Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

UK airlines cancel flights to Tokyo

Flames rise from houses and debris half submerged by a tsunami in Sendai after Japan was struck by a strong earthquake (AP/Kyodo News)
Black smoke rises from a burning building in Tokyo after Japan was struck by a magnitude 8.9 earthquake (AP/Kyodo News)
People at a Sendai book store react as the store's ceiling falls in during the Japanese earthquake (AP/Kyodo News)

UK airlines have cancelled flights to Tokyo following a devastating earthquake which ripped across Japan, bringing devastation to a wide area and prompting fears of a massive death toll.

The 8.9 magnitude quake unleashed a 13ft tsunami that swept boats, cars, buildings and tons of debris miles inland, and warnings were issued to all countries with Pacific coastlines to be ready for it to hit them.

A British Airways plane heading for Tokyo's Hareda airport had to be pushed back off the stand at Heathrow when the airline decided it would not be leaving.

BA also cancelled its daily Heathrow service to Tokyo's Narita airport.

But London-bound BA flights from Hareda and Narita were due to land safely back in the UK later on Friday having left before the earthquake struck.

Virgin Atlantic, which operates daily services to Narita from Heathrow, also cancelled its Tokyo flight.

A Virgin spokeswoman said: "Narita is about one hour from central Tokyo and we've cancelled our flight VS900 and the return flight VS901. We do have a flight from Tokyo that left before the earthquake and that will arrive back Friday evening."

There are fears that the tsunami could reach as far as Australia, Mexico and Hawaii. Both BA and Virgin said they are closely monitoring the situation.

A Foreign Office spokesman in London said: "Our thoughts are with the people of Japan at this time. We have a large embassy in Japan which is rapidly assessing the situation and reacting to what is an enormous earthquake. They are working to provide urgent consular assistance to any British nationals who might need it."

There have not yet been any reports of British fatalities, the Foreign Office added.

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