MANILA – Philippine authorities allowed a major airport to partially reopen to international and domestic flights Tuesday despite the damaged Korean Air plane stuck in the grass near the runway after a near-tragic accident over the weekend.
The airport on Mactan island in Cebu province, the country’s second-busiest, is reopening from sunrise to sunset to help ease the large numbers of canceled commercial flights and stranded passengers due to the Korean Air mishap Sunday night.
The Airbus A330 flying from Incheon, South Korea, carrying 173 people, attempted to land twice before overrunning the runway on the third attempt in rainy weather, Korean Air Lines Co. said in a statement.
The 162 passengers and 11 crewmembers escaped through emergency slides without any reports of serious injuries, Korean Air and Philippine authorities said.
But more than 100 international and domestic flights have been canceled since the accident due to the stuck aircraft, which authorities expect to tow away from a grassy area at the end of the runway later Tuesday at the earliest. Philippine civil aviation officials said the unaffected part of Mactan airport’s only usable runway could be reopened to flights during the daytime when visibility is good after it was cleared of debris from Sunday’s accident.
The front underbelly of the plane was sheared off and its nose was heavily damaged. The plane lay tipped forward on a grassy area with its front landing wheel not visible and emergency slides deployed at the doors. A ripped-open, gash-like hole was also visible at the top of the plane above a front door.
Philippine officials said Monday the plane’s remaining fuel would be siphoned off before efforts begin to remove the aircraft at the runway’s end.
The terrifying close call prompted a public apology from Korean Air’s president and a vow from one of Asia’s most prominent airlines to take steps to prevent a recurrence.
“We always prioritize safety in all of our operations, and we truly regret the stress and inconvenience brought to our passengers,” Korean Air President Woo Keehong said in a statement.
A Philippine investigation was underway to determine the cause of the accident, including why the pilot was allowed and proceeded to land despite the rainy weather.
Other aircraft managed to land safely in the same weather shortly before the Korean Air plane touched down, a Philippine aviation official said.