A Malaysia Airlines plane
Malaysia Airlines MH122 suffered major mid-air turbulence on a flight from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur Greg Wood/AFP/Getty Images

Passengers on board a Malaysia Airlines flight recounted their panic and fear after the plane began rattling and was forced to make an emergency landing.

Flight MH122 was on its way from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur on Thursday afternoon (18 January), but as it approached Broome, in Australia's north-west, it was forced to divert and land in Alice Springs shortly before 5.50pm local time.

Passengers said before it was diverted, the plane, which was carrying 224 people, had started shaking and making loud noises.

Chris Kanani, the husband of a passenger, told ABC News his wife had described the experience as "hell".

"She said she was on the loo when she started hearing loud banging noises from the right-hand side of the plane and that's when all it started," he explained.

"It was like hell, this flight, and they were told to be ready for an emergency landing."

Another passenger recounted seeing people crying and praying as the Airbus A330-300 began to shudder.

"It was shaking and vibrating and the noise was getting louder and louder," he told the BBC.

"Some people were praying and people had tears in their eyes. It was a really terrifying moment."

Naveen Henri said the fate of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared without trace in March 2014 on a flight between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing, sprung to mind during the incident.

"[We were a bit scared] after hearing so many stories about what's happening in the air travel at the moment and at the same time what's happened to Malaysian Airlines not so long ago," he said.

The airline said the aircraft had been forced to land due to "technical reasons" but insisted security had not been compromised, adding all affected passengers had been given hotel accommodation, meals and transportation.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) will now investigate the incident, analysing the available evidence and interviewing the flight crew.

"The ATSB will be investigating the in-flight engine shutdown and diversion of a twin-engine Airbus A330 which landed safely at Alice Springs Airport, Northern Territory last night," an ATSB spokesman was quoted as saying by Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"The ATSB will release a report into the occurrence once the investigation has concluded.

"Should a critical safety issue be identified during the course of the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify relevant parties."