source: International Herald Tribune, 25.07.08
Air Mauritius flight catches fire on takeoff in India, but 252 on board safely evacuated
NEW DELHI: A plane taking off from New Delhi's main airport caught fire forcing all 252 passengers and crew to escape through an emergency exit, airport officials said Friday.
The Air Mauritius pilot apparently braked suddenly as the plane prepared for takeoff, and this might have sparked a fire that spread to the jetliner's undercarriage, said Indira Gandhi International Airport spokesman Arun Arora.
Rescue workers and firefighters rushed to evacuate the plane and put out the blaze Thursday afternoon.
All 241 passengers and 11 crew on the New Delhi to Mauritius flight escaped safely through the emergency exit, although there was some panic, newspapers reported.
"The children were crying and the elderly were finding it difficult to get out of the plane," Rahul Gautam, an insurance salesman who was on the flight, told the Hindustan Times newspaper
Local media reported the accident was caused by a bird that hit the plane, but Arora could not confirm that and said the incident was under investigation.
Air Mauritius officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
Wildlife seeking refuge often delay flights in New Delhi, especially during the monsoon season between June and September.
Last month, jackals, monitor lizards and raptors drying off on the airport's runway forced authorities to briefly delay all incoming and outgoing flights.