Travel disruptions from Japan earthquake and tsunami continue

After the record earthquake and devastating tsunami delivered a near knock-out punch to Japan yesterday, the damage is still being assessed. The death toll is rising, fears of a nuclear disaster worsen, travel alerts have been issued and hundreds of flights have been canceled as tens of thousands of travelers have been left stranded.

In Japan, both Narita (NRT) and Haneda airports (HND) which handle international and domestic flights for Tokyo were closed Friday, leaving 14,000 passengers stranded. Sendai airport (SDJ), 300 kilomerters to the north was virtually destroyed by the tsunami. Both Haneda and Narita have reopened but it is expected that flight schedules will be affected into early next week as Japanese travelers from around the world struggle to get back home.Elsewhere, the effect of Japan’s airport failures combined with a huge increase in demand for flights into Japan have had a cascading effect on travel around the globe. Airports from Canada to London saw delayed flights as the U.S. issued a travel alert urging U.S. citizens “to avoid tourism and non-essential travel to Japan at this time.”

In Japan, it is considered poor form to take a vacation when your family or your employer needs you. Beyond the strong, immediate need Japanese travelers out of the country have to get back home, future travel plans could affect tourism world-wide for quite some time.

The U.S Department of State noted in its alert shortly after the event that “Strong aftershocks are likely for weeks following a strong earthquake such as this one.” Indeed, at least 20 aftershocks ranging from 5 to 6.8 magnitude have hit Japan, a day after the 8.9 magnitude caused mass destruction.

Getting up to speed on the problem at Japan’s nuclear power plants, Friday’s events caused concern that reactors left without normal cooling capability are on a countdown to meltdown. Hour by hour, battery backup that replaced diesel generators used in the nuclear core cooling process weaken. In a race against time, at some point radioactivity will be released if the problem is not corrected.

“The events that occurred at these plants, which is the loss of both offsite power and onsite power, is one of the rarest events to happen in a nuclear power plant, and all indications are that the Japanese do not have the situation under control,” Edwin Lyman, a nuclear expert told The Telegraph today.

It was a one, two, knock-out punch as the quake and tsunami took out the Daiichi reactor’s off-site power source and then tsunami waves disabled the backup source of power.

Beyond the melt-down concern, about a 1 million homes were reported without power.

and photos of the disaster both during and after the earthquake and hurricane provide little hope that travel disruptions from Japan’s earthquake and tsunami will go away any time soon.

Government issues travel warning, sends navy to Japan, braces west coast

In the anticipated travel alert issued after an 8.9 magnitude earthquake struck Northern Japan today, the U.S. Department of State is urging U.S. citizens to avoid travel to Japan through the end of the month. Offering condolences for loss of life and damage caused by the event, President Obama ordered mobilization of military disaster relief sending the U.S. Navy to aid early this morning and directed FEMA to go on high alert in anticipation of damage to U.S. coastal areas.

“Strong aftershocks are likely for weeks following a strong earthquake such as this one” the Department of State said in today’s travel alert. Those in the affected are are urged to move to open spaces away from walls, windows, buildings and other structures.

Navy ships USS Essex, USS Blueridge, USS Tortuga have been deployed and are on their way to Japan to help in anticipated relief efforts. U.S. Navy ships in Guam had been told to head out to sea for safety reasons earlier in the day.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said today “I join President Obama in offering our sincere condolences for the loss of life and damage caused by the earthquake and tsunamis in Japan. We are closely monitoring the tsunamis that may impact other parts the world, including Hawaii and the West Coast of the United States.”

In California, residents are preparing for the worst. Under an advisory, not a warning, those who live on the water have been told to sail 3 miles off shore for safety concerns.

Tokyo flights canceled, diverted after tsunami

In the wake of a giant tsunami wave that battered the east coast of Japan, sending a 10-metre high tidal wave crashing on to coastal areas, airlines have canceled and diverted flights.

The 8.9-magnitude quake, Japan’s worst and the 7th strongest ever recorded has caused massive damage to coastal areas by triggering a tsunami wave that now careens across the pacific heading for the U.S. west coast.

Tokyo flights canceled include Nippon, Virgin, British Airways, Lufthansa, Air France and Malaysia Airlines have have all canceled flights to and from both of Tokyo’s airports.

Japan’s All Nippon Airways Co. told the Wall Street Journal that “131 domestic and international flights were canceled, grounding 32,700 passengers. Including flights which changed destinations, the earthquake affected 162 flights and 37,800 passengers”

“We have received notification from the airport authorities to suspend our flights in and out of Narita Airport and Haneda Airport,” Malaysia Airlines Director of Operations, Captain Azharuddin Osman said in a statement. “We will only be able to confirm our flight schedules once we receive clearance from the relevant civil aviation authorities.

AOLnews reports the Red Cross in Geneva saying the wave was higher than some Pacific islands, and a tsunami warning has been issued for the whole of the Pacific Basin, including Hawaii, the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan and Russia. Authorities in Hawaii ordered the evacuation of coastal areas.

Flickrphoto by Bejnamin Thompson

Japan hit by massive earthquake- U.S. west coast prepares for tsunami wave

A massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake off Japan’s northeastern coast has at least 19 countries under tsunami alert. The U.S. west coast from Alaska to California is preparing for waves of three to four feet high representing a tremendous amount of energy expected by about 7:00 AM Pacific time.

Here, we see raw footage of the 32-foot tsunami wave that hit Japan’s Sendai airport

Caused by the earthquake that hit at 2:46 PM local time in Japan, the tsunami wave is estimated to hit Hawaii just about any time now.

In the Philippines, Guam and Northern Mariana Islands, evacuation of communities along the eastern coastal areas is underway with the populations being advised to get at least 50 meters above sea level.

USS Essex, USS Blueridge, USS Tortuga have been deployed and are on their way to Japan to help in anticipated relief efforts. U.S. Navy ships in Guam are being told to head out to sea for safety reasons

“Hawaii ordered evacuations from coastal areas due to the threat of a tidal wave set off by Friday’s earthquake in Japan as a tsunami warning was extended to the whole of the Pacific basin, except mainland United States and Canada.” reports Reuters.

Early reports from Japan’s Kyodo news indicate at least 10 people killed and many injured but that number is expected to rise. After a 7.7-magnitude earthquake and 10-foot tsunami hit Indonesia last October hundreds were reported dead later in the week. Early Tsunami warning systems put in place between 2004 and 2008 are hoped to have help minimize casualties.

SkyNews video

Help arrives for Indonesian tsunami victims

After a 7.7-magnitude earthquake and 10-foot tsunami hit Indonesia Monday, killing at least 272 people, relief efforts have arrived to help the wounded, search for the hundreds still missing, and bury the dead. The first cargo plane loaded down with 16 tons of tents, medicine, food and clothes arrived today after weather relented long enough for search and rescue teams to arrive. Many villages near the coast were completely destroyed by the waves.

The Mentawai Islands are a popular destination for surfers, though their location in the Pacific Ring of Fire make them prone to seismic activity. Ten tourists arrived in Pedang today to tell their story after 24 hours lost in the Indian Ocean, including an American. According to the Associated Press, the anchored tourist boat was hit by a wall of water smashed them into a neighboring vessel, triggering a fire that quickly ripped through their cabin. “They hit us directly in the side of the boat, piercing a fuel tank,” said Daniel North, the American crew member. “Almost immediately, the captain gave the order to abandon ship and everyone got off the boat.” They clung to surfboards and then climbed the highest trees they could find to await rescue.

The tsunami hit the Mentawai Islands, about 149 miles south of Padang, the capital city of West Sumatra, along the same fault line as the 2004 earthquake and tsunami that killed 230,000. Less than a day after the tsunami, a volcano erupted 800 miles to the east, killing more than two dozen people and displacing thousands. No travel alert has been set yet by the US Department of State for Indonesia, though a June alert is in affect for Pacific typhoons until December 1.

[Photo source: Wikipedia Commons]