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MANILA, Philippines – A plane from China skidded off a runway at Manila’s airport while landing in a downpour near midnight then got stuck in a muddy field with one engine and wheel ripped off before its 157 passengers and eight crew scrambled out through an emergency slide, officials said Friday.
Only a few passengers sustained bruises but all those aboard Xiamen Air Flight 8667 were safe and were taken to an airport terminal, where they were given blankets and food before being taken to a hotel, airport general manager Ed Monreal told a news conference.
The Boeing 737 from China’s coastal city of Xiamen appeared to have “bounced” in a hard landing then veered off the runway shortly after and rolled toward a rain-soaked grassy area with its lights off, officials said.
“We think that when (it) landed, the plane swerved to the left and veered off the runway,” said Monreal, who expressed relief that a disaster had been avoided.
Investigators retrieved the plane’s flight recorder and will get the cockpit voice recorder to determine the cause of the accident, he said.
Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Manila’s main international gateway, will be closed most of Friday while emergency crews remove excess fuel then try to lift the aircraft, its belly resting on the muddy ground, away from the main runway, which was being cleared of debris. A smaller runway for domestic flights remained open, officials said.
TV footage showed the plane slightly tilting to the left, its left wing touching the ground and its landing wheels not readily visible as emergency personnel, many in orange overalls, examined and surrounded the aircraft. One of the detached engines and landing wheels lay a few meters (yards) away.
Several international and domestic flights have been cancelled or diverted due to the closure of the airport, which lies in a densely populated residential and commercial section of metropolitan Manila. Airline officials initially said the airport could be opened by noon but later extended it to four more hours.
Torrential monsoon rains enhanced by a tropical storm flooded many low-lying areas of Manila and northern provinces last weekend, displacing thousands of residents and forcing officials to shut schools and government offices. The weather has improved with sporadic downpours.
Associated Press journalists Bullit Marquez and Joeal Calupitan contributed to this report.