Japan's latest airport opens in Kobe


KOBE (XFNews) - Japan's latest airport opened today in Kobe, a controversial project aimed at boosting the economy a decade after the western city's devastating earthquake.

Dubbed "Marine Air", because it is built on reclaimed land with a view of the ocean, Kobe is the second major new airport to open in Japan in as many years.

Centrair opened in February 2005 near the central industrial city of Nagoya.

Kobe Airport, costing 314 bln yen, is the third gateway to the region. It was built even though Kansai International Airport, opened nearby in 1994, is still struggling to draw enough passengers.

The new airport has a 2,500-meter runway, long enough for jumbo jets, but for now the airport will only serve small-size planes on seven domestic routes.

Some 3.2 mln passengers are expected in the first year.

Operations got running at 7.00 am with a first flight to Tokyo's Haneda airport.

Kobe Airport had been under discussion for 23 years, with Japan's fifth largest city rejecting pressure from the central government and a citizens' signature campaign arguing the project was wasteful.

Construction began in 1999, four years after the earthquake. Reclamation work involved shifting huge amounts of earth to build an artificial island for the airport, where passengers have a wide view of the sea.

Kobe has been rebuilt since the 1995 earthquake but its economy has struggled to recover fully.
The earthquake was Japan's worst disaster since World War II and the most costly natural catastrophe ever to strike the developed world in modern times.

More than 6,000 people were killed and 510,000 houses and buildings were destroyed in the quake inflicting about 100 bln usd in damage.

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