Fifty passengers and crew were injured when an airliner was struck by severe turbulence as it neared the end of a flight.
Terrified passengers told how those without their seatbelts fastened shot up and hit the ceiling of the Northwest Airlines flight from Manila to Tokyo.
The turbulence struck the Boeing 747-400 aircraft yesterday as it circled off the coast of Chiba, east of Tokyo. Ambulances met the plane when it landed at Narita International Airport, near the Japanese capital.
Four passengers were taken to hospital, including one with a serious neck injury, said Masashi Takahashi, a spokesman for Northwest. The 46 others, including seven crew members, received light injuries.
Japanese telelvision reports showed passengers holding their heads and necks as they left the plane.
“I was so scared, I thought I would die,” one traveller told the TBS network. “The plane shook so much, and my whole body hovered up in the air. Inside the cabin, everybody was screaming.”
Most of the injured passengers are believed to have been hurt by hitting their heads or twisting their necks.
“The plane started swaying left and right all of a sudden, then people flew up,” a male passenger told TV Asahi. “They bumped hard against the ceiling twice. It left at least three holes in the cabin ceiling as far as I could see.”
A low-pressure system off eastern Japan yesterday morning created strong winds and large thunderclouds that can cause air turbulence.
Mr Takahashi said the turbulence struck 25 to 30 minutes before the Boeing was due to land, when the seatbelt lights were on.