Typhoon makes Kansai International’s runway indistinguishable from the ocean around the island, turns 5.7 million-pound boat into instrument of havoc.

September 4 should have been a happy day at Kansai International Airport, since it marked the 24th anniversary of its opening. Unfortunately, the Osaka facility had to deal with an unwanted guest at its birthday party, as Typhoon Jebi came barreling into town.

The storm wreaked havoc on the city, causing explosions, tearing panels off buildings, and downing power lines. Being located on an island in Osaka Bay, KIX (as Kansai International Airport is also known) had nothing slowing down the storm, and Jebi flooded the runway, making it indistinguishable from the sea surrounding the island.


With Runway A sitting under 40 to 50 centimeters (15.7 to 19.7 inches) of water, all flights into and out of the airport were cancelled, including, as a safety precaution, those scheduled to use Runway B. This meant that people who were booked on departures out of KIX now had to make their way back into town, but even that turned out to be easier said than done.

During the storm, the Hounmaru, an 89-meter, 2,591-metric ton (292-foot, 5.7 million-pound) tanker ship, was swept away from its mooring in Osaka Bay and drifted into the bridge that connects KIX’s island with the mainland. The impact, which occurred at around 1 p.m. on Tuesday, was forceful enough that the ship partially embedded itself within the bridge’s framework, which warped from the collision.

▼ Luckily none of the ship’s 11 crew members were injured in the accident.

As a result, the bridge was shut down, and though emergency vehicles were eventually allowed across, as of 9 p.m. Tuesday night some 3,000 airport workers and travelers were still trapped on the island. Terminal waiting areas and banquet spaces were converted into shelters, with airport staff distributing food, water, and blankets.

The airport says it has no plans to reopen either runway at any time on September 5. In the meantime, it is offering a free speedboat ferry taking travelers to Kobe Airport, on the opposite side of the bay, a roughly 15-minute ride. Alternatively, there’s also a free shuttle bus carrying those stranded at KIX to the Izumisano train station, on the Osaka mainland.

▼ The locations for the boat information counter (top) and Izumisano shuttle bus (bottom), both on the first floor of KIX Terminal 1

KIX publishes its English-language press releases online here, though as of this writing no announcements have been made regarding when flights will resume.

Source: Kansai International Airport (1, 2, 3) via IT Media, Asahi Shimbun Digital via Hachima Kiko, Hachma Kiko (2)
Featured image: Twitter/@kobatatakayuki
Insert image: Kansai International Airport (1, 2)