Zimbabwe sparks accident scare with airport drill

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Zimbabwe's aviation authority said Thursday it reported a false plane accident at Harare's airport as part of a training exercise.

The head of the Civil Aviation Authority David Chawota told international media that a Boeing 767 had an accident while landing on a flight from London, but 90 minutes later officials said they were just conducting a drill.

"What we had today was a normal airport drill just to see how our systems respond to emergencies," police assistant commissioner Cannan Mugumira told journalists.

"From our assessment, the excursion was a success," he said.

Journalists arrived at the airport to see smoke rising from one of the runways as ambulances raced to the scene. They were then taken to a room at the airport and told to wait.

The chief of flag carrier Air Zimbabwe, Peter Chikumba, said he had also been alerted by the aviation authority to an accident.

Aviation boss Chawota had told media that an emergency help desk had been set up for victims and their families.

Foreign airlines said the drill had been conducted as a surprise.

"We also didn't know anything about it," a Kenya Airways official said.

© 2010 AFP

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