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Twelve Australians among those on burning Japan plane

Passengers escape the burning Japan Airlines plane

Source: Twitter

Twelve Australians were among nearly 400 people who escaped a blazing plane after a deadly collision at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has confirmed.

“All of those people are safe and accounted for,” Albanese said on Wednesday.

All 379 people aboard the Japan Airlines plane escaped after its collision with a coast guard aircraft, in which five of the smaller aircraft’s crew were killed.

Live footage on public broadcaster NHK showed the JAL Airbus A350 burst into flames as it skidded down the tarmac shortly before 6pm.

Video and images shared on social media showed passengers shouting inside the plane’s smoke-filled cabin and running across the tarmac after escaping via an evacuation slide.

At one point a child’s voice can be heard shouting: “Let us get out quickly! Let us get out quickly!”

All 367 passengers and 12 crew were removed from the blazing plane. But the fire was not extinguished until shortly after midnight (local time), after burning for more than six hours, broadcaster TBS reported citing the fire department.

“I was wondering what happened and then I felt the airplane tilted to the side at the runway and felt a big bump,” said Satoshi Yamake, 59, a telecommunications company worker who was on board.

“The flight attendants told us to stay calm and instructed us to get off the plane.”

Fourteen people on the passenger plane were injured, according to Japan Airlines. None of the injuries appeared to be life-threatening.

Transport Minister Tetsuo Saito confirmed that five of the coast guard aircraft’s crew. The plane’s 39-year-old captain escaped but was injured.

A ministry official said the JAL plane was attempting to land normally when it collided with the Coast Guard’s Bombardier-built Dash-8 maritime patrol plane on the runway.

There had been no reports of engine or other problems on the airliner before the landing, the official said.

The Coast Guard said its plane was headed to Niigata on Japan’s west coast to deliver aid to those caught up in the powerful earthquake that struck on New Year’s Day, killing at least 55 people.

A JAL official said it was the airline’s understanding that the flight had received permission to land, although he added that exchanges with flight control were still under investigation.

Passengers and aviation experts praised the speed of the evacuation.

“I heard an explosion about 10 minutes after everyone and I got off the plane,” 28-year-old passenger Tsubasa Sawada said.

“I can only say it was a miracle, we could have died if we were late.”

Paul Hayes, director of air safety at British aviation consultancy Ascend by Cirium, noted that no one leaving the plane appeared to be carrying hand luggage – safety agencies have warned for years that pausing to collect carry-on bags during an evacuation risks lives.

“The cabin crew must have done an excellent job… It was a miracle that all the passengers got off,” he said.

The aircraft’s in-flight announcement system did not work during the evacuation so crew members used megaphones to give instructions, Japan Airlines said in a statement.

Based on interviews with the flight crew, the airline said the crew acknowledged landing clearance from air traffic control, repeated it back to confirm and then conducted approach and landing operations.

“There were no issues with the aircraft at the time of departure from the New Chitose Airport and during the flight,” the airline said.

Kaoru Ishii, who was waiting outside the arrival gate for her 29-year-old daughter and boyfriend, said she initially thought the flight was delayed until her daughter called to explain.

“She said the plane had caught fire and she exited via a slide,” Ishii said.

“I was really relieved that she was all right.”

A JAL representative said its aircraft had departed from New Chitose airport on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido.

Haneda, one of two main airports serving the Japanese capital Tokyo, was closed for hours following the accident. The transport ministry official said three runways had since resumed operations.

JAL’s Japanese rival ANA had earlier said it had cancelled 110 domestic flights departing and landing at Haneda for the rest of Tuesday.

Transport Minister Saito said the cause of the accident was unclear and the Japan Transport Safety Board, police and other departments would continue to investigate.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said authorities were working to ensure the accident did not affect deliveries of earthquake relief supplies, and expressed sorrow over the deaths of the Coast Guard crew.

“This is a great regret as the crew members performed their duties with a strong sense of mission and responsibility for the victims of the disaster area,” he said.

-with AAP

Topics: Japan
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