Five killed, 367 passengers safe after JAL airliner crashes into quake aid plane at Tokyo airport

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The plane was an Airbus A350, Japanese media reported. Kyodo News via AP.

Tokyo, Japan. Five people have been killed in an aircraft accident in Japan after a passenger aircraft collided with a coastguard plane at Tokyo’s Haneda airport.

The Airbus A350-900 was carrying 379 people when it caught fire after colliding with a Japan Coast Guard DHC-8 aircraft that had six people on board, Transport Minister Tetsuo Saito said at a news conference.

Five of the JCG crew were killed in the crash, while the captain was seriously injured.

The coast guard aircraft was flying earthquake relief to Niigata prefecture on the country’s west coast after a series of strong tremors killed at least 55 people and left widespread damage, Saito said.

There was no immediate information about the cause of the accident, he added.

All 367 passengers and 12 crew from the Japan Airlines flight managed to escape via emergency slides, according to the airline.

People peer out the window after a Japan Airlines plane caught fire on a runway at Haneda airport in Tokyo, on January 2. The plane collided with a Japan Coast Guard earthquake relief aircraft while landing.

Video footage showed the plane skidding along a runway with flames coming from under its wings. The aircraft was later seen engulfed in flames, with emergency services battling to control the blaze.

Passengers from the plane, which was coming from the Japanese island of Hokkaido, who were interviewed by television news crews after the incident, said they thought the plane had landed safely when they suddenly saw fire outside the windows and smoke filling the cabin.

“We thought we weren’t going to make it,” said one woman travelling with a small child.

Coastguard officials and a spokesperson for JAL said the collision appeared to have taken place on the runway itself, but footage from public broadcaster NHK seems to show the JAL flight already in trouble as it nears the ground.

Mobile phone footage shared on social media, which appears to have been shot by JAL passengers, showed the cabin filling with smoke as the plane came to a halt on the runway.

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Fumio Kishida, Japan’s prime minister, has called for a full investigation into the cause of the accident.

Toulouse-based Airbus said it was dispatching a team of specialists to assist the Japanese and French investigators. “The twin-engine A350 is Airbus’ flagship widebody aircraft which entered into service in 2015. It is powered by Rolls-Royce XWB engines.

The A350 is made of 51 per cent lightweight composite materials and [this] marks the first time that an A350 hull has been destroyed by accident,” it added.

Japan’s tourism minister Tetsuo Saito told reporters that the JCG aircraft was taking emergency supplies to Niigata to support the region affected by Monday’s earthquake.

“We will put all our energy into investigating the cause and ensuring the incident does not occur again,” he added. The coastguard service is also investigating the incident.

Haneda, which is Japan’s busiest airport and handles 490 flights per day, closed after the incident but three of its four runways are now back in operation.