Dubai (AFP) – Hundreds of passengers fled an Emirates airliner that crash-landed and caught fire in Dubai Wednesday, resulting in the death of a firefighter and a four-hour shutdown of the busy airport but no other fatalities.
The exact circumstances of the accident involving a Boeing 777 flying from India with 300 people on board were not immediately clear.
Footage on social media showed thick black smoke billowing from the aircraft on the ground.
Emirates chief executive officer Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum spoke of an “operational incident” that happened on landing and ruled out any “security issue”.
The fire erupted on board the aircraft after the incident, he said, adding that the cause was not yet clear.
Emirates said that all passengers and crew on board flight EK521 from Thiruvananthapuram to Dubai were accounted for and safe.
Sheikh Ahmed later told reporters later that 13 people on board were hospitalised, most of them for minor injuries.
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.”
Investigators had been sent to work with Emirates and the Dubai airport authorities, he said.
Emirates said that there were 282 passengers and 18 crew members on board, including 226 Indians, 24 Britons and 11 Emirati nationals.
Sheikh Ahmed said that the pilot was an Emirati with more than 7,000 hours of flight time and the aircraft had “all necessary inspection checks” before take-off.
Footage on social media showed thick black smoke coming out of the centre of the plane while the fuselage appeared to be lying on the runway with escape slides opened.
– ‘I ran without my shoes’ –
Shaji Kochikutty, who was on board the plane with his wife and three daughters, recounted surviving the “near disaster.”
“We are grateful to be alive. What more can we ask for?” the Dubai-based businessman said, speaking to weekly newspaper XPRESS.
After the plane caught fire on landing, airline staff “opened all emergency exits and guided us out,” Kochikutty said.
“I first sent my three daughters. My wife went next but hurt her knee while jumping out. I bruised my feet as I ran without my shoes. We were promptly given first aid and we are all fine now,” he said.
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 July 26, an Emirates Boeing 777-300 aircraft heading to the Maldives made an emergency landing in Mumbai because of a “technical fault”.
Airport authorities halted all operations at Dubai International Airport for around four hours Wednesday, causing delays and diversions.
Arriving planes were diverted to other airports in the UAE, Oman, and Bahrain, Emirates said.
Despite later resuming operations, Dubai International said its capacity was still restricted and it was operating with one runway.
It is the world’s largest air hub in terms of international passengers, and is the base for Emirates, from where it serves more than 153 destinations.
Dubai opened a smaller second airport, Al-Maktoum International, in 2013.
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 expanded its fleet to 250 aircraft last year.