of debris is floating in the ocean from the March 2011 tsunami. Some U.S. experts think the bulk of that trash will never reach shore, but others fear a massive, slowly unfolding environmental disaster.

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