U.S. Issues Alert about Traveling to Japan after Earthquake

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Kyodo News

In the aftermath of the 8.9 magnitude earthquake that struck northern Japan today, the Department of State issued an alert to U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to Japan now through April 1.

In a statement, the State Department "strongly urges U.S. citizens to avoid tourism and non-essential travel to Japan at this time."

The 2:46 p.m. earthquake is Japan's biggest in at least a century. The epicenter was offshore about 231 miles away from Tokyo and it sparked fires in at least 80 locations, Japan's Kyodo News Service reported, and prompted the U.S. National Weather Service to issue tsunami warnings for at least 50 countries and territories, reports CNN.

Tokyo's Narita International Airport, which had been closed, is now trying to deal with the 13,000-plus backlog of the passengers delayed by the earthquake, reports Bloomberg News.

While no planes will land, nine are scheduled to leave. Public transportation, including trains and subways are closed in the Tokyo area, and service has been interrupted in other areas. Haneda airport in Tokyo, Asia's second-busiest, resumed flights after an initial shutdown.

Between 200 to 300 deaths have been found in the coastal city of Sendai, Japan's Kyodo News Agency reported. The death toll is likely to rise as there are few casualty counts yet from the worst-hit areas, CNN reports.

Because strong aftershocks are likely for weeks following a strong earthquake such as this one, the danger will be present for some time.

The U.S. government is telling U.S. citizens currently in Japan to contact family and friends in the United States to confirm their well-being at the earliest opportunity by any means at their disposal, including using social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, if telephone service is not available.

U.S. citizens can also contact the Department of State at JapanEmergencyUSC@state.gov and are urged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program online or in person at the U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulates.

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