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Passengers on a South African Airways jet had a traumatising flight after the aircraft was hit by severe turbulence on Wednesday.
Flight SA286, an Airbus A340-300, was carrying 165 passengers from Johannesburg, South Africa to Hong Kong. The airliner hit turbulence while crossing Malaysian airspace as most passengers were sleeping. Some were thrown out their seats, hitting the ceiling and overhead lockers.
"It was like the end of the world, passenger David Mkumbuje, who was travelling to Guangzhou for business, told the South China Morning Post. He received a scratch to his head.
"The Airbus A340-300 is an exceedingly large aircraft, but you would not have guessed that, from the way it was tossed about - like a toy," said another passenger Miyanda Siamoongwa in an email interview with South African news site News 24.
The pilot decided not to land in other cities and instead headed straight to Hong Kong. He requested Hong Kong to provide assistance upon landing.
The plane landed safely at Hong Kong International Airport after noon. Fourteen ambulances were ready on the tarmac and took the passengers to the closest hospitals.
Twenty passengers, including 17 passengers and three crew members, were injured, two of them seriously. The majority of the wounded have been discharged from the hospital and the two people receiving medical treatment in Hong Kong are said to be in stable condition.
Aviation expert Vincent Lessing told News 24 that the flight seemed to have encountered Clear-Air Turbulence, which cannot be detected by human eyes or conventional radar.
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