Legislator stranded in Alaska for 2 days

Legislator Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee yesterday told of being stranded for two days in Alaska after the terror attacks.

Mrs Chow was on board the first flight to return to Hong Kong from the United States after the country reopened most of its airports.

Flight CX 889 was supposed to arrive in Hong Kong from New York via Vancouver on Wednesday, but was diverted to Anchorage after the terror strikes.

Mrs Chow was stranded for two days with other passengers in Anchorage until Thursday morning. 'We didn't know what was going on at all after landing at Anchorage,' she said. 'We were very anxious to find out. Some were Americans who were able to get in touch with their family members on their mobile phones.

'We were told that two flights had crashed into the twin towers and no flights would be allowed to operate in the US. The captain was putting radio programmes on the broadcast system so we were told about the news.'

Mrs Chow said she and the other passengers were put up at a hotel while late-comers for the flight had to sleep at the airport.

Another woman passenger said: 'We were told there were hijack incidents on other planes but no details were given until we checked into a hotel and watched CNN when we realised what had happened in New York.'

The flight was finally allowed to depart on Thursday morning and arrived at Chek Lap Kok at 1.50pm yesterday.

While Cathay Pacific and Air Canada resumed some of their flights to the US and Canada, Northwest Airlines and United Airlines did not operate any flights yesterday. The first flight to North America, CX 838, a non-stop service to Vancouver operated by Cathay Pacific, departed at 4.10pm as scheduled.

The Airport Authority said an estimated 7,000 passengers had been stranded. Many had to sleep at the airport as most airlines would only provide accommodation for those who had their flights delayed overnight or diverted.

Four US-bound cargo planes took off from the airport early yesterday, the first cargo flights to leave for the US since the country's airports were closed.

A spokesman for Hongkong Air Cargo Terminals Ltd (Hactl) said that most airlines were focusing on passengers as no clearance had yet been given to load cargo on to passenger jets.

The big three express operators, Federal Express, DHL and United Parcel Service, have all been approved to resume flights between Asia and the US.

It estimated that during the three days of disruption Hactl was unable to deliver at least 1,500 tonnes of cargo as scheduled. However, only about 600 tonnes remained in storage last night as the rest had been placed with alternative modes of transport.