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Japanese tsunami debris makes its way into Hawaiian birds

By Kyung Lah

March 11, 2013 -- Updated 2028 GMT (0428 HKT)

The Big Island, Hawaii (CNN) -- Your first view of Kamilo Beach on Hawaii's Big Island is of majestic rock, postcard-worthy waves and miles of uninhabited beach. But look closer at the sand and you see specks of blue, yellow and white plastic.
ハワイ島 -- ハワイ島のカミロビーチで最初に目にするのは、雄大な岩と、絵葉書のような波、何マイルも続く無人のビーチ。しかし、砂を良く見ると、青、黄色、白いプラスチックの点々が見えます。

A piece of a bottle cap. A corner of a milk crate. Half a toothbrush.

Kamilo Beach is part of the devastating legacy of the March 2011 Japan tsunami.

tsunami debris1

"It's disheartening to come out here and see all this marine debris in an area that's otherwise so remote, debris that's washing up from other countries," said Megan Lamson, debris project coordinator for the Hawaii Wildlife Fund.


Hawaii is in a unique geographical spot, the center of the Pacific Ocean, to witness the impact of the Japan tsunami. Debris swirls from Asia to the continental United States through Hawaii. The islands are, in effect, a comb of the Pacific.

The nonprofit Hawaii Wildlife Fund said marine debris has been a problem for years for the island state and tsunami debris has made things worse. According to Japan, 1.5 million tons of tsunami debris floated away. The wildlife fund organizes beach cleanups along Hawaii's shorelines and struggles to keep up with the marine debris, made up primarily of plastic.

Lamson pulled out part of a beer crate that read "Exclusively for Kirin Beer" in Japanese. She also found a Suntory Whisky bottle stamped "Japan." Lamson also found a small vitamin drink container with Japanese text. Since fall, the wildlife fund and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have found refrigerators, freezers, buoys and even an intact fishing boat, all with Japanese text.
ラムソンさんは、「キリンピールのみ」と書いてあるビールケースの一部をひきあげました。また、「日本」と判が押してあるサントリーのウィスキーのビンも見つけました。ラムソンさんは日本語が書かれている小さなビタミンドリンクの容器も見つけました。秋以来、野生動物ファンドとアメリカ海洋大気庁 は、冷蔵庫、冷凍庫、浮きや無傷の釣り舟さえ発見し、どれにも日本語が書かれていました。

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But most disturbing to Lamson are a couple of soft plastic bottles with bite marks. "Marine life in the ocean are mistaking plastic for their natural food," Lamson said.

Lamson may suspect it, but Lesley Jantz, a NOAA fishery biologist with the observer program, can confirm it. Jantz has been studying the impact of marine debris in fish.

In her lab, Jantz sliced open the stomach of a lancetfish for CNN. You may never have heard of the lancetfish, a sometimes 4- to 6-foot long fish with enormous teeth. But bigeye and yellow fin tuna eat lancetfish. Tuna ends up on our plates.


Jantz pulled out a 12 by 12 piece of indigestible black plastic. "It would be difficult to pass through the system," said Jantz. "I've found several fish with the same black plastic bag, just like this, even larger. If it gets to a certain size, the fish is going to feel like it's full."

tsunami debris 13

Jantz conducted a study that included 64 fish of varying species. Twelve percent of them, she said, contained plastic. When she looked just at lancetfish, 45% had plastic. "One concern that we have and don't know is if any chemicals from the plastic are absorbed into the tissue of the fish, which is a problem if consumed by a fish that we consume. That's definitely the next step, what is the impact?"

Across the island in David Hyrenbach's lab, the impact of plastic debris is apparent among the animal species he studies: birds. Hyrenbach cut open the bellies of some albatross for CNN. Plastic pieces spilled out of the belly of a 2-month-old albatross. Eighty percent of the stomach was packed with plastic.


Hyrenbach, an assistant professor of oceanography at Hawaii Pacific University, pulled out a small bottle top. "Toothpaste top?" he said. "No, cap of a medicine tube." He reached into the stomach again. "Oh, it's a brush, you see?" There were the unmistakable bristles of a hairbrush.

"Morally, this is terrible. How is this possible? Majestic, far ranging, beautiful birds, in a pristine place of the pacific, the northwest Hawaiian islands, you open them up and this is what you find," said Hyrenbach.

tsunami debris 10

He grabbed a box, packed with toy soldiers, lighters and brushes. He explained that he pulled all the items out of albatross from Hawaii. "Every bird I looked at had plastic. Some had a little bit. Some had a lot. Everybody we looked at had plastic."

tsunami debris 11

NOAA said most of the debris affecting the island cannot be tracked to any particular country, even Japan, because the plastic is often so weathered and broken by the time it hits Hawaii. "We don't really know the full impact of this type of debris. It adds to an existing problem that we have across the world," said NOAA Pacific Islands Regional Coordinator Carey Morishige. "But it is quite eerie to see an item you think may have come from Japan, someone's home, to sit on a beach thousands of miles away. It brings home the fact beyond the marine debris issue this is first and foremost a human tragedy." It should serve as a reminder, Morishige said, that "the land and the oceans are incredibly connected."
アメリカ海洋大気庁は、ハワイ島に影響を与えている瓦礫のほとんどは、日本なのかさえも、特定の国を追跡できないのだと述べました。プラスチックは風化したりハワイに到達するまでに壊れてしまうからです。「この種の瓦礫が与える影響全体については本当に分かりません。(日本の津波瓦礫は)世界中で既に抱えていた問題に更に加わるものなのです。」とアメリカ海洋大気庁の太平洋諸島地域のコーディネーター、Carey モリシゲさんは言いました。「しかし、日本から、誰かの家からやってきたかもしれない破片が何千マイルも離れたビーチに落ちているのを見るととても恐ろしいです。それは、海洋瓦礫問題を超えた事実を運んでくるもので、人類初めての、最重要な悲劇なのです。」モリシゲさんはこのことがあることを思い起こさせるといいます。「土地と海は信じがたいほどに結びついている。」

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地元誌Burnaby NewsLeader
























The aftershocks still hitting Japan

One year after the tsunami, the Fukushima 50 speak for the first time, while a mother who spent days searching for her son tells why the scars remain

By Danielle Demetriou in Japan and Nick Meo

7:00AM GMT 19 Feb 2012

Wrapped in a beige blanket and surrounded by sea-soaked debris, broken homes and smashed cars, Yuko Sugimoto had only one thing on her mind: how to find her four-year-old son. She had not seen him for more than 24 hours, since the tsunami had swamped almost half of the city of Ishinomaki in northeastern Japan - with her son’s kindergarten among the submerged buildings.

As Mrs Sugimoto’s eyes scanned the wreckage of her hometown, her haunting expression was captured by a photographer who she does not recall seeing. The result was an iconic image of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan on March 11 last year, published in newspapers and magazines around the world.


Mrs Sugimoto was among the fortunate. Despite a harrowing three-day ordeal, she was eventually reunited with her son, Raito, at an evacuation centre.

Others were not so lucky. Nearly 6,000 people in the region were listed as killed or missing after the sea travelled miles inland into Ishinomaki, one of the worst hit communities in the disaster; overall in Japan, some 16,000 died and nearly 4,000 are still missing.

As the first anniversary of the disaster approaches, the photograph has lost none of its power - and despite the painful memories it evokes, Mrs Sugimoto is hopeful it will serve as a reminder of the tragedy to the outside world.

“When I look at it now, it reminds me of all the troubles we’ve had over the past year,” she says. “But I hope that when people see the picture, it will remind them of the tsunami and make sure they don’t forget what happened and what still needs to be done.”

With her bright smile and stylish clothes, Mrs Sugimoto, 29, appears to be a different person from the one in the photograph: but beneath her friendly facade, it is clear that the last year changed the lives of her family.


The home she built four years ago with her husband Harunori, 39, was destroyed in the tsunami, which swept away along with their pet dog and their personal belongings.

For months after the disaster, the family lived in shared accommodation with other survivors provided by her husband’s company before renting a friend’s house.

Serving tea in their new home -surrounded by snow-covered rice fields - she says: “We were lucky. We may have lost our home but my family has become even more precious to me. Perhaps we took things for granted a little before the disaster.”

It was shortly after lunchtime that the earthquake struck, just as Mrs Sugimoto, a drinks company employee, was getting into her car to visit a customer.

“The earthquake came before I switched on the engine,” she recalls, speaking quietly as her son plays with the new family dog. “It went on for a very long time. I was worried the car might turn over, it was such a strong quake.

“When it stopped, my first thought was that I must pick up my son. I was on the opposite side of the city, but I thought he must be feeling scared at the kindergarten after such a big earthquake.”

Straight away, she began driving back into town, taking numerous shortcuts to avoid heavy traffic, broken bridges and large riverside waves.

At one point she bumped into colleagues who urged her to turn around due to the tsunami warning - but she continued. “All I could think about was my son and how I could get to him. But I just couldn’t get to the kindergarten. It was impossible to get across town.”

As the tsunami swept into Ishinomaki, Mrs Sugimoto was still stuck further inland in traffic-clogged streets.

Then she received a message from her husband, working in another part of the city, confirming her worst fears: “He said the kindergarten area had been fully flooded and the building was under water.”

With flooded streets and debris blocking pathways, there was no way for Mrs Sugimoto to proceed into town to try to find her son, reach her husband, or return to their home, which was also under water. As a result, she spent a sleepless night in the car near an shopping area, with no electricity or phone service, trying not to think the worst.

“It was a very tough night. I didn’t know what had happened to the rest of my family. I found out after that my parents’ house had also been destroyed. But at that point, I was only thinking about my son. I didn’t sleep at all.”

At sunrise, she continued her search, abandoning her car to venture further into the disaster zone on foot -before she bumped into her husband.

There followed two days of searching. It was during this fraught time that a photographer from a Japanese newspaper captured Mrs Sugimoto’s image, as she scanned the wreckage in the hope that she might find some clue to Raito’s whereabouts.

“I was waiting for news about Raito from some other mothers and also my husband when the picture must have been taken. Someone must have given me a blanket, it was very, very cold. But I have no memory of the photograph being taken.”

It was not until sunset the following day that she and her husband tracked Raito down: he and his young classmates had been evacuated from the rooftop of his kindergarten to a university by Self-Defence Force troops.

“I read the list of evacuated names at the entrance three or four times as I couldn’t believe it was him at first. When we finally found the classroom he was staying in and saw him across the room, I couldn’t move. Tears were in my eyes and I couldn’t see a thing. I was just crying with relief.

“I found out afterwards that Raito had not cried at all during those days, he appeared quite empty of emotions and hadn't spoken at all. But when I held him for the first time, he cried a little.”

Eighty-five miles south of Ishinomaki is Fukushima, site of the nuclear power plant that provided many more indelible images of the disaster.

Four days after the tsunami, Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan addressed a team of frightened nuclear engineers at the plant.

With cooling systems failing in the reactor cores, meltdown had begun and radiation levels were rising. The engineers’ employer, Tepco, was proposing to abandon the plant. The government stopped them, arguing that it could lead to a huge cloud of radioactivity that would force tens of millions of Japanese people to abandon their homes.

Speaking by videophone from Tepco’s Tokyo headquarters, Mr Kan told the engineers: “This is a very tough situation but you cannot abandon the plant. The fate of Japan hangs in the balance. All those over 60 should be prepared to lead the way in a dangerous place. Otherwise we are handing Japan over to an invisible enemy.”

Until now those engineers -known as the Fukushima 50 -have not spoken about the days they spent nursing the plant back from the brink of disaster.

They have been praised as heroes but forbidden from speaking by Tepco, which has been subjected to withering criticism for its role in the disaster.

BBC researchers spent eight months persuading them to talk on camera, for a This World programme, revealing how close Japan came to total disaster.
BBCの調査員は、8ヶ月にわたり、彼らにカメラに向かって、「This World」番組のために話すように説得し続けました。日本が、最悪の災害に至るに、どれだけ近かったのかを明かすために。

Some admit they thought of escaping, terrified of an agonising death from radiation poisoning. Others described the improvisations they used when safety plans failed, and the risks they took working in heavily irradiated areas of the plant - entering in relays for no more than 17 minutes at a time to limit their exposure.

One who spoke on film was Takashi Sato, a reactor inspector. He recalls: “In the control room, people were saying we were finished. They were saying it quietly - but they were saying it. We felt we had to flee.”


This was when the prime minister made his video-phone appeal. Mr Kan told the filmmakers: “I thought withdrawal is out of the question. If they withdrew, six reactors and seven fuel pools would be abandoned. Everything melts down. Radiation ten times worse than Chernobyl will be scattered.”

He believed it would effectively have been the end of Japan.

Water-bombing the stricken plant from army helicopters was then attempted. The pilots knew that Soviet aircrew who had done this at Chernobyl later died of cancer.

But the wind was too strong for accuracy, and by now the US government was secretly planning to evacuate 90,000 citizens from Japan.

What finally worked was Tokyo firefighters spraying sea water into the plant, showing great bravery. They had no training to deal with nuclear disasters, and weren’t sure how much radioactivity they were being exposed to.

The engineers now had a chance to get a constant flow of water to the reactor cores. Hundreds of workers who had been on standby laid pipes, working fast in case radiation levels spiked again. They didn’t know where the most dangerous radiation hotspots were.

“It was an emergency operation and we were in a hurry,” one said. “No one complained, we all understood. Even if it broke the rules, we kept quiet about it. I felt the weight of Japan’s future on my shoulders. I felt that I had to carry the flag of Japan.”


Nearly a year later, the company and the nuclear power industry have been widely questioned. What saved Japan when all the safety systems and back-up plans failed was the bravery of men who stayed at their posts, under the leadership of the plant manager, Masao Yoshida.

As one engineer says: “If Mr Yoshida hadn’t been there it would have been the end, I think.”

Meanwhile, in Ishinomaki, signs of the tsunami are becoming less visible: gone are the mountains of tsunami detritus, muddy scattered belongings and overturned cars.

Scars, however, remain: in place of the debris, there are vast swathes of cleared, flat concrete close to the seafront, areas once packed with homes and businesses but today uninhabitable.

Long-term reconstruction is the next phase, a situation replicated in countless coastal regions, with the focus shifting from emergency aid to finding funds to build new communities, with new housing, businesses and job opportunities.

For many, the Sugimotos included, the emotional scars will take longer to heal. “Raito has been very anxious since March 11 last year,” says Mrs Sugimoto. “At first, he vomited whenever he heard an earthquake or tsunami warning sound and he still doesn’t like dark places. He looks fine on the surface but there are troubles at the bottom of his heart.”

The iconic tsunami photograph, however, has proven to be a beacon of hope: “At first I didn’t like all the attention that came with the photograph, it made me feel uncomfortable,” says Mrs Sugimoto, who travelled to France last year for a photography festival as a result of the image.

“Now I’m very happy that the photograph was used and that it potentially stimulated aid and support from other countries around the world.”

'This World. Inside the Meltdown’ is on BBC 2, 9pm, Thursday
「This World メルトダウンの内側」は、BBC2にて木曜日午後9時に放映されます。


























カナダ赤十字に寄せられた寄付金は4800万カナダドル(CAD $48 million=約50億円?)で、日本赤十字の救済・復興活動の支援のために集められました。

Photo by Nobuyuki Kobayashi/Japanese Red Cross


カナダ赤十字からの寄付金は、日本赤十字が各国の赤十字から受け取った、総額7億9千900万アメリカドル(USD 799 million)に含まれています。復興3年計画が作成され、このうちの49%が家電や他の救済費にあてられ、31%がインフラや予防接種に、4%が各所の組織強化費に、2%が教育、学校に、予備費9%、事務経費1%の割り当てになっています。日本国内で集められた38億アメリカドル(USD 3.8 billion)-日本赤十字及び、他の団体-のうちの90%は被災者に届けられています。

Japan Red Cross Health and Safety class being held at Yamada kindergarten.Masaki Kamei / Japanese Red Cross

日本赤十字の災害救護速報【83】 2011/12/16 12:00現在 は、こちら


現在の海外救援金受付状況(速報)12月15日(木)現在: 467億9,438万4,232円














By Michael Gillies Smith

Red Cross supports people evacuated from radiation zone

The Japanese Red Cross (JRC) is providing psychological support to people evacuated from the 30km exclusion zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to a hotel in Tokyo.

JRC psychologist Keiko Akiyama is one of a number of Tokyo prefecture government and agency psychologists, mental health experts, social welfare officers and public officials working at an evacuation centre at the Grand Prince Hotel Akasaka in the heart of Tokyo’s government and business district in the Chiyoda area.


The 40-storey glass tower, once a feature of the international chain of Prince hotels and resorts, had been vacant since its closure in late March.

Following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the Tokyo prefecture government reopened it as an evacuation centre for people caught in the exclusion zone around the crippled nuclear plant. Some 800 people, including many women and children, were moved to the hotel from April 19.

Ms Akiyama is at the hotel every Tuesday and Thursday, available to speak with anyone wanting support or advice. “This is a unique situation,” she said. “I have never worked in a situation like this before, where people have been moved because of a nuclear risk and don’t know when - or if - they will be able to return to their homes.

“Some people are angry and some people aren’t. There are a number of people here who worked for TEPCO (the nuclear plant operator and Japan’s biggest energy and utilities company) and many people realise that it’s a difficult situation on a number of levels.

“A woman who gave birth to a baby in April was worried about the radiation but was also upset that this important event for her and her family was not able to occur in their home town.”

Ms Akiyama said that it was common for people to try to cope by not thinking about the future and what it may hold. “If this is their way of coping right now, their reaction at this time, then it is best not to interfere too much with this coping mechanism, but to support them and be there for them. It’s important that they know we’re here if they need us.”

A man in his 70s said his house in Iwaki in Fukushima prefecture was outside the 30km exclusion zone but was damaged by the earthquake.

“I can’t get it repaired straight away because there is a shortage of carpenters and materials,” he said. “But as soon as it’s repaired I will go back there. I am not worrying about the radiation. I am an elderly man. What can it do to me at this stage of my life. But I feel sorry for the families with children.”

Ms Akiyama said some people, to help pass the time, were volunteering to help out in nearby nursing homes.

“Sometimes people in this type of situation find that they need to support someone else,” she said. “This energises them, makes them feel better and helps them get through their own situation.”

A Japanese Red Cross medical team is also visiting the centre, checking on elderly people in their rooms.

“Some elderly people are not walking as much as they normally do in their home town because they are a bit afraid of walking around the streets of Tokyo as they don’t know the area and are not used to it,” Ms Akiyama said.

The government plans to move the people out of the hotel at the end of June but it is not known at this stage where they will go.





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