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2 years after Japan tsunami, debris spreads thousands of miles across west coast of N. America

Debris continues to reach U.S. shores from the 2011 tsunami that devastated parts of Japan.

It can be hard to distinguish between the debris and everyday trash that has plagued coastal areas for years.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, just 21 items from among the more than 1,500 reports of possible tsunami debris have been firmly traced back to the tsunami.

These are items that tend to have unique markings, such as names of people or places or registration numbers. A buoy that had been part of a restaurant sign in a coastal Japanese community was found on a remote Alaska island about a year after the disaster. The distinctive black character on it helped link it to its owner.

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