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Aftershock. World First advice for travellers in Pacific region following earthquake in Japan.

It’s heartbreaking watching the news today. As we stare open mouthed at our televisions it’s hard to imagine the magnitude of what has happened in Japan and what is about to happen in the rest of the Pacific. Tidal wave alerts are in force in Russia, Hawaii, The Philippines, Indonesia, Alaska, Central America and even South America. The Tsunami that resulted from the largest earthquake to hit the country since records began over a hundred years ago has already hit the north east coast of Japan. Its magnitude has been put at 8.8 on the Richter scale with some reports putting the wave height of the tsunami at 10 metres. To give it some scale the earthquake that hit Christchurch last month was 6.3.

As I write this the latest warning has been for the California coast. The situation is changing all the time but of course it’s hard to know what is really happening on the ground and it’s even harder for us to know what to do. All we can hope for is the best that the warnings that have been issued will make a big difference.

Advice for those caught up in the quake

The Japanese government has issued statements and warnings of aftershocks and advised the population to stay away from coastal areas. Naturally travel advice will change as the situation develops but the message from World First Travel Insurance  for anyone caught up in the quake, tsunami and its aftermath is that help will be available for those who need it. Whilst there is nothing that World First can do to keep people safe as events unfold, their 24 hour advice lines (the number is on all policy documents) will remain open. They say: “We will of course assist anyone who is stuck out there and needs to return home on a case by case basis, as referred and authorised by our underwriters, professional Travel Insurance Company Ltd (as per requirements of the policy) or anyone injured will obviously be covered under Medical Expenses and repatriation sections of their travel insurance policy.”

For those with travel plans to the Pacific

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have cancelled all flights to Japan. As carriers they will be obliged to rebook any cancelled passengers on another flight when appropriate. For people booked on to other airlines it is best to check before you travel whether or not the airline will fly. Like wise they will have an obligation to your ticket to get you where you are going or to refund you if you are delayed for more than 5 hours and you are flying from within the EU. We wrote about extreme circumstances, known as Force Majeure, in a previous post. You can read it here.

For World First Travel Insurance Policy Holders

At the time of writing those policy holders with flights booked to the Pacific region should note that cancellation will not be covered. It would be classed as a “disinclination to travel” by the insurers.

Policy holders should also note that Travel Delay or Abandonment will not be covered as the situation does not come under Adverse Weather, Mechanical Breakdown or Strike.

Also, a Missed Departure will only be covered if the policy holder was travelling on public transport and this is delayed, making them too late catch your flight and covering for additional costs incurred in reaching destination up to the policy limit.

Our advice though is to check with the Foreign Office and the airline to find out what the travel situation is like at your destination. If you are heading to the airport, be prepared for a wait.

What can we do?

At the moment it’s hard to know what to do. We know that charities like Shelterbox, who have worked so hard in places like Haiti, have said they are monitoring the situation and are ready to act. You can find out more by following them on Twitter ( @shelterbox ) or by following the founder, Tom Henderson ( @shelterboxTomH). Alternatively, keep an eye on the media for Tsunami relief. And please be prepared to put your hands in your pockets.

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