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Tourists urged to avoid travel to Japan after quake

The U.S. government is urging tourists to avoid travel to Japan after a massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake slammed the country on Friday.
Image: Japanese travelers
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.TYRONE SIU / Reuters
/ Source: staff and news service reports

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.