Tsunami-hit Japan airport to reopen next week

AFP , Friday 8 Apr 2011

Sendai Airport to reopen after earthquake and tsunami damaged facility and scattered planes

Disaster-hit Sendai Airport, which was closed after being inundated by the March 11 tsunami, will reopen next week, more than a month after the biggest recorded earthquake ever to hit Japan.

The opening will provide a boost to an area constrained by road closures and the suspension of bullet train services to Sendai.

All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines on Friday said they would restart flights next week to and from the airport, which will reopen to some commercial services on Wednesday.

ANA said in a statement that it would start three daily round trip "relief services" to Tokyo Haneda from April 13.

JAL, which recently emerged from bankruptcty, will restart flights from Haneda and Osaka the same day, though the suspension of some other routes has been extended until the end of May.

"As a result of efforts aiding recovery by the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, the self-defence force, the US military and other organisations, the airport is being opened sooner than originally expected," ANA said in a statement.

Sendai Airport was slammed by the wall of water that ravaged Japan's northeast coastline on March 11, with the facility badly damaged in a torrent of mud, water and debris that scattered planes from runways.

Teams of US service personnel who specialise in re-opening stricken air strips have been at the airport since a few days after the tsunami hit.

After clearing the runway of debris they have been using the once-bustling airport to ferry in relief supplies by C-130 Hercules transport planes.

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