An earthquake and a plane crash In two days they make up the most traumatic start to the year that the Japanese remember. Five people have died this Tuesday at the Tokyo airport Haneda due to a collision of two planes on its landing strip for reasons still unknown that has caused a spectacular fire.
The accident occurred minutes before 6:00 p.m. (local time) when a Japan Airlines Airbus A350-900 plane coming from Hokkaido with 367 travelers and 12 crew members landed and collided with a Coast Guard aircraft with six people on board. board that began its takeoff maneuvers. The images show a distant explosion and the first one advancing while being devoured by flames. All its occupants have escaped through the emergency ramps and we only have to regret about fifteen injured. On the other plane, only Captain Genki Miyamoto, 39, was able to save himself, who at 5:55 p.m. called the Coast Guard to report that his plane “had exploded” and he had been able to escape. The captain has serious injuries but his life is not in danger.
The Ministry of Transport has explained to the press that it is investigating the cause of the accident and that it will have to wait for the examination of the communications between both planes and the control tower. There was no poor visibility or strong winds or other adverse weather conditions. The mechanisms for air traffic and controllers ensure a dance of perfect synchronization between those arriving and departing so that there are not many precedents of aircraft on runways where others land. It is even stranger in a country with an exemplary history of air safety and no accidents on commercial airplanes for decades.
“I felt a bang, as if the plane had collided with something when landing. I saw a spark outside through the window and the cabin quickly filled with gas and smoke,” a passenger explained to the ‘Japan Times’ newspaper. The images recorded by the passengers with their mobile phones show the interior already taken over by the emanations but without the images of chaos and panic that would be expected in any other country. The fire ended up spreading to the entire ship and the hundred trucks of It took firefighters almost 45 minutes to put out the fire.
A French passenger has explained that they heard a “big explosion” while waiting to take off on a nearby plane. “We looked out the window and saw a huge path of flames along the track. The flames were getting bigger and bigger and then the fire trucks arrived,” he told CNN.
The Coast Guard plane, a fixed-wing MA722 model, was preparing to take off for Niigata Prefecture with food and other humanitarian cargo for the earthquake victims on Monday, which has already claimed around fifty deaths. The first Minister, Fumio Kishida, returned to the press room in the afternoon after having appeared in the morning to report on the earthquake. Kishida has called the five deaths “very unfortunate,” offered his condolences to the families and stressed his great respect for the victims. “They were filled with a strong sense of duty and it is extremely unfortunate and distressing what happened to them,” he added.
The accident has forced the closure of the four runways at Haneda airport and the diversion of flights to nearby infrastructure. It is the busiest in Japan and in 2019, the last pre-pandemic year, it added 90 million users. The accident occurred during the Christmas holidays, one of the peaks of its annual activity.