Emirates aircraft damaged after hitting flamingos in India; return flight cancelled

The Boeing 777 aircraft, flying from Dubai to Mumbai, hit the flock around 300 metres from the ground, leaving at least 36 birds dead


Angel Tesorero

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Photo: Reuters file
Photo: Reuters file

Published: Wed 22 May 2024, 11:54 AM

Last updated: Wed 22 May 2024, 1:07 PM

A Dubai-Mumbai Emirates plane was damaged after it flew into a flock of flamingos shortly before touchdown, leading to the death of several migratory birds, an airline spokesperson told Khaleej Times on Wednesday.

“The aircraft landed safely and all passengers and crew disembarked without injury,” the spokesperson confirmed.

“The aircraft was damaged in the incident and, as a result, the return flight EK509 scheduled to depart to Dubai on 20 May was cancelled,” the spokesperson added.

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The incident happened on Monday.

Emirates said the Dubai-based airline is “cooperating with (Indian) authorities on the matter.” “All passengers and crew of flight EK509 were accommodated overnight and a replacement aircraft was arranged for all passengers, which departed Mumbai on Tuesday (May 21) at 9pm (India time).”

At least 36 flamingos were killed in the incident, according to reports by Indian media, though wildlife experts said they feared many more might be dead.

Aircraft bird strike is not uncommon. Mumbai airport recorded over 600 cases of aircraft bird strikes from January 2018 till October 2023, according to government statistics. The wetlands along Mumbai's coast are famous for a large number of flamingos arriving around December for a few months.

Pawan Sharma, from Mumbai-based Resqink Association for Wildlife Welfare (RAWW), however, said it was unusual for so many flamingos to have been killed in a single event.

"This is the first time such a large number of flamingos have been hit," Sharma told AFP.

He said he feared many more could have died as some of the bird carcasses were "not in a shape to be recovered".

"Both resident and migratory birds are at threat from flights passing through such crucial habitats. Therefore it is important to evaluate this incident and work on mitigation measures, so that such unfortunate incidents can be avoided,” he said.

(With inputs from AFP)


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