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11 injured as Boeing plane skids off runway in Senegal

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A Boeing passenger plane came off the runway during takeoff in Senegal early Thursday, injuring 11 people and shutting the international airport near the capital Dakar for almost 12 hours, management said.

The B737/300 aircraft, an Air Senegal flight chartered by privately-owned Transair, was carrying 78 passengers and headed for the Malian capital Bamako, airport managers LAS said in a statement after the early hours drama left four passengers seriously hurt.

The jet “came off the runway during its takeoff phase” around one am (0100 GMT), said LAS, made up of Turkish group Limak, the publicly-owned airport operator AIBD and another Turkish entity, Summa.

Eleven people were injured, four of them seriously. Six other passengers were taken for medical check-ups inside the airport, LAS said.

The group said the airport at Diass, 50 kilometres (30 miles) from Dakar, had reopened shortly after midday.

“We inform you that Blaise Diagne International Airport has reopened. Airport operations have resumed as normal,” LAS stated.

The aircraft was “immobilised” away from the runway and an emergency plan was triggered by airport authorities as soon as they were alerted, the group said.

“All the airport emergency services have been mobilised for the evacuation of passengers and their care, as per the plan,” LAS went on.

Online images showed a large hole in the left engine and the wing covered in firefighting foam.

“The exact circumstances of the incident remain to be determined, but an investigation is already underway to establish the reasons” why the aircraft left the runway.

“Aviation specialists along with representatives of the airline concerned are on site to examine closely the airline log data and interview crew members,” LAS said.

The incident comes with Air Senegal having already endured months of criticism with passengers regularly complaining about delays to domestic and international flights.

The state-owned entity began operating in May 2018 after emerging from the April 2016 collapse of Senegal Airlines. The latter had itself replaced in 2009 by Air Senegal International, in which Senegal and also Morocco had stakes.

The launch of the carrier’s latest incarnation is part of a three-stage plan to turn Dakar into a regional air hub around the international airport, inaugurated in December 2017, and revamped provincial airports.

The Blaise Diagne airport at Diass, which bears the name of the first African lawmaker elected to the French Parliament (1872-1934), replaces the Leopold-Sedar-Senghor International Airport (AILSS), in the suburbs of the capital, which has been converted into a military facility.

Transair, founded in 2010, is based at Blaise Diagne and serves a dozen destinations across West Africa, including Sierra Leone’s Freetown as well as Nouakchott, Banjul and Conakry. According to its website, it carries some 90,000 passengers a year.

Thursday’s incident came a day after a Boeing 767 FedEx cargo plane touched down at Istanbul airport without its front landing gear which failed to open, though nobody was hurt, the US Federal Aviation Administration said.

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