A flotilla of small boats has rescued more than 40 people from an Air Niugini plane that crashed into a lagoon in the South Pacific nation of Micronesia.
The Boeing 737-800 aircraft hit the water short of the runway while landing at Chuuk Island on Friday morning, according to officials and the airline.
Pictures and video posted on social media showed locals scrambling on small boats to rescue the passengers and crew as the water covered most of the aircraft’s fuselage.
The airline said the plane, which was making a scheduled stop on its way from the Micronesian capital Pohnpei to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, had “landed short of the runway”.
It added there were no serious injuries.
“Air Niugini can confirm that all on board were able to safely evacuate the aircraft,” the firm said in a brief statement.
“The aircraft had 35 passengers and 12 crew members onboard, all of whom were able to safely evacuate the aircraft. The airline is making all efforts to ensure the safety and immediate needs of our passengers and crew.”
— AJM (@AJMaka82) September 28, 2018
Jimmy Emilio, general manager of Chuuk Airport in Weno, Micronesia, told Reuters news agency the cause of the accident was unclear.
“We don’t really know what happened … people were rescued by boats. Only the plane is sinking right now,” he said.
“I thought we landed hard until I looked over and saw a hole in the side of the plane and water was coming in,” passenger Bill Jaynes said in a video posted by the Pacific Daily News website.
“I thought, well, this is not like the way it’s supposed to happen,” he said. Water was waist-deep in the cabin before rescuers arrived, he said.
A spokesperson for Papua New Guinea’s Accident Investigation Commission said investigators would fly to the scene as soon as possible to piece together what happened.
Air Niugini is the national airline of Papua New Guinea and has operated since 1973. The fleet includes Boeing 767 and 737 jets for international routes, according to the airline, as well as Fokker F-100 aircraft, Q400 and Dash 8 aircraft for challenging local terrain.
SHORT OF THE RUNWAY
Air Niugini said in a statement #PX73 Boeing 737-800 landed in the water short of the runway at Chuuk Int’l Airport. All on board evacuated safely. As this video shows locals were quick to react and assist in the rescue.
📷Facebook/Jumeta Esenaf pic.twitter.com/5jjWVv0zdt
— Tom Podolec Aviation (@TomPodolec) September 28, 2018