Aircraft bomb hoax sparks stampede

A woman has been killed and 62 passengers wounded in a stampede following a bomb hoax aboard a Saudi Arabian Airlines jumbo jet which was about to take off from Sri Lanka's Colombo airport, officials said.

    Six people, including four women are among the injured

    Six people, including four women, were taken to the nearby Negombo Base hospital where one of the women, a Sri Lankan national, died from her injuries, a hospital spokesman said.

    "One woman died after admission to the hospital," the spokesman said.

    The Jeddah-bound Boeing 747-300 aircraft, with more than 400 passengers, was to remain at Colombo airport overnight, and the airline said it was making arrangements to send passengers to nearby hotels.

    Airport chief Tiran Alles said 18 more people were taken to another hospital in the capital, 35km to the south, while others had minor injuries which did not require hospitalisation.

    The call

    On Thursday, "a call had come to the airport switchboard warning of a bomb," Alles said. "The control tower in turn had informed the pilots (of the Saudi Arabian flight SV 781) who were preparing to take off."

    "The pilots opened the emergency exits and passengers panicked and jumped off. Most of them were injured in a stampede."

    Alles said a search of the aircraft confirmed that the call was a hoax. There was no disruption to other flights at the island's only international airport.

    "The pilots opened the emergency exits and passengers panicked and jumped off. Most of them were injured in a stampede"

    Tiran Alles,
    Airport chief

    The incident came a day after peace broker Norway announced it had suggested the airport as a neutral venue for talks with Tamil Tiger rebels.

    The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rejected the site in a notice posted on their website on Thursday after the bomb hoax.

    Aviation Minister Mangala Samaraweera could not comment on whether there was a link between the suggestion of the airport as a venue and the bomb hoax.

    Investigation on

    "I don't have enough information yet to make a connection and at the moment we can only speculate," Samaraweera said. "We are currently investigating and I am told the situation at the airport is normal."

    Thursday's incident was the worst at Bandaranaike international airport since a 24 July 2001 attack by Tamil rebels that destroyed six aircraft of the national carrier Sri Lankan Airlines and more than a dozen military aircraft parked in the adjoining military airbase.

    A total of 14 suspected Tamil Tiger rebels and seven security personnel were killed in that attack, while no civilian was hurt.



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