September 8, 2005

Saudi plane evacuated in S.Lanka scare, 1 dead

COLOMBO, Sept 8 - One woman died and more than a dozen
people were hospitalized on Thursday after they fled a Saudi
Arabian Airlines flight before take off in a bomb scare Sri
Lankan police suspect was triggered by a hoax call.

Hospital officials said they believed the woman who died
had suffered a fracture and subsequent shock, while other
passengers had suspected fractures after jumping out of
emergency exits in panic as the plane sat on the tarmac at
Colombo's international airport.

"Only tomorrow morning we will be doing the post-mortem,"
said Dr. S.C. Wickramasinghe, who runs Negombo Hospital north
of the capital where four other injured were being treated. "We
think it may be a cervical fracture. A vertebra may have

"Some people are badly injured," she added. "They may be
having fractures."

Nurses treated dozens of other passengers, many of them Sri
Lankan nationals, at the airport itself for minor injuries.
Some had bloody noses, others cuts on their faces, elbows and

Tens of thousands of Sri Lankans work in Saudi Arabia, many
of them as domestic servants.

There were no details on the dead woman's nationality, but
airline officials said the Boeing 747, carrying 452 passengers
and crew, had been due to fly to Jeddah. The rest of the
passengers were transferred to a nearby hotel for the night.

Police said bomb squad officers were checking the plane,
but had found nothing and believed the bomb scare was just

"They are still searching, but (the scare) was just a
rumor, I think," said Assistant Superintendent of Police Gamini

He said someone had called the control tower saying there
was a bomb on the plane, which the passengers had only just
boarded, triggering the panic.

Saman Perera, duty officer at Saudi Arabian Airlines'
airport office, said it was unclear how some passengers had
suffered bad injuries because most had exited down the plane's
inflatable emergency slides.

"We don't have any details," Perera said. "The passengers
were evacuated and ... we have sent them to the hotels now."

"Probably they'll send another aircraft to take these
passengers (back to Saudi Arabia)," he added.

Airport officials said other flights were operating