A MEDICAL emergency and a mechanical problem left passengers on a United Airlines flight stuck for about 16 hours on the frigid tarmac of a Canadian airport in the plane’s barely heated interior, the CBC network reported.

United Flight 179 had taken off late Saturday from Newark, New Jersey en route to Hong Kong with about 250 passengers on board.

When a passenger suffered a medical problem the plane made an emergency landing at Goose Bay airport in Newfoundland, on Canada’s east coast.

But after paramedics took him to hospital, the plane was unable to take off, reportedly because bitterly cold temperatures of -30C had caused a door to freeze.

With no customs officers on duty overnight, passengers were forced to stay on board, many shivering under the thin blankets handed out by flight attendants.

With food and water running short roughly 10 hours into the ordeal, officials finally arrived to deliver supplies from the Tim Hortons fast-food chain, known in Canada for its coffee and doughnuts.

One of the passengers, Sonjay Dutt, reached by phone, said the plane was under-heated and that the arrival of the food and coffee was not enough to appease increasingly angry passengers.

A relief aircraft finally arrived in Goose Bay late Sunday morning.

After the passengers were transferred to the plane by bus, it took off in mid-afternoon to take them back to Newark, where they originally came from the day before.

Much of eastern Canada, as well as the US northeast, has been suffering through a glacial cold spell, with heavy snowfalls that have led to scores of flight cancellations.

At the end of the United ordeal, passenger Dutt  tweeted that “it’s been a long long long long day.”

There was no mention of how many doughnuts or cups of coffee the freezing passengers consumed, or whether warmer drinks — think brandy or whiskey — were dispensed.

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Buys

Bill Buys, probably Australia’s longest-serving motoring writer, has been at his craft for more than five decades. Athough motoring has always been in his DNA, he was also night crime reporter, foreign page editor and later chief reporter of the famed Rand Daily Mail. He’s twice been shot at, attacked by a rhinoceros and had several chilling experiences in aircraft. His experience includes stints in traffic law enforcement, motor racing and rallying and writing for a variety of local and international publications. He has covered countless events, ranging from world motor shows and Formula 1 Grands Prix to Targa tarmac and round-the-houses meetings. A motoring tragic, he has owned more than 90 cars. Somewhat of a nostalgic, he has a special interest in classic cars. He is the father of Targa star Robert Buys, who often adds his expertise to Bill’s reviews.