DUBAI: An Emirates plane with 300 people on board crash-landed on Wednesday (Aug 3) at Dubai airport but all the passengers were evacuated safely.
Flight EK521 was flying from Trivandrum International Airport in Thiruvananthapuram, India, to Dubai, where it had to make an emergency landing.
Videos purportedly of the incident showed a tower of flame bursting from the front of the aircraft, and then a thick black plume of smoke rising into the sky.
Photographs of the incident posted on social media showed a plane lying crumpled on its belly on the tarmac with black smoke pouring from its upper section.
A spokesperson for operator Dubai Airports said all passengers and crew had been safely evacuated and the emergency services were managing the situation. Emirates also confirmed all passengers and crew were accounted for and safe.
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."
A man waiting for relatives 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."
Another man said his family had also told him they were OK and there had been a problem with the landing gear.
"It was actually really terrifying. As we were landing there was smoke coming out in the cabin," passenger Sharon Maryam Sharji said. "People were screaming and we had a very hard landing. We left by going down the emergency slides and as we were leaving on the runway we could see the whole plane catch fire; it was horrifying."
ARRIVALS, DEPARTURES SUSPENDED
Dubai airport, the world's busiest in terms of international passengers, was suspended for several hours. Airport authorities said later that departures would resume from 6.30pm (1430 GMT) "with larger aircraft given first priority."
Arriving planes have been diverted to other airports, the government said. Dubai opened a smaller second airport, Al-Maktoum International, in 2013.
According to air traffic control recordings cited by Aviation Herald, a respected independent website monitoring air accidents, controllers at Dubai 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.
It was not clear whether the landing gear was extended when the aircraft touched the ground at 0845 GMT. A family of passengers who declined to be named said the equipment did not deploy and the jet landed on its belly.
Emirates initially said there had been 275 passengers and crew aboard the plane, a Boeing 777-300. It later confirmed there were 282 passengers and 18 crew on board, including 226 Indians, 24 Britons and 11 Emirati nationals.
Airline chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum said in a statement the flight had been involved in an "incident". "We do not have all the information but thankfully there were no fatalities among our passengers and crew," he said.
Planemaker Boeing said in a statement it was monitoring the situation in Dubai and it would be working with Emirates to gather more information.
An Emirates Airline flight is seen after it crash-landed at Dubai International Airport on Aug 3, 2016. (Photo: REUTERS/Stringer)
The cause of the accident was not immediately clear.
Safety experts said it was too early to pinpoint any cause for the crash. Investigators will scour the wreckage and interview pilots, controllers and witnesses for clues to any technical malfunctions, human error or weather-related problems.
Judging by footage of the aircraft's intact tail section, where the 'black box' flight recorders are located, vital voice and data recordings should be available for investigators.
Online weather reports before the crash reported Dubai was relatively windy, with dust blowing and "wind shear" reported on all runways. Wind shear is a potentially hazardous condition involving sudden and unpredictable changes in wind direction or speed.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 Jul 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.
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 has expanded its fleet to 250 aircraft last year.