Asiana plane skids off runway at Hiroshima, Japan

JAPAN, APR 15: Air safety authorities in Japan are investigating how a South Korean Asiana Airlines plane skidded off a runway on landing at Hiroshima airport.

The 74 passengers and seven crew members used emergency chutes to evacuate the Airbus 320 in the incident late on Tuesday.

Local media reported that at least 20 people had minor injuries.

Transport ministry officials said a plane wheel may have clipped a radio facility near the runway on landing.

The structure, known as the localiser, helps aircraft find the landing strip. A fragment was found on the plane’s left wheel, Japan’s national broadcaster NHK reported.

Images from the scene showed apparent damage to the 6m (18ft) tower, with mangled metal torn down.

An aviation safety official told AFP news agency that the left side of the plane’s tail was damaged and the country’s transport safety board was investigating.

Asiana Airlines apologised for the incident, and said it had set up a response team to cope with the aftermath.

“As to the determination of the cause of the accident, we will co-operate as closely as possible with the relevant authorities,” it said.

Passengers told NHK that they heard an explosion after landing, and the cabin was soon filled with smoke and a burning smell. The plane also appeared to be sliding on the runway.

“There was smoke coming out and some of the oxygen masks fell down. Cabin attendants were in such a panic and I thought ‘we are going to die’,” one woman told Japanese networks on Tuesday night.

The plane was flying to Hiroshima from South Korea’s Incheon airport, near Seoul.

The airport was closed for several hours.

In July 2013, Asiana Airlines Flight 214 from Incheon crashed on landing at San Francisco airport after its tail clipped a sea wall.

Three people died in the crash – including one Chinese teenager who was run over by a firefighting vehicle in the chaos.

And two years prior to that, two Asiana pilots were killed when their China-bound cargo flight crashed into the sea off South Korea’s Jeju island.