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Japanese teen traced as owner of tsunami soccer ball found in Alaska

Noaa - Jiji Press / AFP - Getty Images

This soccer ball is believed to have drifted from Rikuzentakata, Japan, to Alaska following the March 2011 tsunami.

A Japanese teenager has identified himself as the owner of a soccer ball that washed up on an Alaska beach last week – the first traceable debris to arrive in the United States from last year's tsunami.

Misaki Murakami, who comes from the city of Rikuzentakata, where more than 3,000 homes were destroyed, came forward on Sunday after reading news reports about the find.

Marker pen writing on the soccer ball identified the 16-year-old and the name of his school.

The soccer ball and a volleyball were discovered by David Baxter, a technician working at a radar station on remote Middleton Island in the Gulf of Alaska, Doug Helton of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wrote ina  blog post last week.

Japan’s Kyodo news agency said Murakami was at home at the time of the tsunami disaster in March 2011 but managed to escape the waves by running to higher ground with his pet dog.

Kyodo via Reuters

Misaki Murakami, 16, says he is the owner of a soccer ball that was found on the shore of a remote Alaska island.

His family lost everything, including their home, and are currently living in temporary housing provided by the local government.

Ghost ship sinks to bottom of Gulf of Alaska 

Murakami told the news agency Sunday that he had been searching for his family's belongings but that until the ball was found he had had no luck.

Prized possession
The ball was a gift from his former homeroom teacher and his 13 classmates when he had to change schools in the same area seven years ago.

He said it was a prized possession, which he always kept hanging in a net next to his bed.

Kyodo News via AP

David and Yumi Baxter hold the soccer ball and a volleyball at their home in Alaska.
Doug Helton of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that there wasn't enough information on the volleyball for Japanese officials to locate its possible owner.

Murakami spoke with Baxter on the phone to thank him for finding his treasured ball.

The magnitude 9.0 earthquake off Japan's northeast coast on March 11, 2011, triggered a 75-foot wall of water that flattened waterfront towns, killing 16,000. About 3,000 people are still unaccounted for. The tsunami triggered a crisis at Tokyo Electric Power's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee in the world's worst nuclear accident in 25 years.

An earthquake, a tsunami, a nuclear meltdown -- residents of Japan's northeast coast suffered through three intertwined disasters after a massive 9.0 magnitude temblor struck off the coast on March 11, 2011.

U.S. authorities were immediately aware that the clockwise circulation of the Pacific's northern waters would deliver some remnants of that destruction to American shores.

A Japanese ghost ship, Ryou-Un Maru, turned up earlier in the Gulf of Alaska off Southeast Alaska after a 4,500-mile journey. The U.S. Coast Guard sank the vessel April 5.

Tracking the debris from the Japan tsunami can be tricky, as it moves across the Pacific via ocean currents and winds. NBC's Miguel Almaguer reports.

In January, a half-dozen large buoys suspected to be from Japanese oyster farms appeared at the top of Alaska's panhandle and may be among the first tsunami debris.

State health and environmental officials have said there's little need to be worried that debris landing on Alaska's shores will be contaminated by radiation.

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