Massive amount of marine debris found across wide swath of Japan due to flooding


An enormous amount of debris has been found across a wide swath of water off western Japan following recent torrential rains that devastated the region with landslides and flooding, land ministry officials said Thursday.

The amount of debris could be the largest on record originating from heavy rains in the country and is having a negative impact on the fisheries industry.

As of Tuesday, 5,115 cubic meters of driftwood and marine debris has been retrieved by five of the ministry’s regional bureaus in central, western and southwestern parts of the country since July 8.

The amount collected by the bureaus so far is four times greater than the average for July over the last three years, according to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.

The Chugoku regional bureau covering Hiroshima Prefecture, one of the hardest-hit areas by this month’s deluge, has already retrieved marine debris totaling 1,090 cubic meters, or about 70 percent of last year’s total.

On Wednesday, the bureau recovered debris off the city of Kure using a surface cleaning ship. A container with a capacity of about 8 tons was filled up in about an hour with items including tatami mats and refrigerators.

“I have no idea how great the overall amount will be,” an official of the bureau said.

Many fishing firms had to halt operations due to debris becoming entangled in fishing nets and driftwood needing to be cleared from coastal areas, according to the Fisheries Agency.

In Kobe, a huge amount of debris was found washed ashore at all seven of its fishing ports, with an official in the local fishing industry saying that it will “definitely be affected by a fall in catches.”

The government still only has a fragmented picture of the extent of the damage, with the downpours in early July leaving more than 200 dead and destroying tens of thousands of homes, roads and other pieces of infrastructure.

Debris that has washed ashore includes dangerous materials originating from gas and chemical factories.

In one case, hundreds of gas cylinders and drums were washed away to the port of Mizushima in Okayama Prefecture. But most of them have been retrieved with the help of the Japan Coast Guard.

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