Domestic flights at Kansai airport to resume on Friday raising hopes for international passengers stranded after Typhoon Jebi

Repairs are ahead of schedule as airport officials had warned it may take a week to fully reopen the airport if damage to its runways and facilities was serious

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 September, 2018, 10:47am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 September, 2018, 11:54am

Domestic flights at the typhoon-damaged Kansai International Airport in western Japan will resume on Friday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has confirmed.

International flights will also restart as soon as the airport in Osaka is ready, Abe told a meeting held at his office on Thursday. Airport officials said the previous day it may take about a week to fully reopen the airport if damage to its runways and facilities is serious.

That is good news for the at least 70 Hongkongers in several tour groups who were reported stuck in Osaka on Wednesday.

Japan’s third-largest airport is a key gateway to the Kansai region that includes Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures, and has seen growing numbers of foreign travellers from Asia. On an average day, around 80,000 travellers use the airport.

Concerns have been raised about the impact of a prolonged closure of the key transport hub on business, trade and tourism.

One of the two runways and the basement floor of a terminal building at Kansai airport, which is located on a man-made island in Osaka Bay, were flooded on Tuesday by high storm tides driven by Typhoon Jebi.

Osaka Governor Ichiro Matsui, who visited Abe’s office on Thursday, said he will request nearby airports in Osaka and Kobe to take some of the traffic expected to land at or depart Kansai airport until damage is repaired.

Matsui said the central government is also considering a plan to have Itami airport, which straddles Hyogo and Osaka prefectures, as well as Hyogo’s Kobe airport substitute for the Kansai facility.

The governor made the remark after meeting with Hiroto Izumi, Abe’s special adviser tasked with overseeing the government’s response to Typhoon Jebi.

Additionally, New Chitose Airport near Sapporo in northern Japan was closed on Thursday due to a power outage and damage caused by a strong earthquake.

Thousands of stranded passengers were evacuated on Wednesday from Kansai airport by ferries and buses after Typhoon Jebi struck Japan’s main islands a day earlier.

A bridge providing the only road and rail access to the airport from the mainland was severely damaged by a tanker that smashed into it after being ripped from its mooring by the strong winds and high waves.

The typhoon killed 11 people and injured more than 400 others across western Japan.