PYONGYANG, July 22 (Xinhua) -- A flight of Air Koryo, the national flag carrier of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), which was en route from Pyongyang to Beijing, Friday force-landed in China's northeastern city of Shenyang because of smoke in the aircraft, a passenger told Xinhua.
Smoke appeared in the cabin about 30 minutes after the plane took off from Pyongyang Sunan International Airport, said the passenger. Flight attendants told the passengers not to panic and that the plane will temporarily land at Shenyang Taoxian International Airport.
By that time, oxygen masks dropped down automatically and several passengers started to have difficulty breathing because of oxygen shortage in the cabin. The plane eventually force-landed in Shenyang after another ten minutes in the air.
Fire trucks were sent to the airport to deal with a possible fire. The aircraft was smoking when ground staff examined the plane, but no clear fire was spotted, the passenger said.
There was moderate rain in Shenyang when the aircraft force-landed, one of the possible reasons the smoke failed to turn into a fire.
No casualties have been reported so far.
A staff member at Pyongyang Sunan International Airport told Xinhua that the plane made the unscheduled landing because of a "malfunction," but more investigation is needed before determining the cause of the incident.
Air Koryo has sent an airplane to Beijing to fetch the passengers who are scheduled to board the force-landed plane to fly to Pyongyang. The fetched passengers are estimated to arrive in Pyongyang at around 7 p.m. local time (1030 GMT) Friday.
The airplane that force-landed in Shenyang is a Russian-made Tu-204. It took off from Pyongyang at 8:30 a.m. local time (0000 GMT) and was scheduled to arrive in Beijing in one and a half hours.h Air Koryo is the DPRK's only national airline company. Most of its fleet were made in Russia or the former Soviet Union.