As a Major Storm Tapers in Japan, Fears Grow of Economic Losses

A typhoon that tore through Japan leaving 11 people dead and hundreds injured has damaged the country’s third-largest airport so badly that it may be closed for at least a week, officials said on Wednesday.

With the storm now heading offshore as a low-pressure system, a major concern is the longer-term effects on business and tourism.

Referring to the damaged airport, Akira Yoshimura, a manager in the economic research division at MUFG Bank, said, “If Kansai Airport doesn’t open for a long time, it may impact not only the economy in the Osaka area but on the whole nation, to some extent,” according to remarks reported by the Japanese broadcaster NHK.

The storm, Typhoon Jebi, flooded the runways of Kansai International Airport in Osaka Bay as well as the basement floor of a terminal building. The airport said in a statement on its website Tuesday night that Terminal One had been “heavily damaged,” and that some parts of it had been without power since Tuesday afternoon.

An unmoored oil tanker also crashed into the only bridge from the airport to the mainland, leaving about 3,000 people stranded and forcing their evacuation. A tugboat towed the tanker away on Wednesday, the agency Kyodo News reported, revealing a severed road on the 12,000-foot bridge’s southern side.

The damage to the airport, which is on an artificial island, means that it may be closed for a week, Kyodo quoted officials as saying.

Cathay Pacific, one of Asia’s biggest full-service carriers, said in a statement on Wednesday that it had canceled all services to and from Osaka “up to and including” Sept. 10.

“The safety of our passengers and crew is always our top priority and we sincerely appreciate our customers’ patience and understanding at this time,” said Patrick Yu, the airline’s general manager for airport service delivery.

NHK reported on Wednesday that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had ordered officials to do all they could to reopen the airport as quickly as possible.

Kansai International is the closest major airport to Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital and a world-famous tourist attraction, as well as a major gateway for travelers arriving in Japan from China and elsewhere in Asia. The airport says it receives about 25 million people a year.

Universal Studios Japan, which is in Osaka, was shuttered on Tuesday and Wednesday, the first time it had closed for two consecutive days since its opening in 2001, Kyodo reported. The company that owns the tourist attraction said on its website that it would reopen on Thursday.

The Mainichi, an English-language newspaper in Japan, reported that travel companies had canceled tours this week that had been scheduled to depart from the airport.

“The impact of the closure of the airport is big,” the newspaper quoted an official from the travel company KNT Kansai as saying.

Nearly 16 million foreign tourists visited Japan in the first half of 2018, according to data published by the Japan National Tourism Organization.

Kansai International also handles tens of billions of dollars a year in imports and exports, and serves the nearby cities of Osaka and Kobe, which have a combined population of more than four million people.

On Wednesday, local media reported that there were concerns about the storm’s effects on business in western Japan, in everything from retail to restaurant supply chains. Japan Post was reportedly using other airports for mail delivery, and other companies were looking for similar logistical workarounds.

Follow Mike Ives on Twitter: @mikeives.

Makiko Inoue and Motoko Rich contributed reporting.