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Tsunami Warning leaves travelers stranded

by Lannie Walker

Guam - The 8.9 earthquake in Japan reverberated in other ways to Guam, as canceled flights left travelers without a way home or a hotel room. The massive seismic event in the Land of the Rising Sun led to nearly 1,500 passengers being stranded at Guam International Airport.

Mary Torres, executive general manager, says the closure of major airports in Japan left travelers with no place to land. "A lot of the planes that were destined for Japan had to hold on; Guam didn't take off," she explained. "There were some flights that had taken off and were diverted back to Guam and then we had a couple of JetStar jets that were en route from Cairns to Tokyo and where diverted to Guam."

Torres says travel agents were able to find accommodations for the majority of the passengers, but numerous road closures throughout the island after the declaration of the Tsunami Warning made the matter even more complicated. "Everyone was staged to move, but because Tumon is a low-lying area," continued Torres, "the roads were closed and people had to stay put at the airport until we got the clear to roll out."

But at 11:30pm on Friday, nearly 500 travelers were still in limbo, waiting in over 15 tour buses parked outside the airport.

Travel guide Ray Puri says most of the passengers aren't angry - just tired and sad. He said most were stuck in the bus since 6 that evening, and when asked when they would be moved, he replied, "I'm no too sure."

Emoto Kojiro, who was visiting Guam on vacation with his wife, says he arrived at Guam International at 3pm to catch a Continental flight back to Japan. At 5pm he says he learned the flight was canceled. "But we don't have any idea when the flight will leave here, but this scale of earthquake is very, very big for us Japanese," he told KUAM News.

Fellow tourist Mizuho Katayama says she has been unable to reach friends in other parts of the country, but she did speak with her mother in Tokyo. "She said not worry about my family...[but] I can't connect with my friends," she said.

Other travelers like Hiroki Yoshihura says he has not spoken with his family because he is unable to reach them on the phone. While Torres says the airport is working to find accommodations for all the passengers, Yoshihura believes he might be waiting more that several hours. When asked how long his extended stay on Guam might be, he said, "Two or three days."

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