Full Recovery at Sendai Airport and Resumption of Regular International Flights 199 Days after Quake

On September 25, the 199th day since the Tohoku Pacific Earthquake struck, Sendai Airport in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture was fully restored.

The tsunami spawned by the earthquake submerged most of the airport's facilities under water, including the runway. It rose nearly to the ceiling on the first floor of the terminal and 1,600 travelers and local residents were for a time trapped inside the building.

Thereafter the airport and its terminal were forced to close, but on April 13 some of the equipment was brought back online, allowing some temporary flights to operate. Regular domestic flights returned to pre-disaster levels on July 25. The third floor of the terminal and the observation deck reopened on September 11.

Natori-based Sendai Airport Building Co., Ltd., the company that operates the terminal, declared September 25 to be Full Restoration Day, on which the airport's main equipment was fully restored and regular international flights resumed service. A ceremony was held to commemorate the date. Thirty people including Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Takeda Maeda and Miyagi Prefecture Governor Yoshihiro Murai were in attendance.

"All of us here at the airport have worked determinedly as a team to bring some happiness back to the people who suffered loss due to the disaster and to give us a foothold on the way to recovery. The speed with which Sendai Airport has been restored is the result of the government's and the people's tireless efforts and positive attitude," said Sendai Airport Building President Katsuhiko Ito as he greeted the audience.

Governor Murai displayed his enthusiasm when he addressed the ceremony. "I expect that rebuilding Sendai Airport's global network will stimulate international exchanges and the flow of material goods while contributing to the recovery in this prefecture as well as throughout the Tohoku region. The prefectural government will strive to promote the airport to travelers and endeavor to develop Sendai Airport into a highly convenient transportation hub."

There was also a market to help with the post-quake recovery and sales of airport merchandise that day, in addition to rides in light aircraft, on-stage events and free admission to the observation deck. The airport was bustling with large crowds of tourists, families and aviation enthusiasts.