Aviation shockwaves in Japan earthquakes fallout

By Luke Barras-hill |

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said the rescue of victims in the wake of the earthquake is a “race against time”. Photo: Shutterstock/Alexandros Michailidis.

Airline flights have been cancelled and Noto Airport in Wajima closed as Japan contends with damage caused to its aviation sector in the aftermath of a sequence of powerful earthquakes.

These have struck Japan’s Ishikawa, Niigata, Toyama and Fukui prefectures since yesterday (1 January), including one on Monday afternoon that registered level 7 on the seismic intensity scale in Noto Peninsula.

Approximately 500 airport users and local residents have been evacuated from the terminal building of the domestic Noto Airport in Ishikawa prefecture, according to a notice seen by TRBusiness from Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Tourism.

Cracks have emerged on the airport’s runway, which has been closed, and damage to the terminal building has been sustained, though there have been no reported human casualties at the airport.

At least 10 flights are understood to have been cancelled today from carriers Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA), including the former’s to the Niigata and Ishikawa regions.

Officials have said the runway will be closed until Thursday as repair workers are not able to reach the airport due to road disruption, according to a report from Japan’s international broadcaster NHK World.

Japan Airlines (JAL) has announced special temporary flights operating today between Tokyo and Komatsu and Osaka and Niigata.

Death toll mounting

Other airports in Komatsu, Niigata, Fukui, Toyama, Mastumoto and Shona have reportedly avoided damage.

On 2 January, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida held a meeting of the Emergency Headquarters for the Noto Peninsula earthquake, confirming ‘large scale damage’ caused to buildings, with fires and numerous human casualties.

“Currently, the government is putting all its efforts into assessing the damage situation and responding initially, but since it is necessary for related ministries and agencies to respond in close cooperation, the Emergency Disaster Management Headquarters, headed by me, was appointed yesterday,” he stated at a briefing.

Noto Airport in Wajima, Ishikawa has been closed and carriers including Japan Airlines have been forced to cancel flights. 

“Furthermore, in order to understand the damage caused by the earthquake and the state of local response, and to take the maximum possible local response, we have established an Emergency Disaster Local Response Headquarters in Ishikawa Prefecture, headed by Deputy Minister Koga of the Cabinet Office.

“As time passes and dawn dawns, the extent of the damage is gradually becoming clearer. The rescue of disaster victims is a race against time. In particular, victims of collapsed buildings must be rescued as soon as possible.”

At press time, international media outlets including authoritative broadsheet The Japan Times, are reporting 48 deaths from the earthquake, though this remains a fast-moving story with the picture changing on an hourly basis.

In what appears to be an unrelated incident, a Japan Airlines passenger carrier today collided with a coastguard aircraft at Tokyo Haneda Airport that was reportedly aiding the earthquake disaster relief efforts.

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