KUCHING: The retrieval of the AirAsia Airbus that skidded and stopped at
the verge of Kuching International Airport (KIA) runway yesterday forced the closure of the airport.
As a result many flights – both those of AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines as well as those of several others – had to be cancelled.
An inside source told The Borneo Post that the KIA closure ended around 9pm last night, soon after the ill-fated aircraft was removed.
Earlier, AirAsia had also prepared a dedicated phone line for guests affected by the closure of Kuching International Airport (KIA) and cancellation of flights.
Affected guests are advised to call 603-2614 2999, and enter password 123110111, the company said.
It also revealed that initial reports indicated that visibility was good enough for an approach and landing to be made.
Explaining the background of the incident, AirAsia said the captain of the affected plane managed to bring the aircraft to a safe stop and carried out a precautionary evacuation in line with the company’s standard operating procedures.
It also said it would carry out a full investigation with the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA).
“There were 123 passengers on board the flight. Four were sent for observation as a precautionary measure and were released shortly after. All others are safe and have been attended to accordingly,” it said through a press statement.
On Monday night, the passengers of Flight AK5218 from Kuala Lumpur to Kuching were said to have gone through a terrifying experience when the aircraft skidded on the runway upon landing.
The incident happened around 10.15pm during a heavy downpour. Initially, sources said four of the passengers were unwell.
Some of those involved were said to suffer from asthma and heart problems, but the seriousness of their conditions could not be established.
Ambulances were, however, seen rushing to KIA to attend to passengers.
After the plane stopped moving, passengers said a flight attendant instructed them to calm down.
At some point smoke became visible inside the plane, leading to the opening of exit doors and activation of emergency slides.
The Borneo Post received a call from Balai Ringin assemblyman Snowdan Lawan, who was on the plane with his wife Melinda Claudia, regarding the incident around 10.30pm.
He said the first thing he grabbed was his small cabin bag as it contained important documents.
Snowdan, who is Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) deputy secretary, said he travels regularly and never had such a bad experience before.
He even lost his shoes in the mud.
He and several others had to walk barefooted to the fire and rescue centre where they received attention from airport staff.
Snowdan said there were several children on the plane and most passengers were badly shaken by the ordeal.
He said it was possible that the plane’s nose-wheel might have been damaged because he felt the plane was tilted at the front.
Around 11.30pm at the airport lobby, relatives and friends of the passengers as well as members of the media were seen waiting for news.
Prior to the incident, Snowdan said he had a ‘bad intuition’ that something was going to happen.
He said there was turbulence during the flight, probably because of the heavy rain.
“Fortunately, there was no report of fatality. However, most of us passengers were shaken,” he said.