All operations at Dubai international airport have been suspended after a plane carrying 300 people crash-landed then caught fire, sending black smoke billowing from its fuselage.
The Emirates Boeing 777 was travelling from Thiruvananthapuram in India when it was involved in an “incident” on Wednesday at 12.45pm local time (09.52am BST), the airline said.
All 282 passengers and 18 crew on board flight EK521 were evacuated safely. The Indian ambassador to the UAE, TP Seetharam, said many passengers were in shock, and that only one person – a crew member – had been taken to hospital.
The gutted fuselage of the Emirates Boeing 777 that crash-landed at Dubai international airport
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The gutted fuselage of the Emirates Boeing 777. Photograph: EPA
Authorities have not given any details on the cause of the crash, though Aviation Herald, an independent website specialising in information on air accidents, cited air traffic control recordings which suggest a problem with the landing gear.
In the recordings cited by Aviation Herald, the crew announced they were aborting the landing to “go around”, a routine procedure for which pilots are well trained, but the aircraft came to rest near the end of the runway instead.
There was no immediate confirmation on whether the landing gear was extended when the aircraft touched the ground, though images of the plane taken after it crashed suggest that it made a belly landing, which is what happens when landing gear is not fully extended.
Evacuated passengers told Iype Vallikadan, a reporter from Indian newspaper Mathrubhumi News, that minutes before the flight crash-landed, the pilot announced that he needed to make an emergency landing.
Cabin crew opened all of the emergency exits of the plane and all 300 people on board were evacuated within minutes of the landing, they said. Mathrubhumi News covers the southern Indian state of Kerala, from where the flight originated. Hundreds of thousands of Kerala residents work in the Gulf countries.
There were 226 Indians on board, as well as 24 UK citizens, 11 from the United Arab Emirates and six each from the US and Saudi Arabia. There were people of 15 other nationalities on board. Kerala is a popular tourist destination and many passengers were probably taking connecting flights through Dubai.
The plane has been in service for 13 years, according to the Flightradar 24 website.
Dubai international airport, the Middle East’s busiest, was closed to all landings and takeoffs after the incident, with a number of incoming flights diverted to Dubai world central. The airport was expected to remain closed until at least 6pm local time (15:00 BST).
Emirates, the region’s biggest carrier, said the plane had left Trivandrum international airport at 10.19am and was due to land at Dubai international airport at 12.50pm. The company said it was expecting an “eight hour network-wide delay”.
The Boeing 777 is considered one of the safest planes around. More than 1,000 have been produced and there have only been a few dozen incidents logged, most of them minor.
The first fatal crash in the plane’s 21-year history came in July 2013, when an Asiana Airlines jet landed short of the runway in San Francisco. Three of the 307 people on board died, one of whom was hit by an emergency truck after surviving the crash.
In January 2008, a British Airways 777 landed 305 metres short of the runway at Heathrow airport. Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, which mysteriously disappeared with 239 people on board in March 2014 and has never been found, was also a 777.
Reuters contributed to this report