Flooded runways, thousands of passengers stranded and a tanker smashing into an access bridge: last week’s typhoon in Japan highlighted the vulnerability of Kansai Airport which serves a region with an economy bigger than Belgium’s. Because of concerns about engine noise, Kansai — located in the bay of Osaka — is the world’s first airport entirely situated on a huge man-made island, putting it at risk of flooding, tsunamis and typhoons. Damage to the airport is seen having a dramatic knock-on effect on tourism and trade, as it handles 22 million international passengers per year and 5.3 trillion yen ($47 billion) of Japan’s exports — more than seven percent of the national total. “The Osaka region which was hit by the typhoon is about 10.9 percent of Japan’s GDP. It’s slightly larger than Belgium and about the same as Sweden,” noted Kohei Iwahara, economist at Natixis Japan Securities. “You have the ports affected, Kansai Airport malfunctioning and the question is: how long is it going to last?” asked the expert. One week after Typhoon Jebi ravaged western Japan, the airport is still not fully functional, with power not yet completely restored and access via the damaged bridge still not back to normal. It has operated fewer than 100 flights in total since last Tuesday’s typhoon, a far cry from the 400 per day it usually runs in its round-the-clock operation. Kansai airport has been beset by setbacks from the beginning and has spent vast amounts on protection from the elements — such as high walls and waterproof barriers — which proved of limited value when the typhoon struck. Published in Daily Times, September 13th 2018.