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Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan

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A massive earthquake hit Japan this morning and subsequently led to a tsunami wreaking further damage to the island nation.  Travel insurance can help travelers experiencing delays, interruptions and cancellations because of this natural disaster.  An article from MSNBC provided more detail about the events.

The U.S. State Department is urging tourists to avoid travel to Japan after a massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake slammed the country on Friday. The quake and a tsunami that followed has prompted U.S. airlines to cancel most flights to and from Japan.

“The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to avoid tourism and non-essential travel to Japan at this time,” the agency said on its website.

American citizens currently in Japan should contact family and friends in the U.S. “to confirm their well-being at the earliest opportunity,” the State Department suggested. Citizens who don’t have access to Internet or telephones are urged to use text messaging or social media avenues, such as Twitter or Facebook.

Additionally, the State Department is encouraging U.S. citizens in Japan to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). Those without Internet access can walk into a U.S. Embassy or Consulate and enroll directly.

The exact number of flight cancellations was unclear and airlines cautioned that the situation was rapidly changing.

For those considering travel insurance to cover such a situation, look for coverage language addressing natural disasters.  It is important to remember, a new travel insurance policy will not cover any events that have already happened or that are considered foreseeable.  This means it is too late to buy a policy for the events in Japan.

Travelers who already have a policy could be covered by several different benefits, depending on the plan.

Check the policy’s covered reason for trip cancellation and trip interruption.  Normally the reasons include:  accommodations made uninhabitable, mandatory evacuation, or cessation of a common carrier.   Some plans will also cover being called into active military for a natural disaster, or if the traveler’s residence or business is affected by a natural disaster.  Trip cancellation and trip interruption reimburses the expenses of the trip that are unused and not refunded.

Travel delay and missed connection coverage can apply if a flight is delayed because of a natural disaster.   Travel delay reimburses for food, lodging, and local transportation during the delay, while missed connection covers the costs of catching up to the trip.  Both benefits require a delay to last for a set amount of time before coverage is available.

Of course, travelers who are injured by the natural disaster can be covered by emergency medical and medical evacuation.  These cover the cost of medical treatment and medical transportation.  Travelers in Japan that need assistance should contact the policy’s 24 assistance services.

Always refer to the certificate of insurance for details.

Source:  Tourists urged to avoid travel to Japan after quake