Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The day after the Japan quake: Getting out of Japan

By coincidence, I was scheduled to fly out of Japan for a trip to the States on March 12. Initially, in the aftermath of the big quake, though it was huge, I think many of us felt things would soon return to normal. Plus, at that time, there wasn't serious concern over the nuclear power plants.

I called my airline (AA) the morning of my flight and discovered it had been canceled. I was able to reroute and reschedule for another flight that same evening. It was either that or cancel the trip, since the other flights out were full for several days going forward.

So I got everything together and headed to the train station. At the time (we were less than 24 hours from the time of the quake), there was scant information from the various train lines that serve Narita airport. That, and the airport's website is not the most robust. So, I decided to take a bus, even though my flight was listed as "Indefinite."

Here's a stroke of luck: On the way to the station, I ran into my neighbor, who suggested I ask the station attendants if the express train might be running. I did that, and I was told that though the Narita Express line was down, the local trains were running. It would involve 3 trains and, in normal conditions, take around 90-120 minutes. Well, things didn't turn out quite that way, but I eventually did make it to the airport, four hours later. Here are some pics from the trip:
The first train I took wasn't too crowded, but the next one (and most after that) were overwhelming.
It was a good thing I decided on the trains. The roads were solidly jammed as, as far as I know, many elevated highways were closed for inspection.
One of the many stations I stopped at. It was soon evident that one couldn't go by timetables and expected final destinations
So basically the growing crowd just got off whenever an announcement was made that the train would go no further.
It was a tough ride, but most people were calm and kind to one another.
Time stopped at this station.
There were many people going to the airport, but through it all, most kept in good spirits and maintained a sense of comradery.
The airport was less crowded than I expected.
Some of the supplies brought out for stranded passengers.
Not sure how long these people were there, but it looks like a long time, as they created a little island of suitcases which they sat around.
You can see here the blankets and other supplies handed out.
A sense of how many flights were either canceled or in "Indefinite" limbo.
The plane I went out on. The flight took off about 2.5 hours behind schedule. All in all not bad at all, but it was at the airport that news started coming in about the nuclear situation.
But before the plane took off, there was an incident at the gate as a passenger, who was traveling with his wife and child, was screaming at not having a seat.
The gate was full of people either scheduled or hoping to get on the flight.
And this was looping on one of the monitors.....????
Touchdown at Dallas Fort Worth.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post - very interesting.

Maddie said...

It must be so hard to leave Japan right now. Leaving family and friends behind. The trip to Dallas is a good break from the stress of the disaster though.

If you can stock up on medicines and other essentials while you are here!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...