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Container found off Rabbit Island confirmed as tsunami debris

By Gary T. Kubota

LAST UPDATED: 12:41 p.m. HST, Sep 21, 2012

The Japan Consulate General’s office in Hawaii has confirmed the blue container found Tuesday floating in waters off Windward Oahu was 2011 tsunami debris from Japan, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

The container came from Y.K. Suisan Co., Ltd., located in Miyagi prefecture where the March 2011 tsunami devastated the region, the department said. The 4-foot-tall bin was found floating 150 years offshore between the Makai Research Pier and Rabbit Island. 

The Japanese government estimated that the tsunami swept about 5 million tons of debris into the ocean, but that 70 percent sank off shore, leaving 1.5 million tons floating, according to NOAA.

NOAA officials said there is no estimate of how much of that debris is still floating, now that it has been at sea for more than a year.

Federal officials said many items are scattered across an area of the North Pacific that is roughly three times the size of the United States.

The items include buoyant materials, line sports balls, a floating pier, and motorcycle in a container, fishing nets, lumber, plastic, household items, foam pieces and possibly oil drums.

Items could make landfall anywhere from Alaska to California and Hawaii or get pulled into existing garbage patches.

NOAA is collecting tsunami debris information at sea from aircraft, satellite and vessels, and many efforts are underway to assess and plan for the debris.

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