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Scientists warn Japan tsunami debris endangering Hawaii

posted Nov 16, 2011, 4:38 AM by Cesar Harada
Via Nick Kaufmann

A fire is seen in an area overcome by the tsunami in this photo taken from a Mainichi helicopter in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, on March 11, 2011. (Mainichi)
A fire is seen in an area overcome by the tsunami in this photo taken from a Mainichi helicopter in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, on March 11, 2011. (Mainichi)

LOS ANGELES (Kyodo) -- Hawaii's environment could be in danger as debris from Japan's earthquake and tsunami in March, including lumber and home appliances adrift in the Pacific, has been approaching, researchers said at a meeting in Honolulu on Monday.

"The larger the piece, the more dangerous the piece," said Nikolai Maximenko of the International Pacific Research Center at the meeting on mitigating the impact of the debris on coastlines.

Large debris could damage reefs and shore-side facilities, while small debris could pollute beaches and injure endangered species such as the Hawaiian monk seal, said speakers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and marine cleanup groups.

Maximenko showed a hypothetical plan to set up floating barriers near the Midway Islands, between Japan and Hawaii, and the northwestern coast of the U.S. mainland and actively collect the debris on a path toward land.

"No plan is ideal. But if you don't have a plan, you cannot do anything," Maximenko said, warning that only immediate action could intercept the debris before it starts landing on Midway.

It would be the best place to intercept debris, said Maximenko, because projections show that after passing Midway, the debris will head toward the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, more than 350,000 square kilometers of protected reefs and waters listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site last year.

But other participants said immediate work will be difficult due to rough sailing conditions caused by winter storms as the debris is then expected to start landing on the main Hawaiian Islands next March.

(Mainichi Japan) November 16, 2011

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