The blaze took more than an hour to extinguish.

 

"After the plane landed, there were flames, and I heard explosions a few times then saw black smoke," Hideaki Oyadomari, an airport worker, told Japanese broadcaster NHK.

 

Cause unknown

The cause of the fire, which reportedly began in one of the engines, was unknown.

 

"The fire started when the first engine below the main left wing exploded, a minute after the aircraft entered the parking spot"

Akihiko Tamura, Japanese Transport Ministry official
The head of Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration speculated that an oil leak in the engine may have sparked the fire.

 

"The fire started when the first engine below the main left wing exploded, a minute after the aircraft entered the parking spot," Akihiko Tamura, a Japanese Transport Ministry official, said.

 

Several passengers interviewed by Japanese television said they had been preparing to disembark after what seemed like a normal landing when they were suddenly told to use the emergency slides to evacuate.

 

Some reported seeing smoke and flames entering the cabin.

 

In Taipei, a China Airlines spokesman said there had been no indication that anything was wrong with the plane, a Boeing 737-800, until the fire broke out.

 

"Everything was normal, including take-off and landing, until the pilots were told the airplane was on fire," Johnson Wang told reporters.

 

He said China Airlines would conduct precautionary safety checks on the other 11 Boeing 737-800s it operates.

 

The fire will be a setback to the airline which had improved its safety record after a series of deadly accidents in the 1990s, and the crash of a Hong Kong-bound 747 in 2002 which killed 225 people.

 

The fierce blaze left the jet a charred and twisted ruin [Reuters]