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Kansai airport fully back in business 17 days after typhoon havoc

Passengers are seen in the north area of the international departure lobby of Kansai International Airport's Terminal 1, as operations at the airport fully resumed on Sept. 21, 2018. (Mainichi/Naohiro Yamada)

OSAKA (Kyodo) -- Kansai International Airport fully resumed operations on Friday, 17 days after a powerful typhoon flooded its facilities, crippling the western Japan region's main international air gateway.

Long lines of travelers formed in front of check-in counters at the airport in Osaka Prefecture from early morning after the northern area of its No. 1 terminal reopened. It was the last remaining section to have remained closed due to flooding from Typhoon Jebi on Sept. 4.

Flight schedules will return to normal, but it is unclear whether the number of visitors will recover to pre-typhoon levels. The airport was used by an average of around 80,000 passengers a day before the disaster.

The airport operator said about 470 domestic and international flights are scheduled to depart and arrive at the airport on the day.

Xu Jingfang, a 55-year-old Chinese who lives in Wakayama Prefecture, said before boarding her flight to Hong Kong that she had been forced to change her schedule repeatedly due to the typhoon.

"I can finally go on a trip. Although my trip will be shorter than initially planned, I want to enjoy it," said the woman, who plans to visit her sister in San Francisco via Hong Kong.

The season's 21st typhoon flooded the airport's No. 1 terminal building, one of its two runways and a power-supply facility while high waves and strong wind caused a tanker to crash into the sole bridge connecting the airport, located on a manmade island in Osaka Bay, with Japan's main island of Honshu.

The airport suffered a blackout in most of its buildings and was unable to drain water that had flooded the runway.

It was not until Sept. 7 that the airport partially reopened, using the No. 2 terminal building and one runway. A week later, it started using the southern area of the No. 1 terminal building and the other runway.

During the disruption, two airports in the vicinity -- Itami and Kobe airports -- hosted 44 domestic flights through Monday that had been scheduled to use Kansai airport.

Train services to and from the airport resumed Tuesday after a railway operator fixed damage to tracks from the tanker collision, although the road section of the bridge is not expected to fully reopen until around May 2019.

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