Monday, August 20, 2007

China Airlines - Safety First?

Thank God everyone got out in time!

Plane 'burst into flames on runway'

A China Airlines jet has exploded into flames at an airport in Japan after arriving from Taiwan, but all 165 people aboard have escaped alive.

All 157 passengers - including two small children - fled the Boeing 737 on inflated emergency slides before the plane burst into a fireball, Transport Ministry official Akihiko Tamura told reporters.

China Airlines spokesman Sun Hung-wen told reporters in Taipei the aircraft skidded on the tarmac on its way from the runway to the gate after landing at the Okinawa airport, starting a fire that prompted the emergency exit.

The eight-member crew also safely left the plane, Sun said.

"The fire started when the first engine below the main left wing exploded, a minute after the aircraft entered the parking spot," Tamura said, adding that one crew member was injured, though the extent of the injuries was not known.

Tamura put the number of passengers at 157, updating the figure of 155 initially provided by China Airlines.

National broadcaster NHK showed footage of a squad of firefighters dousing the evacuated plane with extinguishers as flames and clouds of black smoke billowed from the fuselage.

"After the plane landed, there were flames, and I heard explosions a few times then saw black smoke," airport worker Hideaki Oyadomari told national broadcaster NHK. "We felt the hot air coming our way."

The cause of the fire, which reportedly began in one of the engines, was unknown. Japan's National Police Agency said terrorism was not suspected. "The plane landed safely so we are still checking why there was a fire," said Sun.

The Okinawa fire is a setback to China Airlines, which in recent years appeared to have improved on a troubled safety record among international carriers. A China Airlines 747 crashed in 2002 as it flew Taipei to Hong Kong, leading to 225 deaths, and some 450 people died in China Airlines accidents during the 1990s.