Plan for tsunami-hit airports in works

JIJI

The transport ministry will develop emergency plans to get airports hit by tsunami up and running within three days, informed sources said.

The plans will cover Sendai Airport, Tokyo International Airport at Haneda, Central Japan International Airport in Aichi Prefecture, Kansai International Airport near Osaka, Kochi Airport in Shikoku, and Miyazaki Airport in Kyushu, the sources said.

The six, which are situated in coastal areas or on man-made islands, were chosen as they are at risk of being hit by tsunami from powerful earthquakes.

The government wants the airports to be able to recover as quickly as possible so they can serve as bases for rescue and relief operations after disasters, the sources said.

After drawing up the restoration plans, probably by the end of March 2013, the ministry will develop ways to allow the airports to accept medical helicopters and relief transports.

On March 11 last year, Sendai Airport was swamped by huge tsunami spawned by the 9-magnitude quake off Tohoku, turning its runway into a junkyard.

After the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military removed the debris during Operation Tomodachi, an area large enough to land emergency choppers was secured within four days.

Given how important the first 72 hours are in saving people’s lives, the ministry is now placing higher priority on expediting airport recoveries, the sources said.

To quickly restore an airport, it is particularly important to clear enough space to store large numbers of displaced vehicles and other debris to prevent secondary accidents, such as fires.