Osaka’s typhoon-hit Kansai airport partially resumes domestic flights

Domestic flights at Kansai International Airport resumed Friday with the first air service in three days departing for Niigata, after the main gateway to western Japan was closed due to a powerful typhoon earlier this week.

Some international flights by low-cost carrier Peach Aviation are planned to resume from Saturday, the airport operator said. A specific schedule was not immediately known.

On Friday, 19 domestic flights — two by Japan Airlines and 17 by Peach Aviation — are scheduled to depart from or arrive at Japan’s third-largest airport, which is located on a manmade island in Osaka Bay.

One of the two runways is currently in operation as the other was flooded by Typhoon Jebi, which ripped through the region Tuesday. The airport has seen growing numbers of foreign travelers from Asia with around 80,000 travelers using the facility on an average day.

«I’m a little scared of flying right after the restart, but I hope to land safely,» a 26-year-old woman from Kobe said before boarding the Niigata-bound flight, which left the airport shortly before noon with 35 passengers on board. She plans to attend a friend’s wedding in Niigata on Saturday.

With the restart of flights, the operating Terminal 2 was packed with people from early in the morning who tried to fly standby.

Ikumi Matsuoka, 45, expressed relief as she was able to book her flight to Okinawa. «I was so worried because there were no seats available until a while ago. My stomach was aching,» she said.

«My children are looking forward to swimming in the sea in Okinawa. I want to take them there but I’m not sure if there are any seats left,» said Emi Kobayashi, a 36-year-old mother from Kyoto who is planning to visit the southern Japanese island with her family.

A bridge that links the airport to the mainland was also damaged by the typhoon, as a tanker smashed into it after being ripped from its mooring by the strong winds and high waves.

The heavily damaged 2,591-ton Houn Maru was towed by a tugboat and headed to a dock in Hiroshima, where it will be either repaired or scrapped. No crew members were injured in the collision.

The airport operator also reopened undamaged lanes of the bridge, which provides the only road and rail access to the airport, to designated vehicles including buses operating between the airport and cities in surrounding areas. The train service via the bridge remains suspended.

Transport minister Keiichi Ishii told a press conference on Friday that the flooded runway at the airport is expected to reopen around mid-September.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told Diet members from Osaka on Friday the government is discussing plans with local authorities to have Itami and Kobe airports in Osaka and Hyogo prefectures take on some flights at Kansai until the full recovery of its flooded runway.

It will take two weeks to determine when the damaged roads on the bridge can be restored, while the resumption of train services is planned for around early October, according to the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry.

All — Kyodo News+

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