Group of Japanese help clear tsunami debris in Canada

Group of Japanese help clear tsunami debris in Canada
Japan Love Project members clean debris on an island off Ucluelet in May 2012.

A group of Japanese people living in Vancouver, Canada, is leading an effort to clean up debris swept out to sea by the 2011 tsunami that is showing up on shores about 7,500 kilometers away.

It has been more than 1,000 days since the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami hit the Tohoku region, and debris is continually washing up on the shores of North America.

A group of about 60 volunteer university students from Japan plans to travel across the Pacific next March to help clean up islands off the coast of Vancouver Island.

The effort is being spearheaded by the Japan Love Project, a volunteer group formed after the disaster by about 10 people, including some who live in Vancouver and studied outside Japan.

Among its activities, the group has solicited donations on the streets of Vancouver and hosted photo exhibitions on the state of the disaster area.

Some Canadians pitched in to stand on the street collecting donations, and within about two months of the disaster the group had collected and sent about 330,000 Canadian dollars (about ¥32 million).

The shore cleanups began this March, after the group asked Japanese who were studying in Vancouver and others to participate to show their gratitude for the donations and other support Canada had given.

Excursions to the coast of the city of Ucluelet on Vancouver Island and some outlying islands yielded about 40 garbage bags of styrofoam, pieces of plastic, plastic bottles, lumber and other debris.

According to estimates by the Environment Ministry, the tsunami swept about 5 million tons of debris out to sea, including houses and cars. Of this, about 1.5 million tons is believed to be buoyant material such as pieces of wood, which is now arriving on the West Coast of North America.

The Japan Love Project is headed by Hiroki Takai, 32. "The disaster is still going on, and floating debris is part of that. I want to send a message from Canada that the disaster hasn't been forgotten," he said.

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