One of Japan's most ambitious infrastructure and transportation projects, Kansai International Airport is now sinking into the sea and may disappear completely within 30 years.
Opened in 1994, at a cost of R$94 billion, the complex was intended to relieve congestion at nearby Osaka Airport and meet the need for a larger airport terminal, as the area was losing commercial importance to Tokyo.
According to experts, the airport built on the sea has already sunk 11.5 metres. To avoid this disaster, Japanese engineers are committed to finding solutions, with rescue efforts already amounting to R$730 million.
Experts liken the land reclaimed to build the airport to a “wet sponge,” which must be transformed into a dry, dense base to support the weight of the station’s facilities.
Since the existing Osaka International Airport is surrounded by densely populated suburbs and unable to expand, two artificial islands were created in Osaka Bay to house the new terminal, connected to Osaka's Rinko district by a bridge over the water.
The airport, which serves as a hub for major airlines such as All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines and All Nippon Cargo, as well as Japanese low-cost carrier Beech, has weathered natural disasters in the decades since, emerging relatively unscathed.
Despite withstanding the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995, the Japanese terminal was hit by a typhoon in 2018, leaving the runways submerged in seawater. A few days after the disaster, a tanker collided with the bridge connecting the airport to the mainland, leaving passengers stranded. However, the airport survived and continues to operate.
Although engineers knew the airport would sink within 50 years, they never imagined it would happen on this scale. Instead, they expected it to eventually stabilize at about 4 meters above sea level, the minimum elevation needed to prevent flooding there.
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