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6 Japanese coastal airports release business continuity plans for floods, tsunamis

A runway at Kansai International Airport in the western Japan prefecture of Osaka is seen covered with water on Sept. 4, 2018, after being hit by a typhoon-generated storm surge. (Mainichi/Kentaro Ikushima)

OSAKA -- The operators of six coastal airports have compiled business continuity plans (BCPs) in case of floods, tsunamis and other serious disasters, a Mainichi Shimbun survey has shown.

The Mainichi Shimbun polled the operators of six coastal airports prior to the first anniversary on Sept. 4 of a typhoon-generated storm surge that wrecked Kansai International Airport in the western Japan prefecture of Osaka.

The six airports are four sea-based airports -- Central Japan, Kobe in western Japan and Kitakyushu and Nagasaki in southwestern Japan -- as well as Tokyo's Haneda Airport whose D runway lies offshore and Sendai Airport that was hit by tsunami waves in March 2011. They are among 16 sea-based or key airports instructed by the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry in December last year to create new BCPs in anticipation of massive disasters.

Five of the airports -- Sendai, Central Japan, Kobe, Kitakyushu and Nagasaki -- compiled their new BCPs between March and July this year. Haneda Airport said it summarized points of contention in March and is rebuilding a new BCP.

Kansai International Airport already prepared its new BCP and announced it in April.

Kobe Airport replied to the Mainichi questionnaire that its new BCP calls for the establishment of a system under which three Kansai-based airports -- Kansai, Itami and Kobe -- will supplement each other in cases of serious disasters.

Nagasaki Airport responded that should a bridge connecting the airport with the main island of Kyushu collapse, the airport would ask shipping companies to increase the number of ferries to transport air travelers to and from the airport.

By this past June, the six airports had conducted drills based on their new BCPs, including Haneda Airport that is still in the process of drawing up one. In the drills, airline companies, tenants at the airports, local governments, police and shipping firms set up disaster task forces and conveyed the necessary information.

A newly established special disaster response corps at Kansai International Airport conducted a flood water draining exercise in July this year.

An official of Kitakyushu Airport said its drill shed light on the challenges the airport faces, including how to swiftly share information with relevant organizations.

In response to a steady increase in the number of inbound tourists, the six airports provide information in some foreign languages, mainly English, Korean and Chinese, through public address systems, multilingual staff and by other means.

Kimiro Meguro, professor at the University of Tokyo who is well versed in BCPs, underscores the need for airports to share information on disasters to prevent other airports from experiencing similar problems.

"It's important for all domestic airports to share information on problems that have occurred at one airport and prevent a repetition of the same problems at other airports. Various conditions unique to each airport should be reflected in their BCPs," he said.

(Japanese original by Yasutoshi Tsurumi, Izumisano Resident Bureau, and Daisuke Okazaki, Osaka City News Department)

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