September 16, 2009 / 7:46 AM / 10 years ago

Tonnes of driftwood from Taiwan typhoon clogs Japan

TAIPEI, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Thousands of trees uprooted by heavy rains in Taiwan’s deadly typhoon last month have floated across the sea to Japan, clogging waterways and endangering boats, officials said on Wednesday.

Since Sept. 3, around 300 trees a day have drifted nearly 1,500 km (930 miles) to Japan’s southwestern Kyushu island endangering passenger boats and small fishing vessels, said Kunio Gyoji, an official in the de facto Japanese embassy in Taipei.

"Some pieces are up to 20 metres (about 60 feet) long," Gyoji said.

Record rainfall from the Aug. 7-9 typhoon Morkaot, which killed as many as 770 people in Taiwan, mostly due to massive mudslides, unleashed an estimated 530,000 tonnes of wood into overflowing waterways, the island’s forestry bureau said.

Work crews have yet to clear about 170,000 tonnes, much of which is still at sea, said Hsia Jung-sheng, publicity head of Taiwan’s forestry bureau.

"We’re clearing it away little by little," Hsia said. "Of course a lot of that wood is in the ocean, but some of it, fishing boats will help us to remove."

A fast Pacific Ocean current off Taiwan’s east coast probably carried the wood to Japan, Gyoji said.

(Reporting by Ralph Jennings; Editing by Jonathon Burch)

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