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Officials ask public to be on lookout for tsunami debris

Federal and state officials met in Ocean Shores, Wash.,
Wednesday to craft a response plan as debris from the
Japanese tsunami begins to wash ashore on the West Coast.

Curt Hart, with the State Department of Ecology, said
participants at the workshop, which included tribal and
local governments as well as the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration, discussed off-shore and beach
response, cleanup and community education.

“It’s very likely that smaller, lighter items, or items
that are very buoyant or float, could come ashore today,”
Hart said, stressing the urgency of putting a response
plan in place.

Answering to speculation that some of the tsunami’s
roughly 5,000 missing victims could also wash ashore here,
Hart said it is unlikely.

“We don’t rule anything out, but the likelihood is
extremely low,” he said. “If somebody sees something like
that, they need to call 911 because these could be related
to a crime scene, as opposed to remains from the Japanese
tsunami.”

The Washington Department of Health has also tried to
quell concerns that debris could be radioactive.

Senator Maria Cantwell applauded the effort to prepare
Washington’s coastal communities, and has urged President
Obama to allocate emergency funds to help the National
Science Foundation track and respond to the debris.

“We can’t wait until tsunami debris washes ashore to come
up with a plan to address it,” she said in a statement.
“Hundreds of thousands of jobs in Washington state depend
on our healthy marine ecosystems and coastal communities.”

The public is asked to report debris sightings to
[email protected]

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