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After the wave: Clearing an ocean of debris in Japan

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In the town of Minimasanriku, Japan, the debris covers an estimated 10 square kilometers (a little less than 4 square miles, or three times the size of New York’s Central Park) of the fishing town, one of Japan’s hardest hit communities.

Town officials, who estimate it will cost about $27.4 million to remove it, have plans to burn as much of the debris as possible and recycle what they can.

Jim Seida / msnbc.com

Excavators demolish an apartment building destroyed by the March 11 tsunami in Minamisanriku, Japan, June 15, 2011.

Msnbc.com's Jim Seida, who got the excavator-eye view of a team tearing down an apartment building in the video below, marveled at the efficiency of the "claws." The operators could expertly sort through the tangled masses of twisted metal, wood, fishing nets, and concrete.

But for a mere human, it was not so easy. He described it as "super gnarly" to try to safely move through the mix of rebar, mud, water, piles of wood, appliances, cars and furniture to take pictures. Yet teams of people are doing just that, every day, because after the claws are done with the big material, the small debris is sorted and removed by hand.

Sit in an excavator while it works, and visit with the teams who are removing debris by hand in the tsunami-ravaged town of Minamsanriku, Japan. Takahashi Abe of Abei Construction explains the process and challenges.


Read more about the debris removal in a WorldBlog by msnbc.com's Miranda Leitsinger.