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Japan-Hawaii air travel nearly grounded after disaster


Air travel between Hawaii and Japan today was practically grounded after air carriers canceled 31 flights because of the earthquake and the tsunami it generated, the state Department of Transportation said this morning.

Honolulu International Airport


Only a Delta flight from Nagao arrived at 8:30 a.m. in Honolulu, said transportation spokesman Dan Meisenzahl. A Hawaiian Airlines flight from Haneda was delayed and is expected to land in Honolulu at 9 p.m. 

But 15 flights to Hawaii and 16 flights to Japan were canceled, Meisenzahl said.

Fearing their planes would find runways awash with debris, air carriers decided to cancel flights before the tsunami hit Hawaii, Meisenzahl said. Their decision not to fly was bolstered by the fact that diversion airports at Midway and Wake islands were shut down, he said. 

Although American Airlines also canceled a flight from Honolulu to Los Angeles, other mainland flights were unaffected. 

Seven interisland flights were canceled.

All of the state’s airports are open and there was no tsunami-related damage reported, Meisenzahl said. 

Meanwhile, the state’s major harbors and roads appeared to have weathered the tsunami, Meisenzahl said after workers made preliminary assessments. The only major damage was a fence that got knocked down at Kahului Harbor and debris on Maui roads.

"It looks like the harbors are in good shape, but the ocean is still swirling," he said. "And there are strong currents in the harbors so they won’t be opened for a few more hours."

Transportation officials put crews and equipment on higher ground early during the crisis and kept workers on standby.

"It feels like we dodged a bullet, especially when you see what is happening in Japan," Meisenzahl said. "It’s scary."

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