Image: Japanese travelers
TYRONE SIU  /  Reuters
Japanese travelers look at an information screen at Hong Kong airport showing that flights to Japan's Haneda and Narita airports have been delayed after a massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake hit Japan on Friday.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 3/11/2011 4:13:33 PM ET 2011-03-11T21:13:33

The U.S. State Department is urging tourists to avoid travel to Japan after a massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake slammed the country on Friday. The quake and a tsunami that followed has prompted U.S. airlines to cancel most flights to and from Japan.

"The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to avoid tourism and non-essential travel to Japan at this time," the agency said on its website.

FirstPerson: Were your travel plans affected by the quake? Tell us your story

American citizens currently in Japan should contact family and friends in the U.S. "to confirm their well-being at the earliest opportunity," the State Department suggested. Citizens who don't have access to Internet or telephones are urged to use text messaging or social media avenues, such as Twitter or Facebook.

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Additionally, the State Department is encouraging U.S. citizens in Japan to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). Those without Internet access can walk into a U.S. Embassy or Consulate and enroll directly.

The exact number of flight cancellations was unclear and airlines cautioned that the situation was rapidly changing.

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Runways at both Narita International and Haneda Airports in Tokyo have been opened though there are significant flight disruptions, according to NHK World, and international news website.

  • Delta Air Lines, which operates more flights in Japan than any other U.S. carrier, said 29 flights were canceled Friday into and out of Tokyo. The carrier, which has a hub at Narita and operations in Haneda, operates nearly 60 flights to and from the airports. Delta said it is waiving rebooking fees for those affected by the quake through March 15. "There are no reports of injuries to customers or employees at any Delta facility in Japan," said the carrier, in a statement.
  • AMR Corp's American Airlines said it has canceled all of its Japan operations for Friday. The carrier said it had six flights inbound to Tokyo at the time of the earthquake. "All of our flights that were leaving Tokyo did so prior to the earthquake," AMR spokesman Tim Smith said. AMR flies to Narita International Airport and Tokyo Haneda and partners with Japan Airlines.
  • United Continental Holdings, formed from a merger last year of United and Continental, said it diverted seven United flights and two Continental flights from the United States to Narita. United has a hub at Narita. The company has canceled 10 United U.S.-to-Narita flights for Friday and one U.S.-to-Narita for Continental, although limited service remains, spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said. She said flights to Hawaii and Guam were unaffected so far. Also, United extended a travel waiver for Japan through March 15.
  • Cathay Pacific suspended flights into Narita International and Haneda through Saturday afternoon, at which point the situation will be reviewed, the airline said on its Facebook page.
  • Press reports said 13,000 people were stranded at Tokyo's Narita Airport and 10,000 people were stranded at Haneda Airport. Some outbound flights have resumed from Narita.

Stranded at Disneyland Tokyo
The quake and tsunami left tourists stranded at Disneyland Tokyo, according to thedisneyblog.com.

The website said reports have indicated that the theme park's parking area and its DisneySea park have flooded because much of the park's expansion areas were built on landfills.

The park sustained only minor structural damage, according to the report.

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The blog reports that 69,000 guests were evacuated to safe areas of the park and given supplies and shelter.

Little impact on cruise ships
In other news, major international cruise lines operating large passenger vessels reported little or no impact from the tsunami Friday other than a few port closings and reroutings.

"Initial contacts with our members have indicated no damage to any cruise ships operating in the Pacific," said Lanie Fagan, a spokeswoman for the Cruise Lines International Association, which represents 25 cruise lines, including major brands such as Carnival, Celebrity, Cunard, Crystal, Holland America, Norwegian, Princess, and Royal Caribbean.

She added in an e-mail that "because a tsunami causes a rise in the height of the sea, a ship at sea is one of the safest places to be. It is when a tsunami approaches the coast that it causes damages as the wave builds in height and causes widespread flooding."

Information from Reuters and AP was included in this report.

© 2013 msnbc.com

Video: Video shows devastating Japan earthquake

Photos: After Japan's earthquake and tsunami - week 8

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  1. A radiation measuring instrument is seen next to some residents in Kawauchimura, a village within the 12- to 18-mile zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, on April 28. Most residents of Kawauchimura have evacuated in order to avoid the radiation, but some remain in the area of their own accord. (Koichi Kamoshida / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A brazier heats the house of Masahiro Kazami, located within a 12-mile radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, April 28. (Koichi Kamoshida / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Volunteers help clean a cemetery at Jionin temple in Ishinomaki, Miyagi prefecture, northeastern Japan, on April 29. Many volunteers poured into the disaster-hit region at the beginning of the annual Golden Week holiday. (Hiro Komae / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Japanese government adviser Toshiso Kosako is overcome with emotion during a news conference on April 29 in Tokyo announcing his resignation. The expert on radiation exposure said he could not stay on the job and allow the government to set what he called improper radiation limits for elementary schools in areas near the tsunami-damaged Fukushima nuclear plant. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Fuel rods are seen inside the spent fuel pool of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant reactor 4 on April 30. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A volunteer girl from Tokyo works to clean the debris of a house in Higashimatsushima, northern Japan, on April 30. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Farmer Tsugio Sato tends to his Japanese pear trees in Fukushima city, May 1. He said he expects to harvest the pears in October. Farmers and businesses face so-called "fuhyo higai," or damages stemming from the battered reputation of the Fukushima brand. (Hiro Komae / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Members of Japan Ground Self-Defense Force in protective gear receive radiation screening in Minamisoma in Fukushima prefecture, after searching for bodies at an area devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Ruriko Sakuma, daughter of dairy farmer Shinji Sakuma, rubs a cow at their farm in the village of Katsurao in Fukushima prefecture on May 3. Thousands of farm animals died of hunger in the weeks following the quake. (Yoshikazu Tsuno / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: Kawauchimura Village in the Radius of 20-30 km from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant
    Koichi Kamoshida / EPA
    Above: Slideshow (9) Devastation in Japan after quake
  2. Daryl Cagle / MSNBC.com, Politicalcartoons.com
    Slideshow (13) Japan's Enormous Earthquake

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