Air Niugini plane comes down in Micronesia lagoon

Small boats surround the Air Niugini plane in the water Image copyright James Yaingeluo

A passenger aircraft has come down in a lagoon off Chuuk International Airport in Micronesia after it missed the runway, airport officials say.

The Air Niugini plane from Papua New Guinea was seen sitting in shallow water just off the coast.

Locals responded by approaching the plane in small vessels to help rescue the 36 passengers and 11 crew.

A hospital official told Reuters that four passengers were in a serious condition after the crash.

The aircraft was flying from the island of Pohnpei in Micronesia to Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, stopping at Micronesia's Weno island on the way.

Air Niugini said its Boeing 737-800 had "landed short of the runway" amid reduced visibility due to rain and poor weather. An investigation is due to begin, airport officials said.

Air Niugini plane in the water off Weno, Chuuk, Micronesia Image copyright AFP
People in small boats around the plane in the water Image copyright AFP
Air Niugini plane in the water off Weno, Chuuk, Micronesia Image copyright Reuters

Passenger Bill Jaynes told reporters that the incident had been "surreal".

"I thought we landed hard until I looked over and saw a hole in the side of the plane and water was coming in. I thought, well, this is not like the way it's supposed to happen," he said.

Water in the cabin had risen to waist height before rescuers arrived, he added.

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Dr James Yaingeluo from Chuuk State Hospital was one of the first responders at the scene of the crash and told the BBC he was met with "chaos".

"As soon as the plane door opened it was chaos. Everyone tried to get out through the exit," he said. "Thankfully there were about 20 boats in the water and we managed to get everyone off the plane."

Dr Yaingeluo said some of the passengers had suffered from hip fractures and would "probably have to be medevacked off the island".

Map showing key locations in Micronesia and Papua New Guinea
locals approaching the crashed Air Niugini aircraft on the remote Island of Weno, in Micronesia. Image copyright AFP
locals approaching to rescue passengers of the crashed Air Niugini aircraft on the remote Island of Weno Image copyright AFP

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