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Japanese experts call for new response plan to be drawn up in event of Mount Fuji eruption

View of Mount Fuji. (Photo: VCG)Mount Fuji, towering at 3,776 meters, is Japans highest mountain. For centuries it has been worshiped as a sacred mountain and is still a magnet for hundreds of thousands of tourists every year.Mount Fuji is an active volcano, last erupting in 1707. Sixteen days of rumbling released some 800million cubic meters of volcanic ash which accumulated in layers about 4 centimeters thick in the city of Edo, present-day central Tokyo.A Mount Fuji disaster management council simulated what would happen if an eruption of that scale were to occur today, covering the greater Tokyo area with volcanic ash.The council announced Monday that if Mount Fuji erupts on a large scale in the future, the pyroclastic flow would chop off major roads used for evacuation, leading to water and power cuts and disruptions to traffic and logistics in the capital circle within hours, according to a report by the Japan Times newspaper.According to the report, the reassessment assumed three cases with different wind directions, based on the 1707 eruption.The worst scenario would happen when the wind blows from the southwest during the eruption of Mount Fuji. Given the situation, the hot gas could travel some four kilometers further than previously forecast. In some areas, the volcano ash would accumulate in layers as thick as 30 centimeters, and wooden houses could collapse.The reassessment showed that parts of the Higashifujigoko toll road connecting Fujiyoshida and Shizuokas Oyama, as well as the Mount Fuji Skyline road connecting Fujinomiya and Gotemba within Shizuoka, could be destroyed.The programs chief examiner, Fujii Toshitsugu, an honorary professor at Tokyo University, said it is difficult to predict an eruption and its aftermath."If the response is not quick enough, tens of millions of people will be trapped and the circulation of materials will be completely blocked," said Toshitsugu. "So its very importan...

British Airways suspending flights from London's Gatwick

A British Airways plane taxis near Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport in London, UK, March 14, 2020. (Photo: VCG)British Airways said it is temporarily suspending flights from Gatwick Airport in southern England, Britain’s second busiest airport, due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.BA’s boss warned earlier in March that the airline was in a battle for survival and would have to cut jobs and park planes."Due to the considerable restrictions and challenging market environment, like many other airlines, we will temporarily suspend our flying schedule at Gatwick," a BA spokesman said.BA said it will contact affected customers. The airline continues to operate some flights from its main hub at Heathrow Airport.Parent company International Airlines Group (IAG) said flying capacity would be down 75 percent in April and May.Rival airlineeasyJet said on Monday that it had grounded its entire fleet.Gatwick Airport said last week it would shut one of its two terminals on Wednesday.

Florida docking plan in the works for ill-fated cruise ships

(Photo: AP)Passengers from an ill-fated South American cruise are anxious to disembark once they reach Florida, but Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state’s health care resources are already stretched too thin to take on another ship’s coronavirus caseload. The U.S. Coast Guard said Tuesday that the decision would be punted to Washington if authorities can’t agree.With the Zaandam and Rotterdam ships arriving as early as Wednesday and at least two people on board needing emergency attention, a “unified command” of state, local and federal officials will be asked to approve a detailed docking plan requiring Holland America to handle all medical issues without impacting South Florida’s already-stressed hospitals.ADVERTISEMENT“There are no great choices left. These are all tough outcomes,” Coast Guard Captain Jo-Ann Burdian told Broward County commissioners.Holland America said the Rotterdam took on nearly 1,400 people who appear to be healthy from its sister ship, leaving 450 guests and 602 crew members on the Zaandam, including more than 190 who said they are sick. More than 300 U.S. citizens are on both ships combined.The governorsaid he had been in contact with the White House about diverting them. “We cannot afford to have people who are not even Floridians dumped into South Florida using up those valuable resources,” DeSantis told Fox News on Monday.Holland America President Orlando Ashford penned an opinion column in the South Florida Sun Sentinel to plead with officials and residents to let the passengers disembark.Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony called the situation a “humanitarian crisis” and asked commissioners not to vote based on emotion. Allowing the ship to dock would burden the local healthcare system and put residents at risk of additional exposure, he warned.“This ship has been turned away from several countries already,” Tony said. “We are in some very, very critical circumstances where we as a county are going to have to determine are we willing...

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Visitors admire cherry blossoms under crowd control

Visitors in hanfu, a traditional Chinese clothing, went for a walk surrounded by cherry blossoms at Yuyuantan Park in Beijing on March 29, 2020. Due to the novel coronavirus epidemic, there is only one way in and out of the park and crowd flow is controlled. [Photo by Zou Hong/chinadaily.

Hubei airports see passenger rebound, but air carriers face load burden

Workers unload aid materials from a cargo plane of China Postal Airlines at the Wuhan Tianhe International Airport in Wuhan, central Chinas Hubei Province, Jan. 29, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)Airports in Central Chinas Hubei Province, the worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, resumed business as of Sunday, but the task of improving load factors remains a challenge ahead for air carriers.Data from information provider VariFlight showed that on Monday, there were 96 flights in and out of the province, but the load factor was about 50 percent. There were about 8,000 passengers in and out of the province, while seats totaled more than 16,000.Media reported that there were 98 aircraft movements at the airports on Sunday, the first day of resumption, taking about 7,000 passengers."The low load factor in Hubei is still about 10 percentage points below the average demand for the domestic market, but demand could recover soon," Zheng Hongfeng, CEO of VariFlight, told the Global Times on Monday.A source from Shenzhen Airlines told the Global Times on Monday that 80-90 percent of tickets in recent days from Xiangyang in Hubei to Shenzhen were sold, but the tickets sold from Shenzhen to Xiangyang were "so-so".Shenzhen Airlines took 151 passengers from Xiangyang to Shenzhen at 6 am on Sunday, the first commercial flight after a shutdown of 64 days for the local airport. The carrier now operates three or four flights per day to two cities in the province.The province has reopened more than 30 routes to cities in China, and the carriers include China Southern Airlines, Fuzhou Airlines and Shenzhen Airlines.Chinese domestic passenger flights have shown more signs of improvement, as China has lifted coronavirus restrictions.Load factors that hit a low of 40 percent on sharply reduced operations during the lockdown of key areas of China in February have climbed to 60 percent and more flights are taking to the skies, according to the International Air Transport A...

Air ticket scalpers gouge desperate overseas Chinese

An airport employee in protective outfit is seen during the disinfection procedure of a Croatia Airlines aircraft at Franjo Tudjman Airport in Zagreb, Croatia, on March 13, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)With tickets sold out on travel service apps and airline websites, Chinese students stranded overseas and scrambling to get home have been left with little option but to turn to unlicensed dealers who are selling tickets at 10 times the price amid the pandemic.A Global Times reporter reached a dealer who claimed to have connections at major Chinese airlines, so he can book tickets directly in their systems.The dealer told the Global Times reporter, who pretended to be a buyer, that he could get a ticket from New York City or San Francisco to China on April 10 for a deposit of 30,000 yuan ($4,227), with a total price for a one-way ticket of 80,000 yuan. The dealer did not specify which airline or flight he would help book.A single economy ticket from New York to Beijing before the coronavirus outbreak is rarely above 10,000 yuan, even at peak times such as the summer break orChristmas.The short supply and subsequent price gouging comes after a majority of airlines worldwide have cut capacity as a result of the coronavirus shutting down travel and grounding most flights. Of the 153 carriers, 72 have announced capacity cuts of 100 percent. Additionally, almost 85 percent of airlines globally have made capacity cuts of 60 percent or more, according to data derived from carrier announcements.Chinas aviation industry regulator also slashed international flights amid the COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday.The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) reduced international flights to 108 a week, 85 percent fewer from the previous week and only 1.2 percent of the amount before the COVID-19 outbreak, CAAC official Jin Junhao said at a press conference on Monday.The policy adjustment came as imported infections have jeopardized t...

Tibet to start annual peach blossom festival

Peach blossoms in the city of Nyingchi, Tibet autonomous region, Mar 29, 2020.[Photo/Xinhua] .An annual peach blossom festival is expected to be held in Southwest China's Tibet autonomous region, marking the start of a gradual service resumption of local tourist sites as the COVID-19 outbreak becom

Epidemic worsens Australian travel industry

The Australian travel industry is undergoing its own crisis due to the continued growth of COVID-19 after the fire in 2019.Flight Center, one of the world's largest travel groups, has had to temporarily close more than 200 of its 689 stores in Australia, causing about 3,800 people to lose their jobs

Shanghai's skyscrapers to reclose amid concerns over COVID-19

(Photo: CGTN)Shanghais skyscrapers – Shanghai Tower, Shanghai Oriental Pearl Tower and Jinmao Tower – will temporarily close again from Monday afterreopening to the public for 18 days.The move is considered as part of the citys efforts to prevent and control the COVID-19 epidemic and ensure visitors safety and health, according to the tourist sites announcement on Sunday afternoon.Apart from the three high-rise landmarks, other indoor attractions in the city including Shanghai Ocean Aquarium, Madame Tussauds Shanghai, as well as some of the buildings at Fengjing Ancient Town and Zhujiajiao Ancient Town, have announced the same closures.For those who have already purchased tickets online, refunds will be made available.These sites will remain closed until further notice, according to the announcement.As of midnight on Saturday, Shanghai reported seven new COVID-19 cases, all imported. A total of 492 cases of the novel coronavirus have been reported in the city, of which 334 have recovered and five have died.

Olympics delay a blow for virus-hit Tokyo hotels

Many hotel operators in Japan have seen bookings decimated by the virus. (Photo: AFP)The shock postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics has dealt a savage blow to Japans hotels and tourism industry, already reeling from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.Many operators have seen bookings decimated by the virus and had been clinging to the hope that the Games would help them claw back this years losses."This is an enormous shock for us, with sales in many of our member hotels already down by half because of plunging demand for tourism, not only from abroad but also inside Japan due to the coronavirus," said Shigemi Sudo, secretary general of the Tokyo Hotels and Ryokans Association."Many rooms are going to be canceled, and it will be difficult to fill those empty rooms with new customers given the situation," he said.The delay, which came after weeks of Olympic organisers and officials insisting the sporting extravaganza would go ahead despite the soaring number of virus infections globally, leaves the industry in limbo as they wait for a new date to be set for 2021.Like the rest of the world, Japans hotel industry has been devastated by the spread of the coronavirus with bookings down by as much as 90 percent year-on-year in the March-April period, according to a survey by the Japan Tourism Agency.The agency is fielding calls from struggling businesses across the country."The most frequent consultation requests weve received are about cash-flow difficulties and maintaining employment," an official told AFP.Keio Plaza Hotel in Tokyos busy Shinjuku district -- home to the victorious Springboks during the Rugby World Cup -- said it began receiving cancellation calls shortly after the delay was announced.Its woes are compounded by the fact that a part-time worker at the hotel contracted the virus, forcing a deep clean of the vast building in one of Tokyos busiest districts."We hope to play a role (in ho...

COVID-19 pandemic puts 75 million tourism jobs at risk: WTTC

A check-in area at the Raleigh Durham International Airport in North Carolina, the United States, March 24, 2020. (Photo: AP)The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to put some 75 million jobs in the global tourism industry at risk, resulting in a loss of 2.1 trillion U.S. dollars in travel and tourism GDP to the world economy, according to the latest research by World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).The findings show that around one million jobs are lost each day in the travel and tourism industry caused by the sweeping effect of the novel coronavirus epidemic, a 50 percent increase fromthe previous estimation made by WTTC two weeks ago.Asia-Pacific is expected to the hardest-hit region with nearly 49 million travel and tourism jobs at risk, marking a loss of nearly 800 billion US dollars to its tourism GDP.In Europe, over 10 million jobs at risk with possible losses of 552 billion US dollars, with Germany being the most affected country followed by Russia, Italy, and the UK.The US, Canada, and Mexico are expected to lose up to a total of 570 billion US dollars together in the tourism sector, with around seven million jobs on the line.Tourism contributes to around 10.3 percent of the global GDP, supporting one in 10 of the worlds jobs, according to WTTC. The organization urged global leaders to take immediate action and coordinate efforts to save major travel businesses, including airlines, cruises, hotels, travel agents, and the entire supply chain."If urgent action is not taken within the next few days, the Travel & Tourism sector faces an economic meltdown from which it will struggle to recover and plunge millions of people dependent upon it for their livelihoods into debt," said Gloria Guevara, president and CEO of WTTC.Leaders of the Group of 20 (G20) major economies pledged on Thursday to inject over five trillion US dollars to prop up the global economyas part of their joint measures to blunt economic fallout from...

500 trekkers stranded on mountain trails after Nepal's lockdown

View of Mount Qomolangma. (Photo: VCG)Hundreds of trekkers are stranded on high-altitude trekking trails across Nepal due to a nationwide lockdown designed to contain the coronavirus spread.The Nepal government imposed its one-week lockdown from 6 a.m. March 24 to 6 a.m. March 31. That means except for food transport vehicles and ambulances, all public and private vehicles are not allowed on the streets. All domestic flights were also suspended.According to CNNs report, there are about 500 foreign trekkers on at least four trekking routes unable to return due to the lockdown.The Nepal Tourism Board hasset up a"Stranded in Nepal" website, Twitter, and WhatsApp for those stuckto keep in touch and relay information about their conditions and needs."All the stranded tourists will be rescued, kept safely for self-isolation and facilitated for their safe journey back home," Yogesh Bhattarai, minister of culture, tourism and civil aviation, said in a statement.By Friday, 137 tourists had beenrescued from different parts of the country, according to astatementposted to the Nepal Tourism Boards website,but there were more still stranded.The British embassy in Kathmandu asked its citizens in Nepal who are looking to return to the UK to send their details to the staff. "Were working closely with carriers and authorities to try to find a solution, and will contact you ASAP," tweeted the embassy.China Tibet Mountaineering Association announced on March 11 that it would close the passageway on the north slope of Mount Qomolangma, considering the difficulty of rescue. A series of mountaineering activities after the spring festival were as well canceled.The Nepal government decided to suspend all tourist visas and cancel all climbing activities at Mount Qomolangma on Nepals side during this years Climbing Festival and will not issue trek permits until the end of ...

Disney parks in US to remain closed "until further notice" amid COVID-19 pandemic

LOS ANGELES, March 27 (Xinhua) -- The Walt Disney Co. announced Friday that its theme park resorts in Florida and California will remain closed indefinitely "until further notice" amid the COVID-19 pandemic.(Photo from Internet)"While there is still much uncertainty with respect to the impacts of COVID-19, the safety and well-being of our guests and employees remains The Walt Disney Companys top priority," said the company in a statement."As a result of this unprecedented pandemic and in line with direction provided by health experts and government officials, Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort will remain closed until further notice," it noted.Disney said the company has been paying its cast members since the closure of the parks and will continue to pay hourly parks and resorts cast members through April 18.The Disneyland Resort, located in Anaheim, California, is home to two theme parks -- Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park.Disney announced earlier this month the closure of Disneyland and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, through the end of this month over COVID-19 concerns.California and some other U.S. states are currently under a stay-at-home order in response to COVID-19.Universal, another U.S. major theme park operator, announced Tuesday that it has extended closure of Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Orlando through April 19 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Appeals grow to close US national parks during pandemic

This Sept. 15, 2015, file photo, shows Zion National Park near Springdale, Utah. (Photo: AP)The Trump administration is sticking with its crowd-friendly waiver of entrance fees at national parks duringthe coronavirus pandemic, as managers at some parks try and fail to keep visitors a safe distance apart and communities appeal for a shutdown at other parks that are still open.While the Interior Department agreed this week to requests from local managers of Yellowstone and some other iconic national parks to close, others remained open and newly free of charge. In Arizona, local governments and the Navajo Nation were waiting for an answer Thursday on their request earlier this week for federal officials to shut down Grand Canyon National Park as cases of the coronavirus grow in surrounding areas.“We think it’s just in the best interest of the community, the visitors and the staff,” said Lena Fowler, a supervisor in Coconino County, which includes the Grand Canyon. “What we’re really concerned about is making sure everyone is safe.”Park officials announced Thursday evening that three of the canyon’s most popular trails — Bright Angel, South Kaibab and North Kaibab — were being temporarily closed as of noon Friday, with some other operations being modified.The National Parks Conservation Association, a nonprofit group that advocates on park policy issues, called the administration’s decision to keep the Grand Canyon open “beyond reckless.”The Trump administrationhas issued guidelines to Americansurging them to stay at home whenever necessary, skip discretionary travel and avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. But critics see the move to keep the parks open as a mixed message with potentially dangerous consequences for virus spread. As jobless rates explode and the death toll surges in the country, the Republican president also is increasinglypushing to convey a rapid return to normalcy.The National Park Service is deciding whether to shut down...

Tourists stranded in Asia by canceled flights, shut borders

In this March 23, 2020 photo, foreign tourists who are unable to fly home due to the new coronavirus outbreak, queue up outside an immigration office to extend their visas in Bali, Indonesia. (Photo: AP)From the sun-soaked beaches of Thailand to the foothills of Mount Everest in Nepal, tourists across Asia are finding their dream vacations have turned into travel nightmares as airlines cancel flights and countries close their borders in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.Thousands of tourists escaping cold weather in Europe were scrambling this week to find alternative ways to return home from the Thai island of Phuket in the Andaman Sea.Ksenia Vostriakova and her friends were scheduled to fly back to Moscow on an April 3 Singapore Airlines flight, but it was among those canceled when the airline slashed its operations. They have booked a flight on Qatar Airways for April 6 and are hoping nothing else changes.“Now we’re really worried that this flight also might be canceled,” Vostriakova said, adding that their Thai visas run out in mid-April. “We might still stay here because everything changes.”Thailand went under a state of emergency this week as the government gives itself new powers to deal with the virus crisis. The country, which last year welcomed 39 million tourists, announced it was closing its borders to nearly all foreigners. Its national airline, Thai Airways, said it was suspending almost all of its flights.It’s a trend seen around the region and the world. The Airports Council International Asia-Pacific said Friday that 12 major hubs in Asia-Pacific had seen an average decrease in air traffic of more than 80% in the second week of March versus the same period last year.Up to 10,000 tourists are believed to be stranded in Nepal after the government ordered a complete lockdown that halted all flights and road travel to prevent the spread of the virus, the country’s tourism board said. Most businesses and government offices were also shut.S...

Top panda bases reopen to public in SW China

(Photo: CGTN)The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, one of the worlds top destinations for seeing pandas, has reopened to public in southwest Chinas Sichuan Province as the COVID-19 epidemic situation in China continues to ease.The nearby Dujiangyan Base of the China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Pandas has also reopened.The number of daily visitors to the panda base is limited to 5,000, and effective disinfection measures will be carried out. In addition, every visitor needs to show their health certificates so as to ensure that everyone can enjoy themselves safely and happily in the base.The staff at the research and breeding base are carefully monitoring the pandas as they enter the breeding season. Several are expected to give birth in the coming months.

Tokyo closes cherry blossom parks to slow spread of virus

A security person stands guard at the famed street of cherry blossoms which is closed as a safety precaution against the new coronavirus at Ueno Park in Tokyo Friday, March 27, 2020. (Photo: AP)Japan’s cherry blossoms are in full bloom, but flower viewing has come to an abrupt halt in Tokyo because of the coronavirus.Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike has repeatedly asked the city’s 13 million residents to stay home this weekend, saying the capital is on the brink of an explosion in virus infections. She warned of a possible hard shutdown of the city if the spread of the virus doesn’t slow.On Friday evening, access was blocked to Ueno Park, a favorite spot for “hanami,” or cherry blossom viewing. Signs said “No parties” and “Danger no entry.”The empty park was a sharp change from last weekend, when people came in droves after the central government announced an end to national school closures, leading many to think that the outbreak was under control, when it was actually worsening in the capital.Koike repeated her stay-at-home request Friday, asking Tokyoites to postpone their flower viewing until next year. “The cherry blossoms will surely bloom next year. Our priority right now is to overcome this difficult time,” she said.Amusement parks, zoos and aquariums, as well as some coffee shops and department stores, will be closed for the weekend. Officials are particularly concerned about asymptomatic young people spreading the virus.Daichi Harada was with his dog getting some fresh air in the park after being at home for an extended period.“Tokyo ordered us to stop cherry blossom viewing,” he said as left. “It’s our duty to stay home.”

Chinese tourism sector likely to see recovery during upcoming Qingming Festival

Tourists take photos of flowers in Wuyuan on March 21. (Photo: IC)The Chinese tourism industry is likely to see recovery during the upcoming Qingming Festival as domestic travel agencies have received increasing travel inquiries, a welcome reprieve after the two-month chill the sector has been experiencing due to the COVID-19 outbreak.Online searches for major tourist attractions across the country have seen a 67 percent increase over the past week compared with same time last month, when the country was hit hard by COVID-19, according to a report sent to the Global Times by online travel platform Mafengwo.com.The report also showed that currently, residents prefer to travel to neighboring areas and many are choosing to travel by car during weekends.Signs of recovery are most evident in Yangzhou in East Chinas Jiangsu Province, Fuzhou in East Chinas Fujian Province, and Ningbo in East Chinas Zhejiang Province.The promotion of "online travel" has played a vital role in the popularity of domestic scenic spots, industry insiders said.During the outbreak, Mafengwo launched live streaming services for tourist destinations such as Shanghai Wild Animal Park and the Great Wall in Beijing, which have helped the spots gain popularity, said Feng Rao, head of Mafengwos travel research center."As the country gradually controls the virus spread and more scenic spots reopen, my family plans to drive the short trip to the suburb of Changsha (Central Chinas Hunan Province) during the Qingming Festival," a local resident surnamed Cai told the Global Times on Friday."It is lucky that we can go outside but we will still be equipped with protective gear and will not lose our nerve as the virus has not been completely eliminated," Cai said, noting that her plan to travel to Australia this summer has been "regrettably canceled" as the virus spreads widely across the globe.The domestic tourism industry is likely to experience...

Tibet to start annual peach blossom festival

LHASA, March 27 -- An annual peach blossom festival is expected to be held in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, marking the start of a gradual service resumption of local tourist sites as the COVID-19 outbreak becomes more subdued in China.The festival, which will be held in the city of Ny

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Tourists visit pear orchard in Shangqiu, Henan

Aerial photo taken on March 26, 2020 shows tourists visiting a pear orchard in Ningling County of Shangqiu, central China's Henan Province.Tourists take photos amid blooming flowers at a pear orchard in Ningling County of Shangqiu, central China's Henan Province, March 26, 2020.Aerial photo taken on

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