WELLINGTON: Passengers were forced to swim for their lives Friday when an airliner ditched into a lagoon after missing the runway on a remote Pacific island and immediately began sinking.
The Air Niugini Boeing 737 was attempting to land at Weno airport in Micronesia but ended up half submerged in Chuuk lagoon after the accident on Friday morning.
Pictures and video posted on social media showed locals scrambling in small boats to rescue the passengers and crew as waters covered most of the aircraft’s fuselage.
People are evacuated from an Air Niugini plane which crashed in the waters in Weno, Chuuk, Micronesia, September 28, 2018 in this picture obtained from social media. (Akang San/via REUTERS)
The airline said the plane, which was making a scheduled stop on its way from the Micronesian capital Pohnpei to Port Moresby, had “landed short of the runway”.
Remarkably, it said there were no serious injuries.
This picture taken by James Yaingeluo on September 28, 2018 shows locals approaching to rescue passengers of the crashed Air Niugini aircraft on the remote Island of Weno, in Micronesia. (AFP)
“Air Niugini can confirm that all on board were able to safely evacuate the aircraft,” the firm said in a brief statement.
“The airline is making all efforts to ensure the safety and immediate needs of our passengers and crew.”
It did not detail what caused the accident.
People are evacuated from an Air Niugini plane which crashed in the waters in Weno, Chuuk, Micronesia, September 28, 2018 in this still image taken from a video obtained from social media. (Akang San/via REUTERS)
Papua New Guinea’s Accident Investigation Commission said it was preparing to send investigators to the accident site.
“We’re trying to arrange a team to go there but I cannot give you any more information because I simply don’t have it,” a spokesman told AFP.
No casualties. 35 passengers of #AirNiugini flight to #FSM that crashed into the sea in Chuuk have been evacuated to safety and taken to hospital. The flight was landing. pic.twitter.com/5nTOQZpin8— makereta komai (@burebasgal) September 28, 2018
“We came in low, we came in very low. Unfortunately, the flight attendants panicked, and started yelling, and I was trying to be calm and help as best as I could,” said Bill Jaynes, passenger on flight of Air Niugini. https://t.co/GkKsmaDWjY pic.twitter.com/g1m6J6UbU2— Guam PDN (@GuamPDN) September 28, 2018
Pacific Daily News reported, citing airport official Jimmy Emilio, that all 36 passengers and 11 crew had been taken to hospital for check-ups.
Air Niugini is Papua New Guinea’s national airline.