Up to around 24.9 million tons of debris mainly from collapsed structures lie scattered near the coasts of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, according to the ministry. The amount is about 1.7 times the debris seen in the 1996 Great Hanshin Earthquake.
The actual amount of debris is expected to be larger as the assumption does not include rubble from wrecked vessels and vehicles.
The removal process is expected to be delayed due to the lack of temporary disposal sites for rubble, the ministry said.
The Iwate Prefectural Government said it will need some 3 million sq. meters of land to temporarily store a total of 6 million tons of debris scattered around the prefecture, but has been able to secure only 40 percent of the land needed so far.
Fukushima Prefecture is currently piling up debris from the disaster, which is expected to amount to 2.9 million tons, excluding damaged vessels and vehicles, on some 330,000 sq. meters of land at fishing ports and industrial complexes. The Fukushima figures reportedly do not include the radioactive debris, soil and other materials near the crippled nuclear plant that will also have to be disposed of. (read more)