Bangkok — Thirty-two people were hospitalized Thursday after a China Airlines Boeing 747-400 hit severe turbulence en route from Hong Kong to Bangkok, a Thai aviation official said.
“The flight CI 641 from Hong Kong hit turbulence 20 minutes before landing and we have sent 32 injured people to three nearby hospitals,” Airports of Thailand president Seererat Prasutanont told Agence France-Presse.
Among the injured were 21 passengers and 11 crew members, he said.
The airline disputed Thailand’s toll, saying that only 21 people had been hurt.
China Airlines, Taiwan’s leading carrier, said only two Chinese passengers had been hospitalized, while 15 travellers and four cabin crew received minor injuries.
Chaiwat Banthuamporn, deputy director of Bangkok’s Smithivej Sri Nakharin hospital, where 20 of the injured were taken, backed the Thai official’s version of events.
Chaiwat said most of the injuries were minor bruises and sprains.
“Eleven of the 20 have been discharged and only four are still under observation,” he said. “Almost all of them are Chinese nationals,” he added.
Thai officials said the plane was carrying 147 passengers and 11 crew while the airline said 163 passengers were aboard.
Fourteen of the injured were from Thailand, the United States and Israel, the airline added.
The plane, which had begun its journey in the Taiwanese capital Taipei Thursday morning and landed in Hong Kong for a brief stopover, finally landed safely at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport at 1:23 p.m.
It was the second incident of severe turbulence for the carrier in less than two weeks.
Some 30 people, including one man who suffered a fractured spine, were injured on September 20 when another China Airlines jet hit severe turbulence en route from Taiwan to Indonesia’s Bali island.
The plane was not damaged in the September incident and later returned to Taiwan, the airline said.