Response crews in Santa Cruz recover two boats


On Friday, an 8.9-magnitude earthquake off the northeast coast of Japan caused a tsunami that killed hundreds of people before traveling across the Pacific Ocean and temporarily elevating surf levels on parts of the California coast.

The elevated surf levels caused an estimated $17.1 million in damage to the harbor, not including the 18 vessels that sank, a Coast Guard Petty Officer said.

Coast Guard officials continue to enforce a safety zone that extends to all navigable waterways of the Santa Cruz Harbor. Petty Officer P. Manns said that no vessels can enter the harbor without the permission of Coast Guard Sector San Francisco Capt. Cynthia Stowe or her on-scene representatives.

The safety zone will continue to be enforced until conditions are deemed safe for boaters, Manns said.

No estimate was given as to when conditions might improve.

"It's still unsafe for mariners to transit in and out (the harbor) because of debris," Coast Guard Lt. Renee McKinnon said.

In addition to the debris, the sunken vessels may pose a pollution threat if they leak gasoline or oil, according to Manns.

There was a report of an oil sheen being inspected by a contractor on Saturday, McKinnon reported.

A Unified Command consisting of the Coast Guard, California Department of Fish and Game Office of Oil Spill Prevention and Response and local harbor masters is expected to remain on scene until at least the end of the week.

They are currently prioritizing the recovery of sunken vessels based on their likelihood to cause a pollution threat, Manns said.

Anyone reporting an oil spill in the area is being asked to call the Coast Guard national response center at (800) 424-8802.

To report any oily wild animals, the public is asked to call the Department of Fish and Game's Oiled Wildlife Care Network at (877) 823-6926. Handling or attempting to rescue the animals is not recommended.

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