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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Chaos at Kathmandu airport after jet skids off runway

Pilots of the Malindo Air 737 aborted take-off as plane was picking up speed

Officials check an aircraft belonging to Malindo Airlines that skidded off the runway during take off on the night of April 19, 2018 at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal. Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters
Officials check an aircraft belonging to Malindo Airlines that skidded off the runway during take off on the night of April 19, 2018 at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal. Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters

Nepal's only international airport was shut down for more than 12 hours on Friday after a Malaysian jet carrying 139 people aborted its take-off and skidded into mud.

Nobody was hurt when the Malindo Air Boeing 737 went off the runway in Kathmandu late on Thursday but hundreds of passengers were stranded at the airport after flights were cancelled and incoming aircraft were diverted.

Airport spokesman Prem Nath Thakur said the jet was speeding down the Tribhuvan International Airport runway when the pilots detected a problem and aborted take-off.

The plane skidded into grass and came to a halt in mud about 30 metres from the runway.

"All aboard are safe," Mr Thakur said.

The cause of the problem was not immediately known.

The airport reopened just before midday on Friday after the jet was "removed without any damage", Mr Thakur said.

American traveller Sarah Ann Loreth, who was heading to Doha before returning to her home in Boston, said she spent hours on her plane after the emergency.

"We were supposed to take off on Thursday but couldn't because of the Malaysia flight," she said.

"Around 2am the flight attendant informed us the other flight had slipped off the runway and was stuck in the mud and could not be moved.

"They deplaned us around 2.30 am and it was pure chaos. We went back to the terminal and they had our bags laid out behind the counter and we just went behind and grabbed them."

Cars eventually took the passengers to hotels to wait for a rescheduled flight, she said.

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Read more:

Nepal probes deadly air crash after runway confusion

Air safety in 2018: should we be concerned about flying?

Air safety: the challenges ahead

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The incident came one month after a US-Bangla Airways plane crashed at the airport, killing 51 people.

In March 2015, a Turkish Airlines jet skidded off the runway as it landed, forcing Tribhuvan Airport to close for four days.

Nepal has some of the world's most remote and tricky runways, flanked by snow-capped peaks with approaches that pose a challenge even for accomplished pilots.

The Himalayan country also has a poor air safety record. Accidents are common and Nepal-based airlines are banned from flying in European Union airspace.