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An Emirates Boeing 777 with 300 people on board crash landed at Dubai International Airport Wednesday, skidding along a runway and erupting into an intense fire — but the airline said all onboard survived.
An engine was torn from the right wing of the plane as it scraped to a halt, forcing passengers and crew to evacuate before the aircraft was gutted by fire.
Flights were halted at the airport — the busiest in the Middle East — as black smoke billowed from the wreckage.
Eyewitness Osama Alghamdi, a 23-year-old student, told NBC News that he saw a "huge, huge fire" and then "two explosions" while heading to his gate for a flight to Glasgow, Scotland.
"Everything took about 30 to 35 minutes," he added. "It was so scary."
Despite the scale of the fire and the speed at which it engulfed the jet, the evacuation of 282 passengers and 18 crew through inflatable slides appeared to have been successful.
The airline’s chairman and CEO, Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, said in a recorded message that “all passengers and crew are accounted for and safe.”
“We do not have all the details yet,” he said. “Thankfully, there were no fatalities. Our first priority is the care and well-being of our passengers and our crew, and to answer queries from their families and friends."
Flights at the airport — the home hub of Emirates — were expected to resume at about 6:30 p.m. local time (9.30 a.m. ET) but with substantial delays to thousands of passengers.
Six U.S. citizens were among the passengers and crew, the airline said.
Flight EK521 from Thiruvananthapuram, India, to Dubai landed at about 12:45 p.m. local time (4:45 a.m. ET). Tracking websites identified the jet as a Boeing 777-300 that was delivered to the airline in 2003.
The Aviation Herald reported that air traffic control recordings showed its pilots made a normal approach to runway 12L and no emergency was declared prior to landing.
An aviation industry source with knowledge of the accident told NBC News it may have been caused by a last-second attempt to abort the landing because of windshear, a sudden change in wind speed and direction that can make it too dangerous to land.
The gear was retracted in order to climb away for a second attempt at landing but the aircraft instead sank to the runway, the source said.
"The fire began to spread rapidly and by the time the fire engines got there the entire top half of the plane was on fire," said NBC News Digital chief technology officer Krishna Bhagavathula, who was also in the terminal.
He added that flames "seemed to be coming from the rear or back of the plane," which the airline confirmed was carrying 300 people.
Bhagavathula said the blaze was "under control within 15 to 20 minutes." He saw at least three fire engines.
"The entire top half of the plane is gone," he said.
Bhagavathula, who was making a connection while travelling from Seattle to the South African city of Johannesburg, said fire trucks did not reach the burning craft for "five or six minutes."
He added: "I would have thought in an airport situation the trucks would have been there in a minute … maybe it just took time.”