Plane makes emergency landing after getting pounded by hailstorm over Paraguay

The 48 passengers on the LATAM flight recounted scenes of panic as the aircraft lost an engine and was rocked in every direction. Aviation authorities in Chile, where the plane took off, have opened an investigation

An Airbus-320, operated by LATAM Paraguay, is parked at the Silvio Pettirossi International Airport.

The 48 passengers of LATAM Airlines Flight 1325, which took off on Wednesday from Santiago de Chile bound for Asunción (Paraguay), have recounted scenes of panic after making an emergency landing caused by severe weather conditions. Videos shared on social media show the aircraft rocking and people screaming as the plane got caught in a hailstorm that took out an engine, smashed the windshield and destroyed the nose.

Civil aviation authorities in Chile said they have opened an investigation into the incident. The flight had previously made an unscheduled stop in Foz do Iguazú Airport in Brazil at 6.43pm local time because of worsening weather conditions over Asunción. Passengers remained inside the aircraft for around two hours, after which the flight was allowed to resume its journey. According to the airline, the weather conditions had improved enough to justify this decision.

Instead, the airplane encountered severe weather and was battered by hailstones that badly damaged the aircraft. “It was the most terrifying experience in my whole life,” the former Paraguayan model Pabla Tholem told the local TV station ABC, as quoted by the Chilean media outlet Emol. “While everyone was panicking, my seatbelt came undone and I screamed for someone to help me. I couldn’t do it alone, because I had my daughter in my arms, holding her tight. A man came to help me and my baby clung to him. I started vomiting,” she said.

After what seemed like an eternity for what is normally a 30-minute flight between the Brazilian airport and Silvio Pettirossi International Airport in Asunción, “the flight attendants started shouting in English, then [the plane] started to slow down and that’s when we started to breathe again. All the passengers got out as fast as they could.”

According to LATAM Airlines, both the passengers and the crew arrived in Paraguay in good physical condition and were immediately assisted by ground personnel. “The weather conditions encountered during the route impacted the operation and caused external damage to the aircraft,” the company said. The president of the Directorate of Civil Aviation of Paraguay, Félix Kanazawa, said that “this type of aircraft is prepared to fly with a single engine,” AFP reported.

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