Cathay Pacific among Hong Kong airlines warning of possible travel delays after deadly earthquake strikes Osaka
Child among three killed and 200 injured as walls collapse and fires start after powerful quake that United States Geological Survey measures at 5.3 strikes Japan’s second city
Three Hong Kong airlines have warned the city’s residents of potential delays travelling to Osaka after a deadly earthquake struck Japan on Monday during the height of rush hour.
A nine-year-old girl was among three people killed in the powerful quake, which struck at 7.58am.
The girl, Rina Miyake, died when a wall collapsed at her school, while 80-year-old Minoru Yasi was killed in similar fashion, and a second man, 85-year-old Motochika Goto was crushed by a falling bookcase at his home.
Some 200 people were reportedly injured in the quake, which was measured at magnitude 5.3 by the United States Geological Survey.
The Japan Meteorological Agency measured the quake, which hit as people crowded into train stations for their daily commute, at 6.1.
Scattered fires broke out in buildings in the heavily urbanised area, and while authorities reported no damage to railways or major roads, parts of the network were closed as a precaution.
Cathay Pacific, HK Express and Hong Kong Airlines all said they were monitoring the situation in Osaka.
Cathay issued an advisory that said flights were operating normally, but “the situation remains volatile and may change at short notice”.
The city’s flagship airline said it had decided to waive rebooking, re-routing and refund charges for tickets issued on or before Monday for flights arriving at, or departing from Osaka, between Monday and the end of this month.
HK Express, meanwhile, said passengers could experience delays between Hong Kong and Kansai International Airport, which is located 50km from the centre of Osaka.
The airline said affected customers had been informed via email and text message.
“At present, all flights are operating as normal. However, they may experience delays,” the budget carrier said, adding that ground transport services to Kansai airport were experiencing “intermittent delays”.
Passengers expecting to travel on Monday will have the option of changing their booking to the next available flight, or changing to a new destination on the airline’s network within seven days of the original departure.
Passengers choosing the second option will have to pay any difference in fare.
“We will monitor the situation in Osaka and closely communicate with the airport authorities,” HK Express said.
Hong Kong Airlines also said in a travel advisory that its flights to and from Kansai International Airport may be affected. The airline advised its passengers to check their flight’s status on its website before leaving for the airport.
A Post reporter staying in Kobe city, about 30km from Osaka, said he felt his hotel room shake for a few seconds when the quake hit. Soon after he was woken up, there was broadcast at his hotel warning travellers not to use the elevators. Hotel staff told the reporter it was safe to remain in his room.
At about 11am, he drove his car around the commercial districts of the area and saw it was business as usual.
Earlier, travel agents reported that Hong Kong tour groups in the city were all safe and accounted for.
A number were in Osaka at the time, and Alice Chan Cheung Lok-yee, Travel Industry Council executive director, said about six agencies had reported their groups were safe.
Although they would be largely unaffected by the powerful quake, Chan said, the groups may need to adjust their itineraries.
“Due to the closure of some highways, there may be minor adjustments to the itineraries, but cancellation of tours is not expected,” she said.
The council had not received any requests for help from Hong Kong travellers regarding the earthquake, she added.
Steve Huen Kwok-chuen, executive director of EGL Tours, said the travel agency had more than 10 tours in Osaka, and all had reported in as being safe.
While some tours might begin their activities slightly later than scheduled, Huen said in general their journeys would continue as planned.
He said his agency had four or five tours heading to Osaka daily, and they would not be cancelled. While airports or highways had been closed immediately after the quake, they were gradually reopened, he said.
A spokeswoman for Hong Thai Travel Services said its four tour groups in Osaka, involving 80 people, were safe and their itineraries had not been affected.
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Hong Kong’s Immigration Department said it had contacted the Hong Kong office of the Commissioner of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Chinese consulate in Osaka and the Travel Industry Council for further information.
The department has also provided information to Hongkongers who inquired about transport issues, and would closely monitor the aftermath of the quake.
Hong Kong residents outside the city requiring help can call the department’s 24-hour hotline on +852 1868.