HONG KONG - Cathay Pacific Airways says nine people were injured when a Boeing 747 hit severe turbulence over Japan.
The airline said two crew members and six passengers were taken to hospital after the jet landed in Hong Kong on Tuesday evening. Another passenger who sustained an injury didn't require hospitalization.
The 747-400, which departed from San Francisco, was carrying 321 passengers and a crew of 21. It encountered the turbulence near Hokkaido around noon Hong Kong time Tuesday.
Cable News television showed one passenger being taken away in a stretcher.
A passenger surnamed Wu told local TV news channels he felt like he was a on a roller coaster during the turbulence, which lasted two minutes. He said some passengers were thrown out of their seats and hit the overhead bins.
The incident came one day after violent turbulence triggered "pandemonium" aboard a United Airlines flight in the U.S. and sent passengers and crew flying through the cabin, according to company representatives and passengers.
Drinks had just been served and passengers were moving around the cabin on Flight 1676 from Denver to Billings, Mont., on Monday when the plane started to lurch, said passenger Ejay Old Bull.
"It was a solid 20 seconds of pandemonium," said Old Bull, a 26-year-old graduate student. "What really hurt people and what really got everyone panicked was when the plane tipped to the right and dropped for about four or five seconds. That's when people started praying."
Old Bull said he watched his seatmate crash headfirst into the overhead luggage bin and briefly lose consciousness, and a crew member was bouncing around in the galley just behind his seat.
Passenger Joe Frank, 20, said the plane dropped violently, followed by screams. Frank said he was thrown to the ceiling, banging his head.
He said a baby in a seat one row back had been thrown out of its parent's arms and landed safely on an empty seat across the aisle.
"As we leveled off, you heard a father cry out, 'Where's my baby?' That's when I turned around and heard a guy say, 'It's right here,'" Frank said.
The Boeing 737-300 has been taken out of service while the airline reviews what happened, United spokeswoman Christen David said.
A spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board said the agency was gathering details on the severity of injuries and whether there was any damage to the aircraft. That information will determine if a full-scale investigation is warranted, said NTSB spokesman Terry Williams.
During the last decade, about 33 people annually were injured during turbulence on airplanes, with crew members suffering most of the injuries, according to information from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Turbulence is caused by air movements created by weather events such as thunderstorms, cold or warm fronts and air moving around mountains, according to the FAA. It can occur unexpectedly and when the sky appears clear.
Authorities say staying buckled up is one of the easiest ways to prevent injuries.