Tomorrow marks one year since the deadly 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, leaving 20,000 people dead or missing. People from around the world showed an out pour of support for the country, including Hawaii, which launched an “ Aloha for Japan“ relief effort and helped raise more than $8 million.
Midway Atoll expects the first wave of tsunami debris to hit next winter.
We will always remember the lives lost in a country wrecked by mother nature, but recent reports tell us her work is not yet finished. Researchers estimate five to 20 million tons of debris from the earthquake will reach Hawaii in early 2013, with smaller items arriving earlier. Computer-generated maps show that debris will wash up on Midway Atoll, part of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, as early as winter 2012.
A Russian training ship spotted the junk, including cars, rooftops, television sets, refrigerators and other large appliances. But perhaps not as large as the 20-foot fishing boat also seen floating among the debris. We know the boat’s from Japan because it says “Fukushima” on it, the city hit hardest by the tsunami.
Hawaii will not be the only place seeing debris on its shoreline. Researchers project that debris will also reach the coasts of Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Canada in 2014. All remaining debris that doesn’t wash up on a shoreline will most likely end up in the infamous Pacific Garbage Patch, which is currently twice the size of the U.S. continent.
The big questions now: Who’s going to clean up the debris and how will it be funded? Hopefully we can devise a plan soon before the beautiful sandy beaches and clear blue shorelines, which define Hawaii as a vacation destination and people’s home, get swallowed by trash. We may soon be literally surfing couches or rowing in kitchen sinks. OK, a bit exaggerated but not wildly impossible. We need to take action soon, even before the debris reaches us, because it’s a huge threat to our marine and animal life. I just saw a photo taken at the Pacific Garbage Patch of a deformed turtle, whose shell was squeezed into an hourglass shape after getting caught in a plastic ring and growing into it from a young age. So, so sad.
In the meantime, I’ll be on the lookout for Hawaii clean-up efforts that visitors and locals, myself included, may get involved in.
Photo Credit: USFWS