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39 flamingos killed after plane hit them during landing in Mumbai's Ghatkopar

The incident, while has come as a big jolt to flamingo conservation, it also raises the issue of the aircraft being involved in the incident and questions aspects of flight safety.
Last Updated : 21 May 2024, 11:01 IST
Last Updated : 21 May 2024, 11:01 IST

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In a shocking and unprecedented incident, 39 flamingos died after a huge flock was hit by a passenger aircraft over Ghatkopar area while it was on its final approach for landing at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai on Monday night.

The incident, while has come as a big jolt to flamingo conservation, it also raises the issue of the aircraft being involved in the incident and questions aspects of flight safety.

The Boeing 777 had over 300 passengers on board, according to reports.

The Maharashtra Forest Department (MFD) and the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) have confirmed the deaths.

The CSMIA has not commented on the issue.

However, Emirates, which was running the Dubai-Mumbai flight, said that there was no injury to crew members or passengers.

Navi Mumbai-based NatConnect Foundation has urged the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for a high-level investigation to ascertain as to how the aircraft clashed with the birds and whether the pilot could not notice the flock on his radar.

The incident took place behind Rasika Restaurant and Bar in Laxmi Nagar-Pant Nagar junction of Ghatkopar.

The carcassess were recovered off the Andheri-Ghatkopar Link Road.

“An investigation into the incident is being carried out,” said S V Ramarao, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, Mangrove Cell.

After the incident, Prashant Bahadure, Range Forest Officer, Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary, Deepak Khade, Divisional Forest Officer, Mumbai Mangrove Conservation Unit and Vikrant Khade, Assistant Conservator of Forests, Mangrove Protection-Mumbai, rushed to the spot.

The bodies of flamingos were brought to the Coastal and Marine Biodiversity Centre at Airoli in Navi Mumbai where the post-mortem was carried out on Tuesday.

“From the scene it was felt that the cause of deaths was a hit by an airplane,” BNHS Director Kishor Rithe said.

“It could have been very dangerous for the passengers too. We will help the agencies in investigating and fixing the issue. BNHS has clearly mentioned the importance of protecting high tide roosting places in and around Mumbai, along the coast from any kind of disturbance. Hope the concerned authorities will identify all the causes and address them before something happens again,” added Rithe.

“We are sad to say that it was a disaster that was waiting to happen,” said NatConnect Foundation Director BN Kumar, adding: “Had any passenger been affected due to the bird hit, it would have made global headlines, but the death of poor 40 flamingos does not seem to bother the authorities, urban planners in particular.”

"It seems 40 flamingos died when an aircraft hit them while landing at Ghatkopar in Mumbai. I visited Lakshmi Baug, Ghatkopar and saw a dead body and remains of other flamingoes. I spoke to officials of Forest, BMC, Police,” said Dr Kirit Somaiya, senior BJP leader and former MP.

An Emirates spokesperson said: “Emirates can confirm that EK508 from Dubai to Mumbai on 20 May was involved in a bird strike incident upon landing. The aircraft landed safely, and all passengers and crew disembarked without injury, however sadly a number of flamingos were lost, and Emirates is cooperating with the authorities on the matter. The aircraft was also damaged in the incident and, as a result, the return flight EK509 scheduled to depart to Dubai on 20 May was cancelled. All passengers and crew were accommodated overnight, and a replacement aircraft is being arranged for all passengers and is scheduled to depart Mumbai on 21 May at 9 pm. Emirates apologises for any inconvenience caused. The safety of our passengers and crew is of the utmost importance and will not be compromised.”

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Published 21 May 2024, 03:41 IST

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