tsunami debris
A 20-foot, open boat was found beached June 15, 2012 on Washington's Benson Beach at Cape Disappointment State Park festooned with hundreds of what state Fish and Wildlife officials said are gooseneck barnacles. (AP Photo/NOAA)

Tsunami victim reaches out to Aberdeen mayor

What would you do if your most prized possessions were washed out of your home in a flood? How far would you go to try and track them down?

Think about that for a moment, and then put yourself in the shoes of the Japanese tsunami survivors, many of whom saw all of their possessions washed out to sea.

As The Daily World first reported, one of those survivors put pen to paper and reached out to Washington hoping to reclaim some of his lost items.

"To your seashore areas, have you been observing the floated materials," Mr. Saito from Sapporo wrote to the Mayor of Aberdeen in a small postcard last month. "If you find some, please let me know any news," the card continued.

At first, Mayor Bill Simpson thought it might be a joke. The card was only addressed to the mayor of Aberdeen, USA, and not him specifically, but once he read what Mr. Saito was looking for he realized it must be real.

"The one thing that hit me was a library card he's looking for, and then he had another book that had a bunch of information that he was looking for also," he said. "He's 77-years-old and very concerned about his personal things."

What makes Mr. Saito's search seem so futile is that he didn't realize that Aberdeen isn't even on the coast, but Mayor Simpson passed his request on to the mayors of nearby coastal towns.

"We're 24 miles from the ocean, and so the likelihood of it hitting Aberdeen is even slimmer," he said. "I felt it important to notify my cohorts out in Ocean Shores and Westport to know of this in case something happened. They could find it."

As he holds the letter and thinks of Mr. Saito's desperate search, Mayor Simpson said it puts losing something into perspective.

"It's hard to put yourself in somebody's shoes who's gone through a flood or tornado or a tsunami, but I realize in my life I have lost some valuable things and would do anything to get them back."

To make sure Mr. Saito knows his postcard was received, Mayor Simpson had a friend who's fluent in Japanese write a letter back to him. He included information about Aberdeen and where it is, and news that mayors on the coast have been alerted.

So far, the only confirmed piece of Japanese tsunami debris that has washed ashore in Washington is the small boat that arrived at Cape Disappointment State Park.

But Linda Kent with the Department of Ecology said beachcombers are finding more debris than usual.

"They're finding some different things than what they would consider normal," she said. "They're finding more styrofoam and other odd items like mannequin parts. A lot of treated wood, plastic bottles. We've gotten some small appliances."

In a targeted cleanup on 57 miles of Washington coastline in June, teams recovered 70 pickup truck loads of debris, though there's no way to know how much of it actually came from Japan.


Chris Sullivan, KIRO Radio Reporter
Chris loves the rush of covering breaking news and works hard to try to make sense of it all while telling stories about real people in extraordinary circumstances.
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