MANILA (REUTERS, AFP) - An Xiamen Air aircraft veered off a rain-soaked runway on landing at the Philippine capital’s main airport just before midnight, causing widespread flight disruptions on Friday (Aug 17) due to a temporary runway closure, officials said.
There were no casualties and all 157 passengers and eight crew aboard the Boeing 737-800 were unharmed, according to the authorities at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and Xiamen Air.
“Everyone is safe but they had to use the emergency chute because it was muddy,” Eric Apolonio, spokesman of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, told AFP, adding that the incident occurred in heavy rain.
An investigation was underway to determine what led to the accident.
Images of the plane operated by Xiamen Air, a subsidiary of China Southern Airlines, showed it next to a perimeter fence with the left wing touching the ground.
The plane, which flew from the southern Chinese city of Xiamen, “misapproached” on its first attempt to land and lost contact with the control tower on the second attempt and skidded upon touchdown, said Ed Monreal, the airport's general manager.
“Our priority now is to reopen the airport runway immediately but we are not rushing because we value the safety and security of all the people,” he told a news conference.
Airport officials said they were looking into numerous factors, including the weather, the technology and communications between the pilot and tower.
Monreal said the airport was not able to extract the content of the flight recorder, which would be sent to Singapore for investigation.
Flights from the Middle East and the United States were diverted to the international airport at Clark, north of the capital, and the central island of Cebu.
There were chaotic scenes at the main airport in Manila, which was packed with passengers, with long queues outside the terminals and at check-in desks.
Among the flights cancelled were Cebu Pacific's 5J 805 Manila-Singapore and 5J 806 Singapore-Manila. In a press released, the airline advised affected passengers not to proceed to the NAIA. They can choose to rebook flights for travel within 30 days, obtain a flight credit or a full refund, the company said.
Manila airport authorities extended the closure of one of the airport's runways to 4:00pm from 12:00pm, saying they needed more time to move the aircraft.