A huge floating dock cast adrift by last year’s killer tsunami has washed up on an Oregon beach, the biggest pieces of flotsam to make landfall on the U.S. West Coast so far.
The 20-meter-long rectangular structure, made of concrete and metal, was spotted floating off the coast Monday and then washed in with the high tide on Agate Beach, about 150 km southwest of Portland.
The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department contacted Japanese diplomats, who confirmed it had been set loose by the March 11, 2011, tsunami, and had drifted nearly 9,000 km across the Pacific over the last 15 months.
Previously, officials said there was no indication the structure crossed the ocean or that it came loose after the Japanese tsunami last year.
Oregon Parks and Recreation officials sent out a second press release Wednesday that said the dock was tested for radiation and “found to be negative” but scientists at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport verified animals attached to the structure are definitely from Japanese waters.
“Four floating docks were washed away by the tsunami. This is one of them,” said Hirofumi Murabayashi, deputy consul general at the consulate in Portland. “The other three we don’t know where they are, if they’re floating somewhere or they sank in the ocean or not.”
The consulate spokesman said the dock was able to float because it was filled with plastic foam.
“The surface is concrete, there’s some steel cables, inside is Styrofoam,” Murabayashi said. “That’s why it floats on the sea. The dock itself doesn’t contain any hazardous materials.”
The owner of the dock doesn’t want it back.
“They said they don’t wish to have it returned,” Murabayashi said. “I believe it will be disposed (of) in Oregon.”
Full statement from Sen. Ron Wyden on expected tsunami debris:
“The huge dock that washed ashore in Agate Beach is clear evidence that debris from last year’s tsunami in Japan is reaching the Oregon Coast much sooner than anyone predicted.
This massive dock, which crossed the Pacific Ocean undetected in 15 months, may be the vanguard of more debris to come.
With the strong possibility that more debris could pose a significant threat to shipping lanes and fishing grounds, I encourage the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to redouble its efforts in tracking debris generated by the Japanese earthquake and to work closely with other federal, state and local agencies to inform the public how best to report suspected debris.”
Source: Japan Times
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