American Airlines plane makes emergency landing in Tokyo after winter storm hits, 5 hurt

Passengers on an American Airlines flight that left South Korea's Incheon International Airport bound for Dallas in the United States, arrive after it made an emergency landing at Narita international airport, east of Tokyo. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Passengers on an American Airlines flight that left South Korea's Incheon International Airport bound for Dallas in the United States, arrive after it made an emergency landing at Narita international airport, east of Tokyo. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (Reuters) - A United States-bound American Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing in Tokyo on Wednesday after hitting severe turbulence created by a strong winter storm, with several people taken to hospital for minor injuries.

American Airlines Flight 280, a Boeing 777-200 heading to Dallas/Fort Worth airport from Incheon in South Korea, was flying across Japan when the plane dropped suddenly and was rocked for 30 to 40 seconds, passengers said. "We were eating and all the food just flew up in the air and pretty much bounced off and fell. There were carts all over the place," one passenger told TV Tokyo when the aircraft landed shortly after midnight at Tokyo's Narita Airport.

Photos posted on Twitter showed splotches of wine on overhead bins and meals scattered down an aisle.

Four passengers and one crew member were taken to hospital for observation and treatment, though none of the injuries were life-threatening, the airline said in a statement. Japanese national broadcaster NHK said one person suffered a broken bone.

There were 240 passengers and 15 crew members on board. The flight will continue to the United States on Wednesday.

A rapidly strengthening winter storm slammed Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido and a wide swathe of the nation with typhoon-strength winds and heavy snow on Wednesday, snarling rail transport and forcing the cancellation of more than 100 flights.

High tides produced by the storm caused flooding in parts of Hokkaido and the authorities issued evacuation advisories for several hundred people. A 54-year-old truck driver died in a road accident, NHK said.