Plane accident scare at Zimbabwe's Harare airport


There have been chaotic scenes at Zimbabwe's Harare International Airport after a safety drill was mistaken for a real plane accident.

The BBC's Brian Hungwe, at the airport, says he saw a large plume of smoke and helicopters over the runway.

Earlier, the Civil Aviation Authority head had confirmed to reporters that a plane had been involved in an accident.

But an aviation spokeswoman later told the BBC it was a drill, and that distressed "relatives" were "actors".

Correspondents say it seemed that not many people were informed of the safety drill.

Witnesses reported seeing several ambulances heading towards the airport.

David Chawota, Zimbabwe's Civil Aviation Authority head, then began fielding phone calls about the incident.

"I can confirm that a 767 plane coming from London has had an accident at Harare airport," he told AFP news agency.

He told Reuters: "I can confirm there has been an accident, but I cannot give details right now. I am not at the site, but there are just injuries, no deaths."

But at a press conference at the airport later, he said this was part of the plan.

"Telling the media was part of the exercise. We wanted to see how the media would react," AP news agency quoted him as saying.

"In the event, the drill was a success because all our systems worked perfectly," he said.

"Police, security and hospital staff reacted swiftly."

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