All passengers, crew escape blaze on Japan Airlines plane after Tokyo airport collision


TOKYO: All 379 passengers and crew of a Japan Airlines plane miraculously escaped from a fire following a collision with a Coast Guard aircraft at Tokyo’s Haneda airport on Tuesday, but local media said most of the coast guard plane crew had died.

The Coast Guard said the collision involved one of its planes that was headed to Niigata airport on Japan’s west coast to deliver aid to those caught up in a powerful earthquake that struck on New Year’s Day, killing at least 48 people.

Five of the six crew of the coast guard aircraft have died, public broadcaster NHK reported. A coast guard spokesperson earlier said five of the crew were unaccounted for but that the captain had escaped.

Live footage on public broadcaster NHK showed the Japan Airlines (JAL) Airbus A350 aircraft bursting into flames as it skidded down the tarmac at around 6 p.m. (0900 GMT).

It was later overwhelmed by the blaze despite feverish efforts by rescue crews to control the fire.

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But not before all 367 passengers and 12 crew were evacuated.

Footage and images shared on social media showed passengers shouting inside the smoke-filled cabin and running across the tarmac away from an evacuation slide.

“I felt a boom like we had hit something and jerked upward the moment we landed,” a passenger on the JAL flight told Kyodo news agency. “I saw sparks outside the window and the cabin filled with gas and smoke.”

A spokesperson at Japan Airlines said its aircraft had departed from Shin-Chitose airport on the mountainous northern island of Hokkaido. The collision occurred shortly after landing.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida instructed relevant agencies to coordinate to assess the damage swiftly and provide information to the public, according to his office.

Haneda, one of Tokyo’s two main airports, has closed all runways following the incident, a spokesperson said.

Kaoru Ishii, a mother who was waiting outside the arrival gate for her 29-year-old daughter and boyfriend coming back on the flight said she initially though the flight was delayed until her daughter called to explain.

“She said the plane had caught fire and she exited via a slide,” Ishii said. “I was really relieved that she was alright.”

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