19 Oct 2011

Japan's tsunami debris moves toward west coast of US

3:14 pm on 19 October 2011

Personal items belonging to victims of the huge Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March are unlikely to wash up on South Pacific beaches.

A six-metre Fukushima fishing boat and a TV set were among the debris found floating in the Pacific more than 3,000km from the disaster zone this week.

The International Pacific Research Centre at the University of Hawaii, which studies ocean surface currents, says patches of an estimated total of 20 million tonnes of debris are floating east from Japan.

A scientific programmer at the research centre, Jan Hafner predicts the debris will continue to circulate in the North Pacific for years to come.

"Hawaii islands will see the first waves [of debris] two years after the tsunami, and the west coast of the United States would see the first wave of debris in three years. Then the rest of the debris will go back to what is now known as the North Pacific Garbage Patch."

The International Pacific Research Centre's Scientific programmer, Jan Hafner.