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Turkish Airlines plane skids off Nepal runway

Wednesday, March 4, 2015 - 18:37
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A Turkish Airlines plane carrying 224 passengers had to be evacuated after it missed the runway on landing at Kathmandu airport on Wednesday and skidded onto nearby grassland.

[KATHMANDU] A Turkish Airlines plane carrying 224 passengers had to be evacuated after it missed the runway on landing at Kathmandu airport on Wednesday and skidded onto nearby grassland.

Aviation officials said no one on board was injured, although one witness described how terrified passengers leapt from their seats as the cabin filled with smoke after the plane skidded to a halt.

Airport spokesman Purna Prasad Chudal said the pilot overshot the runway during an initial attempt to land, before making a second try that sent the plane skidding off the tarmac.

"As the plane approached, it somehow missed the runway and ended up in the grassland area," said the airport's general manager Birendra Prasad Shrestha.

"All 224 passengers have been evacuated, no injuries, everyone is safe," Mr Shrestha told AFP.

Mr Chudal said the runway had been closed for international flights as technicians worked to remove the damaged Airbus A330.

"We've hauled in heavy equipment to move the aircraft," he said.

Photographs on social media showed the jet with its nose to the ground, with local newspaper reports saying its landing gear appeared to have collapsed.

Dikesh Malhotra, who was returning from a business trip, said the impact of the landing caused bags to fall on terrified passengers, who clutched their seats, anxiously waiting for the plane to stop moving.

"We could feel the tyres skid... I could see an air hostess from my seat, she had tears in her eyes," Mr Malhotra, 28, told AFP.

When the plane stopped, smoke filled the cabin, making it difficult to breathe, he said.

"Everyone got up and started shouting to open the door... finally they announced evacuation... we were so relieved," he said.

Mr Chudal said officials would launch an investigation into the crash and question the pilot.

"The plane had permission to land and while conditions were foggy earlier, visibility was ok," Mr Chudal told AFP.

"We are not sure how this happened." The Himalayan nation is home to some of the world's most remote and tricky runways, flanked by snow-capped peaks and terrain that poses a challenge even for accomplished pilots.

A string of crashes as well as the European Union's decision to blacklist all Nepalese airlines prompted government officials last year to announce plans to install new radar and weather monitoring systems.

AFP

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