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12 Australians on crashed Japan Airlines A350 survive

written by Adam Thorn | January 3, 2024

The Japan Airlines A350 that burst into flames in Tokyo (@alto_maple)

All 12 Australians onboard the Japan Airlines A350 that burst into flames at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport yesterday are safe, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has confirmed.

It came alongside reports that all 379 passengers and crew travelling on the next-generation Airbus survived, although five crew on a smaller Dash 8 the widebody struck died.

Social media user alto_maple, seemingly a passenger onboard, posted extraordinary footage from inside the cabin minutes after the fire began.

The A350-900 was flying from Shin Chitose airport, near Sapporo, into the Japanese capital when a loud bang was heard as it approached the runway.

The aircraft quickly became engulfed in flames and smoke, but the quick-thinking cabin crew evacuated all on board via the emergency exit slides. In total, just 14 passengers and crew sustained minor injuries.

Passenger Anton Deibe, 17, told Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet that “the entire cabin was filled with smoke within a few minutes”.

“We threw ourselves down on the floor,” he said. “Then the emergency doors were opened and we threw ourselves at them.

“The smoke in the cabin stung like hell. It was hell. We have no idea where we are going so we just run out into the field. It was chaos.”

It’s still unknown what caused the apparent explosion, which saw the fuselage break in two and burn on the runway for more than two hours after the evacuation.

The crash was the first involving Airbus’ next-generation A350, which is more fuel-efficient than traditional long-haul aircraft and is constructed from advanced materials such as carbon fibre-reinforced plastic.

Qantas has ordered 12 A350s to replace the bulk of its ageing A330 fleet, alongside a separate order for 12 specially adapted A350-1000 jets to launch Project Sunrise.

The aircraft that exploded, JA13XJ, was just two years old and mostly flew domestically across Japan.

The European planemaker said it was dispatching a team of specialists to assist local authorities and would “communicate further details when available”.

Meanwhile, it later emerged those onboard the smaller Dash 8 were from the Japanese Coast Guard and were preparing to fly to Ishikawa to deliver supplies to those affected by the New Year’s Day earthquake.

Only the captain survived, and it is still unknown how a potential collision with the larger aircraft occurred.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said, “I express my respect and gratitude to their sense of mission.”

Immediately after the incident, all four runways at Haneda were closed, with flights diverted to local airports. The three unaffected runways reopened in the early hours of the morning.

Japan Airlines said in a statement, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the deceased members of the Japan Coast Guard.

“We want to assure you that all passengers and crew on our flight were safely evacuated. We would like to extend our sincerest apologies for the distress and inconvenience caused to our passengers, their families, and all those affected by this incident.

“We would like to assure you that we will provide our full cooperation in the investigation of this unfortunate event.”

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