North American beach-goers could soon be finding human bones washed up in the wake of the March 2011 Japanese tsunami, experts say. For some in Japan, these could be the only traces they ever find of their missing relatives.

Over a year after the catastrophe, the effects are far from over as debris has begun to reach western US coastlines after journeying 3,500 miles.

"We're expecting 100 sneakers with bones in them," said Curt Ebbesmeyer, co-creator of the Ocean Surface Current Simulator computer model, which predicts the movement of flotsam worldwide.

Ebbesmeyer urged those clearing the debris to handle with care and call 911.

If DNA traces are extracted from the remains, they could possibly identify those who went missing during the tsunami, he said.For surviving family and friends, this could finally mean closure on what happened, and a proper chance to grieve.

“We're dealing with things that are of extreme sensitivity. Emotional content is just enormous. So be respectful,” Ebbesmeyer warned.

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