Cellphone video shows Somalia flight after explosion


JOHANNESBURG  | The cellphone video pans from passengers, some wearing oxygen masks, in seats toward the back of the airliner in flight, and then swivels to the empty front area with a hole in the side of the cabin, the result of an explosion soon after takeoff from Somalia’s capital.

The passengers bunched in the back, likely instructed to sit far from the hole, appear calm. A child wearing an oxygen mask attached to the overhead compartment sits quietly, a blanket over his or her legs. Near the hole, oxygen masks dangle, swaying in a light breeze.

There is a loud sound of rushing air throughout the video, which was taken by Awale Kullane, Somalia’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations. The Greece-based Hermes Airlines plane took off from Mogadishu’s airport, bound for Djibouti, and returned for an emergency landing after the explosion.

The plane was not that full during boarding, so people sat wherever they wanted, he said. Kullane. He recalled hearing a crewmember announcing over the communications system that the plane was at an altitude of about 11,000 feet (3.35 kilometers) and people should keep their seatbelts on until authorized to move around.

“Then I heard a big bang, so, and the smoke erupted so we couldn’t see anything for a few seconds, so it was a bit scary,” said Kullane, who was sitting in the middle of the airplane.

“Most people started moving behind me so I saw kind of a space of, a chunk of small area of the plane missing, and that air was floating in and out, and the oxygen masks had started to drop above us. So everything looked a bit more critical,” he said.

“I took a video clip after things had settled down and most people started moving at the back of the plane,” Kullane said. “For the first few seconds and minutes… I was terrified and most people were terrified.”

Somali officials said Wednesday they had found no evidence so far of a criminal act. Serbian pilot Vladimir Vodopivec said pressure was lost in the cabin and he suspects the blast was caused by a bomb. Somali officials said there were two injuries. There were also unverified reports that a person fell out of the hole.

Follow Christopher Torchia on Twitter at www.twitter.com/torchiachris