A Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong has been forced to make an emergency landing in Seattle after being struck by lightning while approaching its intended destination, Vancouver International Airport.
According to sources, there were no injuries on board but passengers were stranded in Seattle for the night.
Flight CX888, a Boeing 777-300ER plane, was travelling from Hong Kong to New York with a scheduled stopover in Vancouver. It departed from Hong Kong at about 1am on Sunday.
Passengers claimed they heard “a loud noise like a bang” and some thought an engine had come loose.
One of the passengers, a businessman surnamed Yip, complained that they were not informed of what had happened until after arriving in Seattle.
Yip said: “At first, we were told of poor ground conditions [in Vancouver] and we kept hovering in the air for about 45 minutes to one hour or so. Then we were told we had to divert to Seattle.
“It was not until we landed in Seattle and waited in the plane for about an hour that the captain said we actually got hit by lightning and the plane needed to be inspected.”
He recalled: “I think the lightning strike occurred about 40 to 60 minutes prior to landing.”
Through conversations with other passengers after the incident, Yip said that while still in the air, some on board had suspected that the plane was hit by lightning, while others thought that an engine had been seriously damaged.
Yip heard a loud noise but did not recall the aircraft shaking violently.
Passengers were told they had to stay in Seattle for the night but were not given further information about when they would be flown to Vancouver.
The airline arranged for passengers to stay in a local hotel for one night while those without a United States visa were allowed entry under the situation.
A spokesman for the carrier in Hong Kong said full details of the incident were not immediately available.
Poor runway conditions in Vancouver reportedly resulted in two diversions of major flights to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle. Apart from the Cathay Pacific flight, another affected flight was Air Canada 225 from Calgary.
According to media reports, South Vancouver was hit by heavy snowfall on the same night, with snow and ice on runways and taxiways quickly accumulating even after they were cleared.