LONDON, APR 8 : A vast field of debris, swept out to sea following the Japan earthquake and tsunami, is floating towards the U.S. West Coast, it has emerged.
More than 200,000 buildings were washed out by the enormous waves that followed the 9.0 quake on March 11.
There have been reports of cars, tractor-trailers, capsized ships and even whole houses bobbing around in open water.
But even more grisly are the predictions of U.S. oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer, who is expecting human feet, still in their shoes, to wash up on the West Coast within three years.
‘I’m expecting parts of houses, whole boats and feet in sneakers to wash up,’ Mr Ebbesmeyer, a Seattle oceanographer who has spent decades tracking flotsam, told MailOnline.
Several thousand bodies were washed out to sea following the disaster and while most of the limbs will come apart and break down in the water, feet encased in shoes will float, Mr Ebbesmeyer said.
‘I’m expecting the unexpected,’ he added.
Members of the U.S. Navy’s 7th fleet, who spotted the extraordinary floating rubbish, say they have never seen anything like it and are warning the debris now poses a threat to shipping traffic.
‘It’s very challenging to move through these to consider these boats run on propellers and that these fishing nets or other debris can be dangerous to the vessels that are actually trying to do the work,’ Ensign Vernon Dennis told ABC News.
‘So getting through some of these obstacles doesn’t make much sense if you are going to actually cause more debris by having your own vessel become stuck in one of these waterways.’
Scientists say the first bits of debris from Japan are due to reach the West Coast in a year’s time after being carried by currents toward Washington, Oregon and California.
They will then turn toward Hawaii and back again toward Asia, circulating in what is known as the North Pacific Gyre, said Mr Ebbesmeyer,
Mr Ebbesmeyer, who has traced Nike sneakers, plastic bath toys and hockey gloves accidentally spilled from Asia cargo ships, is now tracking the massive debris field moving across the Pacific Ocean from Japan.
He relies heavily on a network of thousands of beachcombers to report the location and details of their finds.