U.S. Passengers Prepare to Evacuate From Cruise Ship in Japan

U.S. Passengers Prepare to Evacuate From Cruise Ship in Japan

American passengers on Sunday frantically prepared to evacuate a cruise ship that has been quarantined for more than 10 days in the Japanese port city of Yokohama, as hundreds of people on board fell ill with the coronavirus.

As the Americans scrambled to pack their bags and prepare their own meals for a chartered flight to the United States, Japanese health officials said the number of confirmed coronavirus cases found on the ship, the Diamond Princess, had grown by 70, to 355.

“Can’t get off here fast enough,” Sarah Arana, 52, a medical social worker from Paso Robles, Calif., told reporters on Sunday.

The United States Embassy in Japan had recommended that American citizens stay aboard the ship during a 14-day quarantine period. But it suddenly changed course on Saturday, citing “a rapidly evolving situation” as conditions appeared to worsen.

American passengers said they were told to prepare to leave the ship at 9 p.m. local time. Their flight was scheduled to depart Haneda Airport in Tokyo at 3 a.m. on Monday. Officials said they would be taken to one of two military air bases in the United States.

Passengers on the charter were told there would be no overhead luggage space on the flight, so all carry-ons had to fit under the seats in front of them, and shipped luggage could not exceed 70 pounds. They would be flying on a converted 747 cargo plane, the officials said, which could be cold, so they were advised to shower and dress warmly for the flight. They were also advised to bring their own food.

Late in the afternoon, as buses lined up on the pier, American officials dressed in protective suits knocked on the cabin doors of American citizens to inform them that they needed to put their luggage out at 6 p.m. to prepare for the 9 p.m. transfer.

Rachel Torres, 24, who had been on her honeymoon with her husband, Tyler, also 24, said they were trying to clean their stateroom so as not to leave a mess for their cabin steward.

“We didn’t sleep much last night,” said Ms. Torres. In preparation for the flight, she said, the couple were “drinking as much water as we can to hydrate for the flight since we will be wearing masks on the plane.”

The Coronavirus Outbreak

  • What do you need to know? Start here.

    Updated Feb. 10, 2020

    • What is a Coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crown-like spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people, and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is possibly transmitted through the air. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • How worried should I be?
      While the virus is a serious public health concern, the risk to most people outside China remains very low, and seasonal flu is a more immediate threat.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      World Health Organization officials have praised China’s aggressive response to the virus by closing transportation, schools and markets. This week, a team of experts from the W.H.O. arrived in Beijing to offer assistance.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The United States and Australia are temporarily denying entry to noncitizens who recently traveled to China and several airlines have canceled flights.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.