All 224 passengers on board a Turkish Airlines flight had a narrow escape when their Airbus A330 aircraft skidded off the runway at the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) here early on Wednesday morning. The terminal, Nepal’s only international airport, was ordered shut till 5 p.m. on Wednesday leading to cancellation or delays in at least ten international flights, authorities said.
The Turkish passenger jet, while landing at TIA — where torrential rains for the last three days have rendered the weather foggy and visibility poor — missed the central alignment of the runway and skidded on to the adjacent grassy surface around 7.45 a.m. on Wednesday.
The front gear of the aircraft collapsed upon landing and the airbus skidded for at least 1,000 metres on the grassy verge before coming to a stop. “The plane skidded for at least 1,000 metres,” said a statement issued by the TIA authorities adding that foam extinguishers were used to prevent any damage.
All 224 passengers aboard the Turkish Airlines flight TK-757 from Istanbul were evacuated through the emergency doors. Images of the aircraft circulating on social networking site Twitter showed the plane lying on the grassy surface near the airport fire station with its nose resting on the ground.
Before being given permission to land, the Turkish passenger jet was told to circle for almost an hour due to poor ground visibility. The decision to shut flight operations at TIA till the damaged aircraft was removed from the runway affected travel plans of several thousand passengers bound for international destinations, including New Delhi, who were planning to fly out on Wednesday from here.
Airport authorities said at least five international flights were cancelled and five others delayed. Hundreds of passengers, left in the lurch, waited outside the main building of the airport. Indian Airlines, Jet Airways and Spice Jet cancelled their flights along with Druk Airlines of Bhutan, Thai Airways and Air China.
Flights of Air Arabia, Nepal Airlines, Qatar Air, Malaysian Airlines and Biman Bangladesh from Kathmandu stood delayed. All domestic airlines were also forced to reschedule their flights. “Efforts are underway to remove the aircraft from the middle of the runway and grass. Until then, no international flights can be resumed,” the TIA authorities said.
The Turkish Airlines incident created panic among the passengers on board, Shashi Poudel, one of the passengers travelling from Turkey, told reporters after he was safely evacuated from the stricken craft. “After the plane skidded on to the grassy surface, there was a flame at the rear of the plane and we had almost lost all hope. But the pilot made a very clever decision reverting the plane on the grass, otherwise one can’t imagine what would have happened,” he said.
One passenger, reportedly a heart patient, was rushed to a nearby hospital while some others sustained minor injuries. “I think the pilot did a great job,” another passenger, Dilkesh Malhotra, said. “When I looked out of the plane, I could see nothing because of the dense fog. It was an extremely scary situation and to fly a plane in such conditions must have been extremely challenging. I am glad no was seriously hurt.” (IANS)