Tsunami Aftermath Continues To Affect Japan’s Air Travel


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Tsunami Aftermath Continues To Affect Japans Air Travel

By Daniel Baxter

March 12, 2011 - The earthquake that struck Japans northern coast off Miyagi prefecture early Friday morning was the country’s worst in its history and in over 300 years. The earthquake registered at 8.9 magnitude which caused a tsunami (pronounced soo-NAH-mee) that has killed an unknown number of people.

The death toll and juries where limited as a result of Japan’s two early warning systems; the earthquake alert system and ocean-based tsunami warning system. Tsunamis are a frequent occurrence in Japan and prior to Friday’s event Japan has been hit with approximately 195 events that have been recorded.

The term tsunami comes from the Japanese, meaning "harbor" and "wave". A tsunami is a series of water waves (called a tsunami wave train) caused by the displacement of a large volume of a body of water, usually an ocean, but can occur in large lakes.

Owing to the immense volumes of water and the high energy involved, tsunamis can devastate coastal regions. A string of detection buoys in the Pacific Ocean detected the tsunami that resulted from the earthquake, sending warnings of possible catastrophe to many different nations.

Air travel for the most part has come to standstill. Tokyo’s Narita International Airport had allowed some flights out however there are thousands of passengers stranded there.

A spokesman at the airport, Shohei Kagawa, stated there was no damage done to the airport and was hopeful the airport would reopen within the next 24 hours. Tokyo’s Haneda airport, Asia’s second-busiest by passengers, has resumed flights after an initial shutdown following the 2:46 p.m. earthquake.

Japan Airlines (JAL) international flights departing to and from Natita and Haneda may be delayed or cancelled. JAL is providing special arrangements for ticket cancellations and changes. The three largest U.S. carriers United, Delta and American airlines canceled many, but not all, flights to and from Japan. Air Canada and Jazz have advise that flights to, from or connecting through Japan may be delayed or cancelled.


Hawaiian Airlines has resumed service to Hilo with the reopening of that airport’s passenger terminal. With the reopening of Hilo International Airport, Hawaiian is now operating all of its routes as scheduled. 

Hawaiian cancelled 14 flights to and from Hilo, Kahului and Lihue airports in Hawaii on Friday morning while those terminals were closed. All customers who checked in at airports for cancelled flights were accommodated on later flights when airports reopened. Hawaiian had also scheduled an extra round trip from Honolulu to Maui to ensure the accommodation of its customers. 

In response to the earthquake and Tsunami in Japan, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has dispatched a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) and has mobilized its partners, the Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Team and the Los Angeles County Search and Rescue Team. Each USAR team will be composed of approximately 72 personnel, search and rescue canines and approximately 75 tons of rescue equipment.

One of the deep water buoys used in the DART tsunami warning system


The USAR teams will be accompanied by USAID disaster experts who will assist with assessments of the situation. "On behalf of the American people, I wish to convey our sympathy, thoughts and prayers to the people of Japan who have been affected by this devastating earthquake and tsunami," said USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah.  

"We are working with the government of Japan to provide any assistance needed in the rescue effort as quickly as possible." USAID will continue to provide additional support as needed.

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