Japan’s Sendai Airport vs Mother Nature’s Tsunami

There are many actions mother nature can inflict to grind travel to a halt, wind, ice, turbulence, lightening … but today Mother Nature unleashed one of the most unpredictable and devastating actions in Japan, a massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake.

While this earthquake caused mass transit in Tokyo to stop entirely, something that almost never happens and caused Tokyo’s Narita Airport (NRT) and Haneda Airport (HND) to temporarily cease operations … the earthquake wreaked unimaginable havoc on Sendai Airport (SDJ), in the Miyagi Prefecture, 166 miles north of Narita Airport.

As today’s deadly earthquake triggered multiple seismic events, and tsunamis spanning the Pacific Ocean, a wall of water engulfed Sendai Airport.    Following the tsunami passing Sendai Airport the airports roadways were completely submerged, the ramp and taxiways were underwater and nearly the entire runway lay under water and mud. The devastation of the tsunami was felt not only outside the terminal, but inside as well, as much of the building lay submerged, forcing those at the airport to flee for the roof and await being rescued.

The sight of an entire airport’s terminal appearing to be rising from a lake, with planes scattered like children’s toys is a reminder of how powerful Mother Nature is and how fragile our existence is.

Below is news footage of Sendai Airport as the water rushes through the airport and following the tsunami as the airport sits as an island in the middle of the water. .

I’ll skip the “Happy Flying” as it’s not appropriate for this post.



  1. Fish:

    Do you have any info on the commercial aircraft at this airport? All images so far show only private craft. Did the commercial craft depart to escape the coming tsunami?

  2. Hi Steven,
    I have a planned trip to NRT (and KIX) on Apr, 7… I know it’s too early to tell but, based on your travelling experience, do you think we can go safely (without being annoying tourists) or not?

  3. Chip,

    I have been trying to find out a definitive answer regarding the aircraft at SDJ. It seems that in the hour between when the earthquake struck and the tsunami washed through the airport, the airport managed to launch the planes that should have been on the ground, including a Boeing 767, a few 737s and a number of CRJs.

    If the airport was able to fuel and fly these planes in such a short amount of time … my hat is off to the ground staff at SDJ!

    Happy Flying!


  4. Nicola,

    KIX does not appear to be impacted by yesterday’s horrific earthquake, and while NRT was up and running yesterday, hours after the earthquake, I am not sure how Tokyo will be in three weeks. The city suffered a significant blow … if I was you, I’d keep monitoring the situation.

    Last week I pushed my trip with All Nippon Airways (ANA) to NRT back to next week, however obviously it is likely that my travel will again be pushed back, although my business on this trip only exists in the airport, not in the city.

    Happy Flying!


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