By Neil Marks
GEORGETOWN (Reuters) - A packed Caribbean Airlines jet carrying 163 people crashed and broke in two on Saturday as it landed in Guyana at night, injuring several passengers but killing no one.
The Boeing 737-800 overshot the runway and burst through a perimeter fence after arriving at Georgetown's Cheddi Jagan airport just past midnight from New York. The front of the plane snapped off and it stopped meters from a deep jungle ravine.
Passengers screamed when the plane lost control and many fled through emergency exits when it finally came to a stop, a local newspaper reported.
"It was terror," a woman passenger whose husband opened the exit door told Kaieteur News. "I was praying to Jesus."
One passenger suffered a broken leg, an airline spokeswoman said, and others reported neck and back injuries.
"We are very, very thankful and grateful that there are no deaths," Guyana's President Bharrat Jagdeo said at the airport.
A photo published by local newspaper Stabroek News showed a Caribbean Airlines plane with the half its fuselage broken off and resting in thick undergrowth.
Flight BW-523 was carrying 157 passengers and six crew. The Trinidad and Tobago-based Caribbean Airlines said it did not know the cause of the accident. Investigators from the United States and Guyana were sent to retrieve the black box.
The summer months are a busy travel period in Guyana as many citizens who live overseas return for vacations. The airport closed for several hours after the crash but reopened by midday.
Boeing's 737-800 model was introduced in 1996 and has previously suffered eight serious crashes causing a total of 525 deaths, according to the Flight Safety Foundation.
(Additional reporting by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Doina Chiacu)