A passenger airliner was forced to make an emergency landing at Mogadishu’s international airport in Somalia late Tuesday afternoon when, shortly after takeoff, a loud bang signaled the beginning of a fire and explosion on the craft that then tore a large gaping hole in the plane’s fuselage.
Passengers on board Flight D3159, operated by Daallo Airlines, reportedly heard a loud bang before the fire broke out and the plane made its emergency landing. Officials reported that two persons out of the 74 passengers and crew that were on the plane were injured. Somali aviation official Ali Mohamoud said that the plane did eventually land safely and all persons on-board the flight were evacuated. The plane actually landed at the same airport it was due to fly out from, since, as witnesses and officials confirmed, it was only minutes after takeoff that the explosion and subsequent hole occurred. The plane was on course to travel to Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa.
Daallo Airlines CEO Mohammed Ibrahim Yassin advised that the plane had reached an altitude of 10,000 feet.
“Fifteen minutes the aircraft was in the air. There was a bang, a sort of an explosion, and then it returned safely. There are two minor injuries. We don’t know what caused it … Anything is possible. By tomorrow the picture will be clearer.”
Reports are also stating that in addition to the injured, one man may have actually been torn from the plane by the explosion. According to Fox News, the body of a man turned up miles away from the Somalia airport around the same time as the plane caught fire, and police believe that he may have fallen from the passenger jet. Residents of Bal’ad, an agricultural town that is about 18 miles north of Mogadishu, alerted law enforcement after they spotted the body of an old man. Other reports are that a burning body was seen falling from the plane in Dhiiqaley, near the town of Bal’ad, but about 37 miles to the north of Mogadishu. Officials have not confirmed that any passenger from the flight is unaccounted for, but they expect to know more by tomorrow.
Awale Kullane, Somalia’s alternate ambassador to the United Nations, was on board the flight, and took to Facebook to comment on what he experienced on board. Kullane wrote that he “heard a loud noise and couldn’t see anything but smoke for a few seconds.” When the smoke had eventually cleared, everyone could see that “quite a chunk” of the plane was missing. The ambassador and other passengers also posted video footage of the plane and its passengers after the explosion. The videos show oxygen masks hanging from the ceiling while the wind blows through the plane’s cabin, the passengers all seemed relatively calm and some even had their own cell phones out to take videos of the incident.
Popular Mechanics wrote that the explosion and fire in the plane that left the gaping hole is “suspicious,” and an editor from Aviation Weekly had posted side-by-side images comparing the hole in Flight D3159 to that of an infamous flight bombing in 1986 on Flight TWA 840.
A bomb had been hidden under a seat of Flight TWA 840 that exploded and caused the cabin to depressurize. Four persons, including a 7-month-old infant, were subsequently sucked out of the plane. There were seven other persons injured by the shrapnel from the blast as well.
According to Somali officials, the incident is still under investigation and they could not definitely say what had caused the explosion and gaping hole as yet. The suspected causes range from fuselage failure to the possibility that an oxygen tank blew up.
Reportedly, a source told CNN that initial tests ran on the damaged aircraft “came back positive for explosive residue.”
[Photo by AP Images]