Flamingos killed after Emirates plane collides with flock in Mumbai

Dubai to Mumbai plane was damaged in collision while landing

Experts believe the flamingos were on their way to a popular breeding ground. AP
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An Emirates flight flew into a flock of flamingos while landing in Mumbai, killing at least 36 of the migratory birds, the airline said on Tuesday.

The aircraft was also damaged as it landed in India's financial capital en route from Dubai.

Flamingos visit Mumbai in Maharashtra state and its adjoining areas often as they congregate in tens of thousands across various wetlands in the coastal city.

The incident took place on Monday at 8.50pm when the aircraft collided with a flock of birds, moments before landing at Mumbai’s international airport.

The flight, carrying over 300 passengers, landed safely at 9.15pm but the aircraft was grounded after it suffered damage, the airline said.

“Emirates can confirm that EK508 from Dubai to Mumbai on May 20 was involved in a bird strike incident upon landing,” Emirates said.

“The aircraft landed safely, and all passengers and crew disembarked without injury, however sadly a number of flamingos were lost and Emirates is co-operating with the authorities on the matter.”

The Dubai-bound return flight was cancelled and rescheduled.

The incident came to light after children spotted the carcasses spread across a radius of half a kilometre and called their parents to report the dead birds in the city's Ghatkopar area. Locals then complained to the forest department, officials said.

Sy Rama Rao, a senior forest officer, said that an investigation had been launched.

“Our team is on the ground and a full-scale investigation has been launched to find out the cause of death of the flamingos,” Mr Ramarao said.

The birds were flying north to Kutch in neighbouring Gujarat, a known feeding and breeding ground, when they were hit by the plane.

Power lines

Dayanand Stalin, an environmentalist with Mumbai-based Vanashakti NGO, blamed power lines set through the Thane Creek Wildlife Sanctuary for the incident.

“Something or someone has disturbed the birds who were roosting in Navi Mumbai," Mr Stalin told The National.

"In the sanctuary, there are huge towers which are very high, when you see the aircraft landing, you can see between the aircraft and the power line there is about 30 to 40 metre gap. The birds try to fly over these. The birds have tried to fly over the power lines and have come between the aircraft.”

Mr Stalin said the flamingos had visited the wetlands in the city since the 1990s but there has not been a flamingo strike before.

“What caused the flock to move at night needs to be investigated, it doesn’t usually happen. We have never had a similar situation before. Flamingos have never been an issue for the aviation industry," he said.

"The birds do not like to roam around, they prefer to be in the creek,” said Mr Stalin, adding that he has written to authorities about rerouting of power lines.

A dozen flamingos were found dead in the city's Navi Mumbai region in April. Their death was believed to be due to pollution that partially impairs the vision of the birds.

Bird collisions

Media reports said that as many as 600 incidents involving aircraft striking birds had been recorded at the city’s airport between January 2018 and October last year.

There were about 1,200 incidents of aircraft colliding with birds in the country in the first half of last year, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation said.

Collisions with birds pose a danger to aircraft and passengers.

In April, a collision sparked an engine fire on a passenger plane shortly after it took off from an Ohio airport in the US, forcing it to return to the ground.

Updated: May 21, 2024, 4:43 PM