Up to 20 Million Tons of ‘Tsunami Trash’ Drifting Towards U.S.

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October 25, 2011 11:22 AM EST

When water from the tsunami that slammed northeastern Japan on March 11 returned to the ocean, it dragged back huge amount debris, including pieces of homes, cars, furniture, fishing boats and refrigerators.

Hawaii researchers tracking the drifting trash from Japan since then now estimate its amount to be from 5 to 20 million tons.
University of Hawaii and International Pacific Research Center researcher Jan Hafner revealed the estimate to Hawaii's ABC affiliate KITV on Monday.

Hafner also estimated that the trash will reach the U.S. West Coast in trickles in three years.

Meanwhile, the tsunami trash has just passed the Midway Islands of the U.S. It is now 2,000 miles from Japan, according to the crew members of the Russian training ship STS Pallada. The Pallada crew even picked up a 20-foot fishing boat with the name "Fukushima," the Japanese prefecture directly hit by the tsunami triggered by a magnitude 9 earthquake.

The Fukushima fishing boat encounter is the first confirmed report of the tsunami debris, according to Hafner.

Hafner, who developed computer models of the trash plume, said the floating debris will first hit Hawaii's coast before reaching the U.S. and Canada.

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