A passenger plane and a Japanese coast guard aircraft collided on the runway at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport on Tuesday and burst into flames.
Transport Minister Tetsuo Saito confirmed that all 379 occupants of Japan Airlines flight JAL-516 got out safely before the plane was entirely engulfed in flames. The pilot of the coast guard plane also escaped, but five crewmembers died, Saito said.
Local TV video showed a large eruption of fire and smoke from the side of the Japan Airlines plane as it taxied on a runway. The area around the wing then caught fire. Footage an hour later showed the plane fully on fire.The JAL plane was an Airbus A-350 that had flown from Shin Chitose airport, near the city of Sapporo, to Haneda, the transport minister said.
Coast Guard spokesperson Yoshinori Yanagishima said its plane was MA-722, a Bombardier Dash-8. The plane, which is based at Haneda, had been due to head to Niigata to deliver relief goods to residents affected by a deadly earthquake in the region on Monday that killed at least 48 people.
Swede Anton Deibe, 17, who was a passenger on the Japan Airlines plane, told Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet that “the entire cabin was filled with smoke within a few minutes. We threw ourselves down on the floor. Then the emergency doors were opened and we threw ourselves at them.
“The smoke in the cabin stung like hell. It was a hell. We have no idea where we are going so we just run out into the field. It was chaos,” added Deibe, who was travelling with his parents and sister.
Saito said Haneda is currently closed while the collision is under investigation by aviation safety investigators and police, but that they are doing their best to reopen the airport Wednesday or even sooner.
He added that said officials are doing their utmost to prevent any delays in the relief goods delivery and other operations for the disaster-hit region.
Haneda is one of the busiest airports in Japan, and many people travel over the New Year holidays.
Yamaguchi reported from Kyoto, Japan. Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed to this report.
This is a developing news story. Check back for updates.
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