Video: Passengers tell of panic as roof of plane rips open mid-air

Terrified passengers have spoken of their terror after the roof of a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 tore open in mid-air at 36,000 feet.

The plane, which was heading out of Phoenix airport in Arizona, had to make a nosedive and an emergency landing at a military base in Yuma, Arizona, after the incident caused a sudden loss of cabin pressure.

Passengers, none of whom were injured, have been talking about the terrifying experience of seeing the sky through the ceiling. SCROLL DOWN TO SEE VIDEO.

Passenger Sandra Haros told KTAR, an ABC News Radio affiliate in Phoenix: 'My husband, who was sitting right underneath this, could look up and see a hole in the roof of the plane, and could see the sky up there, which was a little disconcerting.'

One girl describes the incident as 'the scariest moment of my life'.

The Southwest flight had taken off from Phoenix Sky Harbour International Airport, bound for Sacramento, California, with 118 passengers on board.

For the first 20 minutes or so, all appeared normal as the plane climbed to 36,000 feet.

Traveller Brenda Reese was asleep, and awoke to what she described as a 'gunshot-like' sound.

Soon, the roof opened up and passengers described a gaping hole, three to four feet long and a foot wide, right next to the luggage compartment.

The plane suffered a rapid decompression, oxygen masks popped out and the plane went into a dive, according to passengers and officials.

The Southwest pilots radioed air traffic control, declared an emergency, and began a rapid descent - quickly diving to a lower altitude so passengers would be able to breathe on their own.

According to reports, the jet plunged from 36,000 to 19,000 feet in just one minute. Within five minutes, it reached the safer altitude of 11,000 feet.

Some terrified passengers thought their time had come. One man even sent his wife a text saying: 'Plane going down. Love you.'

Watch the passengers' reactions on the ABC news footage below:

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