Explosion leaves gaping hole in plane, forcing emergency landing in Somalia


A plane operated by Daallo Airlines sits on the runway of the airport in Mogadishu, Somalia, on Tuesday after a hole in its side forced an emergency landing. (AP)

An explosion blasted a hole into the fuselage of a commercial airplane as it flew over Africa on Tuesday, forcing an emergency landing in Somalia.

After Tuesday’s explosion, the plane returned to Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital city, according to the Associated Press. The blast, which is being investigated, occurred after the Airbus 321 took off from the Mogadishu airport.

Capt. Vlatko Vodopivec, the 64-year-old pilot, told the news service that he had been told a bomb caused the explosion. Other officials told the AP that their investigation hadn’t turned up evidence of a crime.

“It was my first bomb,” Vodopivec said. “I hope it will be the last.”

Daallo Airlines wrote on its Facebook page that a plane operated by Hermes Airlines was headed for Djibouti when there was “an incident shortly after take-off.” The aircraft was carrying 74 passengers, according to the airline.

“The Aircraft landed safely and all of our passengers were evacuated safely,” it said. “A thorough investigation is being conducted by Somalia Civil Aviation Authority.”

But Vodopivec, the pilot, said: “We were told one person was sucked out of the plane, but that is still not confirmed.”

Reuters also reported that a body was “believed to have been sucked out of the plane.”

The incident occurred when the plane was “at about 11,000 feet,” Vodopivec said.

“It would have been much worse if we were higher,” he said.

The AP reported:

Cellphone video taken aboard the plane pans from passengers, some wearing oxygen masks, in seats toward the back of the airliner in flight, and then swivels to the empty front area with a hole in the side of the cabin. There is a loud sound of rushing air. The video was taken by Awale Kullane, Somalia’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, and obtained by The Associated Press.

The passengers bunched in the back appear calm. A child wearing an oxygen mask attached to the overhead compartment sits quietly, a blanket covering the legs. Near the hole, oxygen masks dangle and sway from overhead compartments.

“When we heard a loud bang, the co-pilot went back to the cabin to inspect the damage and I took over the commands as the procedure demands,” Vodopivec told the AP.

He added: “Smoke came into the cockpit, but it was mostly concentrated in the back of the aircraft. The stewardesses did a great job calming down the passengers and following the emergency procedure.”

According to the AP, Kullane, the ambassador to the United Nations, said on Facebook that he “heard a loud noise and couldn’t see anything but smoke for a few seconds.” Then, he saw that “a chunk” of the fuselage was missing.

“I was terrified and most people were terrified,” he said. “Of course we give credit to the pilot who landed that plane.”