Donner under fire for bomb threat foul up

11th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

11 October 2004 , AMSTERDAM — The emergency services in Noord Holland Province have lashed out at Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner after it emerged they were not warned a British Airways jet that made a precautionary landing at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport earlier this month might have been carrying a bomb.

11 October 2004

AMSTERDAM — The emergency services in Noord Holland Province have lashed out at Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner after it emerged they were not warned a British Airways jet that made a precautionary landing at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport earlier this month might have been carrying a bomb.

The plane was en route from Berlin to London on 1 October with 118 passengers and six crew when an anonymous caller warned that a bomb was on board.

F-16 fighter jets escorted the plane to Schiphol where the airport authorities had been warned of a terror threat. But the emergency services in Noord Holland province, which includes Amsterdam and Schiphol, were not alerted to the bomb threat.

The incident was declared a hoax after military police officers searched the plane and found there was no bomb on board.

It is the second time in three months that the Justice Ministry has failed to inform the local authorities of a terrorist threat. The latest failure also comes after Minister Donner and Interior Minister Johan Remkes promised on 30 September to improve communication with emergency services over terrorist threats.

The Queen's Commissioner for North Holland, Harry Borghouts, has described the British Airways incident as a "communication error", newspaper NRC Handelsblad reported Saturday.

Donner's officials only alerted Schiphol's emergency services and Borghouts said the North Holland emergency services were informed about the bomb threat after the airport's military police had responded to the incident.

"That was too late. All involved emergency services — not only those at Schiphol, but also those in the region — should have known about the bomb threat. This was not a terror threat, this was hard reality. The (Haarlemmermeer) mayor is administratively responsible if something goes wrong," Borghouts said.

Schiphol is in the Haarlemmermeer administrative area.

Amsterdam fire brigade chief and regional emergency service response co-ordinator, Cees te Boekhorst, said the incident demonstrated that emergency services at a management level are not prepared for a terrorist attack. He said if an explosion had occurred, the region's emergency services would have responded too late.

Haarlemmermeer Executive Council — made up of the mayor and aldermen and women — has demanded Transport State Secretary Melanie Schultz explain why the plane was allowed to fly over densely populated regions and to land on the Zwanenburgbaan runway.

The Justice Ministry said on Saturday that it took the criticism seriously and a spokesman said it was conducting an evaluation of the incident. He said the ministry would also discuss the incident with local authorities, newspaper De Telegraaf reported.

After the plane landed at Schiphol, military police found no trace of explosives and it flew on empty to London later that night. The passengers and crew had earlier flown onto their destination in another plane.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news

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