DUBAI (AFP/REUTERS) – An Emirates plane with 300 people on board crash-landed and caught fire in Dubai Wednesday (Aug 3), causing the death of a firefighter and a four-hour shutdown of the busy airport but no fatalities among passengers.
The cause of the accident involving a Boeing 777 was not immediately clear, Dubai’s government and the carrier said.
Footage on social media showed thick black smoke billowing from the aircraft.
“An Emirates plane coming from India has been involved in an accident on landing at Dubai International,” the government’s Dubai Media Office said on its Twitter account.
“All passengers were evacuated safely,” it said.
A man waiting for relatives who were on the flight said he had spoken to them by phone.
“They said they’re safe and alright, but that they felt a great panic as the plane was on fire. I’ll be comfortable when I see they are safe.”
Another man said his family had also told him they were OK and there had been a problem with the landing gear.
Emirates confirmed on Twitter that “flight EK521 from Thiruvananthapuram to Dubai has been involved in an accident at Dubai International.”
“We can confirm there are no fatalities among our passengers and crew. All passengers and crew are accounted for and safe,” it said.
But the director-general of the General Civil Aviation Authority, Saif al-Suwaidi, said in a statement that “one of the firefighters lost his life while saving the lives of the others.”
Investigators had been sent to work with Emirates and the Dubai airport authorities, he said.
Airport authorities halted all operations at Dubai International for around four hours, causing delays and diversions.
Arriving planes were diverted to other airports in the UAE, Oman, and Bahrain, Emirates said.
Emirates said that there were 282 passengers and 18 crew members on board, including 226 Indians, 24 Britons and 11 Emirati nationals.
Emirates said it had “no further information on what may have caused the accident”.
“Our priority remains with the passengers and crew involved,” it said.
According to air traffic control recordings cited by Aviation Herald, a respected independent website specialising in information on air accidents, controllers at Dubai had reminded the crew of the Boeing 777 to lower the landing gear as it came into approach.
Shortly afterwards, the crew announced they were aborting the landing to “go around,” a routine procedure for which pilots are well trained, but the aircraft came to rest near the end of the runway instead, Aviation Herald reported.
There was no immediate confirmation on whether the landing gear was extended when the aircraft touched the ground.
Planemaker Boeing said in a statement it was monitoring the situation in Dubai and it would be working with Emirates to gather more information.
Footage on social media showed thick black smoke coming out of the centre of the plane while the fuselage appeared to be lying on the runway with escape slides opened.
The Dubai Media Office said the fire “has been contained,” adding that emergency teams at the airport and Emirates are “well trained to deal with such incidents”.
The accident comes almost four months after a plane belonging to Dubai’s other carrier, flydubai, crashed and burst into flames as it was landing in Rostov-on-Don, in southern Russia, killing all 61 people onboard.
On July 26, an Emirates Boeing 777-300 aircraft heading to the Maldives made an emergency landing in Mumbai because of a “technical fault”.
Dubai International is the world’s largest hub in terms of international passengers, and is the base for Emirates, from where it serves more than 153 destinations.
Dubai opened a smaller second airport, Al-Maktoum International, in 2013.
Emirates, Qatar Airways and Abu Dhabi’s Etihad have seized a significant portion of transcontinental travel, capitalising on the geographic locations of their Gulf hubs.
Emirates is the largest single operator of the Boeing 777, as well as the Airbus A380 superjumbo, and expanded its fleet to 250 aircraft last year.