For anyone watching from inside the terminal at Dubai International Airport on Wednesday, it was a terrifying sight: a Boeing 777 crash-landing on its belly and skidding across the tarmac before exploding in a fireball.
As billows of black smoke poured from the plane, emergency teams went to work. Within minutes, all 300 people aboard — 282 passengers and 18 crew members — had been rescued, airport officials said. One firefighter died, authorities said.
According to a statement by the Rashid Hospital, where the injured were taken, fewer than 10 passengers were treated for smoke inhalation and burns, Gulf News reported. Only one was admitted for long-term treatment.
The cause of the crash of Emirates Flight 521, which originated in the southern Indian state of Kerala, was not immediately clear.
Emirates' chairman and president of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Sheik Ahmed bin Saeed Maktoum, issued a video statement online confirming the accident and that all on board had survived.
"We do not … know all the details related to this accident," Maktoum said. He promised full cooperation with authorities as they investigated the crash.
In a news conference later, Maktoum confirmed that the plane had been inspected recently and that "it was very much clear to land that day," local media reported.
He said the plane may have aborted its initial landing because of wind shear.
The one fatality was identified by the General Civil Aviation Authority of the United Arab Emirates as firefighter Jassim Bloushi from the northern emirate of Ras al Khaima.
The Emirates airline, known for its luxurious first-class accommodations, has an excellent safety record.
The Aviation Herald, a website specializing in the aviation industry, said that according to air traffic control recordings, the "aircraft performed a normal approach and landing," but that the control tower "had reminded the crew of lowering the gear and cleared the aircraft to land."
The crew then announced they would "go around," and the tower ordered the plane to climb to 4,000 feet, the Herald said. Instead, it plowed into the runway. It was unclear whether the landing gear had been deployed.
Passengers in the airport, one of the world's busiest travel hubs, flooded social media with dramatic images and videos of the stricken jet. One of them shows the moment the plane's right side, slumped on the tarmac, blew up.
Other video posted on Twitter depicts passengers racing to leave the plane, their gait made awkward by carry-on luggage as a trail of black smoke rises from the fuselage.
The passengers were mostly Indian nationals but included people from 19 other countries, authorities said.
Sai Bhaskar, a passenger who was quoted by Indian news outlet Mathrubhumi, said that "there was no announcement about any technical snag" and that he felt "as if the flight first landed, went up again and hit the ground."
"When smoke engulfed the flight, we realized there was something amiss and felt there was some danger," he said.
Saudi news outlet Al Arabiya broadcast images of emergency crews extinguishing the fire. Once the flames had died down, the full scale of the damage could be seen, underscoring how lucky passengers had been to get out of the plane alive.
The fire chewed through the top of the fuselage, with the entire plane listing to one side and the slides akimbo.
After a several-hour delay, flights in and out of the airport resumed.
Dubai International Airport, seen as the crown jewel of Dubai's "open arms" policy toward business and tourism, is a vital hub that has seen more than a tenfold increase in passenger traffic over the last 26 years.
Those on board included 226 Indians, 24 Britons, 11 Emiratis, and six each from the United States and Saudi Arabia.
Bulos is a special correspondent.
10:05 a.m.: This article was updated throughout with staff reporting.
6:23 a.m.: This article was updated with additional information about the passengers and about flight delays.
4:15 a.m.: This article was updated with information about fatalities and new onboard total.
3:35 a.m.: The article was updated throughout with new details.
3:25 a.m.: This article was updated with information about evacuations.
3:10 a.m.: This article was updated with number of passengers.
2:50 a.m.: This article was updated with additional details.