Saturday, March 12, 2011

Travel disrupted by disaster in Japan

Hundreds of Japan-bound flights are canceled, visitors to Japanese theme parks are stranded, and Hawaii hotels and California campgrounds are evacuated.
Travelers around the Pacific were stopped in their tracks by Friday's earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Hundreds of Japan-bound flights were canceled over the course of the day, thousands of people were stranded at Japanese theme parks; hotels in Hawaii evacuated guests in the middle of the night to avoid surging water; and campers were evacuated from costal state parks in Northern California.
The U.S. State Department posted a travel alert, strongly urging "U.S. citizens to avoid tourism and non-essential travel to Japan at this time." Officials at Los Angeles International Airport reported Friday that Tokyo's Narita International Airport and Haneda Airport reopened about 12 hours after the disaster, but all passengers to Japan were advised to check with their airlines on the status of their flights. Airports closer to the epicenter in northeastern Japan remain closed.
Air travelers around the world were stymied by flight cancellations over the course of the day.
"Hole up where you are and ride it out for the next 24 to 48 hours," advised Bruce McIndoe, president of iJet, a travel risk-management company. "And don't try to insert yourself into the mess."
Many airlines were waiving change and cancellation fees. A spokesman for Singapore Airlines said the airline would waive fees for refunding, rebooking or rerouting customers with airline tickets or air-and-land packages that were issued on or before March 11 and involve travel up to March 20.
Meanwhile, the massive earthquake also stranded thousands of people at Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea by damaged roads and transportation interruptions that forced visitors to stay overnight in 30-degree weather. Though the theme parks experienced some quake damage, there were no reports of injuries.
Perhaps the most vulnerable travelers of all, those aboard cruise ships, apparently suffered no casualties, but at least one ship was forced to change course. The 2,620-passenger Queen Mary 2 was to visit Nagasaki, nearly 800 miles southwest of the epicenter, on Saturday but the ship will instead divert to its next port of call, Beijing, according to Cunard cruise line's website.
The Azamara Quest of Azamara Club Cruises was docked at Nagasaki when the quake hit. "Guests on board found out through news reports," said spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez. "None of them experienced the quake or the tsunami." Martinez said the ship is still scheduled to stop at Osaka on Sunday. Thousands of miles across the Pacific, the city of Kailua-Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii was hit by a wave in the middle of the night. Other islands were relatively unscathed.
A website for the King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel reported that guests were evacuated at 3:30 a.m. and that the lobby and restaurant sustained water damage. The website reported that guests would be moved to other hotels for the next three days. The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai and the Kona Village Resort, neither of which could be reached by phone Friday, have posted notices on Facebook saying they had relocated guests to other hotels while they assess the damage to their properties.
In California, the northern part of the state took the brunt of the ocean surge with coastal damage at Fort Bragg and Crescent City. Campers were evacuated from state parks from Sinkyone Wilderness and others on the Mendocino coast down to McGrath State Beach in Ventura. A parks spokesman said campgrounds that had been evacuated were expected to reopen by the end of Friday.

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