Airport Tsunami Risk Highest for Haneda

New data has identified Japan's Tokyo International Airport as the one most likely to be the victim of a future tsunami.

When the east coast of Japan was struck by a tsunami in March, it was Sendai Airport that was most badly-damaged. Tokyo International (also known as Haneda) and Narita International were both affected but Sendai became submerged under a wave of water and mud, which halted operations there for over a month.

However, statistically, Haneda is the site most at risk, according to the work carried out by University College London's Matt Owen.

Airport Tsunami Risk  
For his airport tsunami risk report, he drew on data compiled by NOAA - the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration - relating to historical tsunamis and then looked at this alongside earthquake data.

In both instances, Owen studied the size of these events, and how often they were happening. He deduced from this that Pacific coastlines were the most susceptible areas, then looked at the airports in these parts of the world.

Haneda Tsunami Risk  
By using a ranking system, he placed Tokyo Haneda at the top of a list of airports in areas where tsunamis had occurred most frequently and most severely. Expressed in terms of marks out of five, Haneda's tsunami risk emerged as the highest, with a ‘five' given on both fronts, whereas Sendai got a ‘four'.

Another Japanese airport, Nagoya (Chubu Centrair International Airport) got a ‘four' as far as tsunami frequency was concerned but the report author recognized that, when tsunamis did occur, they were extreme, so a ‘five' for severity was duly awarded.

Elsewhere, Hawaii's Honolulu Airport achieved the opposite, and got a ‘four' for severity and a ‘five' for frequency.

Flood defense mechanisms are in place at all of these sites but, says Owen, the results reinforce the need to implement stronger features for the future.

Airport protection is seen as a vital measure for several reasons, both economic and humanitarian. In this way, Owen's colleague at UCL, Mark Maslin, makes the point that, in times of human crisis, airports provide a platform for relief aid to be delivered. Their continued operability is therefore vital.