Japan scrambled Wednesday to evacuate passengers trapped at a major airport when a tanker slammed into its only access bridge during the most powerful typhoon to hit the country for 25 years.Winds up to 216 kilometres (135 miles) per hour ripped off roofs, overturned trucks and swept a 2,500-ton tanker into the bridge to Kansai International Airport, the region's main international gateway and a national transport hub.
The damage to the bridge left the artificial island housing the airport temporarily cut off, stranding 3,000 travellers overnight as high waves flooded the runways and some buildings, knocking out the power.
On Wednesday boats began ferrying people out of the airport, and buses began to run on one side of the damaged bridge after safety inspections.
"We're very sorry" that the passengers had to stay overnight in the airport, an airport official told a press conference.
"We'll transport all the travellers who wish to get out of the airport by the end of today, but we'll continue the bus and ferry service tomorrow," he said.
But the official added it was unclear when the airport, which operates over 400 flights a day, could be reopened, while Kyodo News said it could take up to a week.
"There were about 3,000 people stranded at the airport, but we think about 2,000 to 2,500 of them already got out. We think there are not many people left," a transport ministry official told AFP.
Airport spokeswoman Yurino Sanada told AFP: "We don't know how many hours we need to bring everyone out but we're doing our best to finish it by the end of today."
Rescued passengers spoke of their discomfort in sweltering post-typhoon temperatures of around 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) on Wednesday.
"We had a blackout so there was no air conditioning. It was hot," a woman told public broadcaster NHK after being ferried to Kobe. "I'd never expected this amount of damage from a typhoon."