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Airlines divert flights from Tokyo

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18 March 2011

Lufthansa has suspended flights to and from Tokyo and is rerouting planes to Nagoya and Osaka, while Air France said it had scheduled stops in Seoul beginning today to allow for crew changes to take place there.

"We are trying to ensure more stable operations in Japan, given the very fluid situation there," Thomas Jachnow, a Lufthansa spokesman, told The New York Times.

Both Air France and Swiss have introduced the stopovers to their direct flights in order to avoid crew members having to stay in Tokyo overnight.

Swiss International Airlines, which flies daily between Zurich and Tokyo, said it had added a stop in Hong Kong on that route as of Monday and modified its timetable.

British Airways, which flies daily from London to Narita and five times a week to Haneda airport, is maintaining a regular schedule, but a spokeswoman said the carrier 'would not rule out looking at alternative options' if conditions changed.

Air China has cancelled flights today and tomorrow to Tokyo's Narita and Haneda airports. Eva Air has also cancelled its flights tomorrow, between Tokyo and Taipei.

Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific Airways said all of their flights to and from Japan were operating as scheduled, though they were monitoring developments.

Fears of a nuclear contamination are growing in Japan, after further explosions at a nuclear power plant, which was damaged during Friday's tsunami. A powerful 6.1-magnitude aftershock has also struck to the south of Tokyo today.

The travel association ABTA said in a statement: "Following the 8.9 magnitude earthquake that hit Japan on Friday 11th March, there have been over 100 significant aftershocks measuring 5.3 magnitude and above ... today there has been an earthquake measuring 6.1 magnitude that hit 42km south of Honshu,116km south west of Tokyo, with a depth of 1km below the surface."

Several countries have advised their citizens to leave the country, while Britain's Foreign Office advises against all non-essential travel to Tokyo and north-eastern Japan. "Our advice is people should take their lead from the Japanese authorities," the Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne told Sky News.

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