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Tsunami teen's football floats 5,000km across the Pacific

A teenager who lost his home in Japan's devastating tsunami now knows that one prized possession survived: a football that made it all the way to Alaska.

The ball is one of the first pieces of debris from last year's tsunami to wash up on the other side of the Pacific.

A man found it while beachcombing on an Alaskan island, and with the help of a Japanese reporter, tracked down the teen from messages that were written on it. His wife, who is Japanese, talked with its owner, 16-year-old Misaki Murakami, by phone. They plan to send the ball back to him soon.

Murakami, from the town of Rikuzentakata, was amazed to hear the ball had been found more than 5,000km away. "It was a big surprise. I've lost everything in the tsunami. So I'm delighted," he said. "I really want to say thank you."

All the family's furniture and possessions were washed away in the March 11, 2011, tsunami, which devastated a long stretch of Japan's northeastern coast and killed 19,000 people.

The ball was given to him in 2005, when Murakami was in third grade, as a good-bye gift when he transferred to another school.

Debris from the tsunami initially formed a thick mass in the ocean off Japan's northeastern coast and has since spread out across the Pacific.

In February, experts said currents would carry much of the debris to the coasts of Alaska, Canada, Washington and Oregon.

Earlier this month, a US Coast Guard cutter fired on and sank a fishing boat in the Gulf of Alaska that had drifted from Japan after the tsunami. Authorities had deemed it a hazard to shipping.

David Baxter, a radar technician from Kasilof, Alaska, found Murakami's ball while beachcombing in March on Middleton Island, 110km south of the Alaskan mainland.

hnews@herald.ie


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