A Caribbean Airlines plane carrying 157 passengers, including a dozen Canadians and six crew members, crashed while landing in Guyana early Saturday and broke in two, causing several injuries but no deaths.
One Canadian on board suffered a minor injury, according to a statement from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in Ottawa. Officials have been in contact with local authorities and are making consular aid available to those in need.
The Boeing 737-800 apparently overshot the 2,200-metre runway at Cheddi Jagan International Airport in rainy weather. It barely missed a 60-metre ravine that could have resulted in dozens of fatalities, President Bharrat Jagdeo said.
"We are very, very grateful that more people were not injured," he said as authorities closed the airport, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded and delaying dozens of flights.
The cause of the crash was not immediately clear.
Rescue crews struggled in the dark to free passengers from the plane's wreckage.
A doctor at Georgetown Public Hospital told CBC News that most of the injured suffered only bruises and have been treated and released. Three or four had to remain in hospital for treatment of fractures, but none is in critical condition. The doctor did not know the exact number of people who received medical care at the hospital.
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The Guyana Civil Aviation Authority said the airport will remain closed until 10 p.m. local time while an investigation is conducted. The airline said it would release more details as they become available.
The plane had left New York and made a stop in Trinidad before landing in Guyana.
The crash is one of only a few serious incidents involving the Trinidad-based airline that is the single largest carrier in the region.
'I am upset that no one came to rescue us in the dark, but a taxi driver appeared from nowhere and charged me $20 to take me to the terminal. I had to pay, but in times of emergencies, you don't charge people for a ride.' —Passenger Geeta Ramsingh of Philadelphia
Among the injured was Geeta Ramsingh, 41, of Philadelphia, who said passengers had just started to applaud the touchdown "when it turned to screams," she said, pointing to bruises on her knees. She said she hopped onto the wing and then onto the dirt road outside the runway fence.
"I am upset that no one came to rescue us in the dark, but a taxi driver appeared from nowhere and charged me $20 to take me to the terminal. I had to pay, but in times of emergencies, you don't charge people for a ride," she said, sitting on a chair in the arrival area surrounded by relatives. She was returning to her native country for only the second time in 30 years.
Adis Cambridge, 42, of Guyana, said she felt the thump of a hard landing but did not think much of it until seconds later.
"I realized that everything was on top of me, people and bags. I was the second to last person to get off that plane in the dark," she said, surrounded by her two young children who had come to the airport to meet her after a brief holiday in the U.S.
"I hit my head on the roof. It was so scary," she said as she described hopping onto the wing and then jumping down to the dirt road below as crews with flashlights and beams from fire engines searched for passengers.
Some passengers asked authorities for their luggage but were told it was not a priority at the time.
Jagdeo said he has asked the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board to help investigate the crash.