Three people have died and 179 have been injured after a plane split into three after skidding off a runway in Turkey.

The Boeing 737 passenger jet, owned by low-cost airline Pegasus, crashed into a field and broke into pieces.

Television footage showed passengers escaping the crash through cracks in the plane, as rescue workers fought to put out a fire.

The Transportation Ministry initially said there had been no deaths and described the incident as a "rough landing".

Rescue workers attend the crash in Istanbul, Turkey. Credit: AP

The airport was shut down and flights were being diverted to Istanbul's main airport.

At least 120 people were hospitalised after the crash. Credit: AP

The accident comes a month after another Pegasus plane skidded off the runway in Istanbul at the same airport.

There were no deaths or injuries in that incident on January 7.

It is rare for a fuselage to split open while pieces remain largely intact.

Planes are designed to absorb impact forces in the bottom of the fuselage to improve the chances that passengers in the cabin above will survive.

In 2013, the tail of an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 broke off after the jet hit a seawall during approach to San Francisco International Airport.

Three people died, 49 were seriously injured and scores more suffered minor injuries, according to the US accident report.