TOKYO: A teenager who lost his home in Japan’s devastating tsunami now knows that one prized possession survived – a football that made it all the way to Alaska.

Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say the ball is one of the first pieces of debris from last year’s tsunami to wash up on the other side of the Pacific.

A man found the ball while beachcombing on an Alaskan island, and his wife, who is Japanese, talked with its owner, 16-year-old Misaki Murakami, by phone over the weekend. They plan to send the ball back to him soon.

Misaki, from the town of Rikuzentakata, is surprised and thankful the ball has been found more than 5 000km away.

“It was a big surprise. I’ve never imagined that my ball had reached Alaska,” Misaki told public broadcaster NHK.

“I lost everything in the tsunami, so I’m delighted,” he said.

The tsunami on March 11 devastated a long stretch of Japan’s north-eastern coast. It killed about 19 000 people.

The ball, which also had messages of encouragement written on it, was given to him in 2005, when Misaki was in third grade, as a goodbye gift when he transferred to another school.

David Baxter, a radar technician from Kasilof, Alaska, found Misaki’s ball while beachcombing last month on Middleton Island, 110km south of the Alaskan mainland. “I thought it came from the tsunami zone,” Baxter said. His wife Yumi reached Misaki with help from a Japanese reporter. – Sapa-AP