China Air 737 Explodes In Japan

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China Air 737 Explodes In Japan

Post by BORG »

August 20, 2007
Passengers slid down emergency chutes with moments to spare before their Taiwanese airliner exploded and caught fire on Monday, a few minutes after the jet landed on Japan's southern resort island of Okinawa.

The left engine of a Boeing 737-800 jet belonging to Taiwan-based China Airlines exploded shortly after arrival in Naha city from Taipei, ripping the plane apart, officials and witnesses said, but all 165 passengers and crew escaped safely.

"I saw several passengers evacuate from the plane using a chute. After a minute or so, I heard the sound of an explosion. It was a big explosion," said Tadahiro Hasuo, who told NHK he felt the heat of the blast while passing Naha airport in a taxi.

Video shot by a witness and broadcast on TV showed passengers sliding down two chutes on the right side of the plane, while flames and thick black smoke billowed from the left.

After the flames were extinguished, the charred remains of the plane lay broken on the tarmac near the terminal.

The nose of the plane sagged on its side, while the tail -- emblazoned with the airline's pink plum blossom symbol -- was intact at the other end. In between, the blackened remains of the interior could be seen, with much of the roof of the plane gone.

Early investigations in Naha, the capital of Okinawa, raised the possibility that leaking fuel may have caught fire.

"We don't have any information that suggests the accident was linked to terrorism. There is a possibility of the engine exploding and catching fire due to a fuel leak," a Naha airport police official said.

One member of the ground crew had been injured, Kyodo news agency reported.

The airline said the plane, which had 157 passengers and eight crew, had just undergone scheduled maintenance.

"Everything was working according to normal procedure. There was nothing wrong during the flight," China Airlines spokesman Johnson Sun told reporters.

China Airlines has a troubled safety record with four deadly accidents in the past 13 years, including a crash in the Japanese city of Nagoya in 1994 in which 264 people were killed.

Okinawa is a popular spot for beach holidays and the number of visitors to Japan from other parts of Asia has increased in recent years, with the lifting of visa restrictions.

Taiwan's civil aeronautics administration said it would send three people, along with China Airlines officials, to Okinawa to investigate the cause of the accident.

The aircraft's engines were made by CFM International, a joint venture between General Electric and Snecma, a Japanese Transport Ministry official said. But he said it was not clear whether the engine was to blame for the accident.

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