Air Canada jet skids off Halifax runway, at least 23 injured

MONTREAL (AFP) - An Air Canada jet came off the runway after landing at the Halifax airport in Nova Scotia on Sunday, sending at least 23 people to hospital, officials said.

The airline said earlier on Twitter that flight AC624 from Toronto "exited runway upon landing at Halifax." It did not say what caused the Airbus A320 to leave the runway after landing at Stanfield International Airport around 12:43 am (0343 GMT) Sunday.

But heavy snow was falling in the eastern Canadian city and Environment Canada issued a snowfall alert, warning of low visibility.

Five crew and 133 passengers were on board the plane, according to Air Canada.

The airline reported 23 people were harmed and sent to hospital, though 18 of them were released within hours.

But airline authorities reported that 25 people were sent to hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Two of the injured passengers required "urgent attention" but most were being treated for minor cuts and bruises, Halifax airport spokesman Peter Spurway.

One passenger said they were made to wait in the snow after exiting the plane, including injured fliers.

"There was a couple people, all bloodied. Everybody was able to get out, but what was worse was that they left us for an hour outside in the blowing snow," Lianne Clark told the Canadian Broadcast Corporation.

She said some ran from the plane "because the fuel was coming out and we were scared." Spurway said passengers appeared shaken as they left the plane, describing the incident as "scary." Greg Wright was waiting at the airport to meet his 13-year-old son.

He told CBC News he initially thought his son was joking when he called to say there had been an accident.

"He said, 'We crashed, we crashed,'" Wright told CBC. "I was panicked."


Power was out at the airport at the time of the incident, but Spurway did not say whether the accident was linked to the accident.

"We did lose power, we're not sure if the two incidents are connected. They may be but we're not sure," he told AFP.

Back-up generators were running when the flight landed and the runways were lit, he added.

Spurway could not confirm reports that the plane's wings became tangled in electricity wires upon landing, saying only the Transportation Safety Board of Canada was on site to investigate the cause of the accident.

Both runways remained closed overnight, but one was scheduled to reopen in the morning.

"From 6:00 am local time we will see some traffic start to move. It will be a slow recovery but it will start," Spurway said.

Images showed the aircraft sitting on the airfield with a damaged nose as thick snow covered the ground. Spurway reported the damage as "extensive". The flight had departed from Toronto at 9:05 pm Saturday.

Several counties in the eastern coastal province of Nova Scotia were affected by Saturday's winter weather alert.

The alert had been canceled by early Sunday but light snow was expected until late morning.

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