ADDIS ABABA – A swarm of what appeared to be locusts forced a passenger plane off its course in Ethiopia, the flight operator says.
Pilots were preparing to land the Ethiopian Airlines flight from Djibouti to Dire Dawa on Thursday when clouds of insects slammed into the plane’s engines, windshield and nose.
They tried in vain to clean the windscreen with the plane’s wipers, according to the BBC.
Thirty minutes later the plane landed safely but in the capital Addis Ababa instead, according to reports.
East Africa has been hit by its worst locust invasion for 25 years, which has devastated crops across the region.
On Monday, U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says “has been a significant and extremely dangerous increase in swarm activity during the past week” in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and South Sudan.
Swarms can vary from less than 1sq km (0.38 square miles) to several hundred. Each square kilometer can contain at least 40 million insects, according to the UN.
The Ethiopian Airlines flight was on an hour-long journey when it flew through a small swarm. It then encountered a bigger swarm which reduced visibility, reports say.
A spokesman for the airline confirmed to the BBC that the plane was diverted by the swarm of insects but did not give further details of Thursday’s incident.
East Africa’s larger-than-normal locust populations are thought to have spread from Yemen in August, wreaking havoc on local crops.
In Ethiopia’s northern Amhara state some farmers have lost “nearly 100%” of their crop of the staple grain, teff, the UN says.
“More swarms are expected to appear in the southern parts of Oromia and Somali regions and in the southwest region of SNNPR (South Omo) where they are likely to mature and lay eggs,” its Monday’s statement says.
By Agencies, bbc
Image: Pilots were preparing to land the Ethiopian Airlines flight from Djibouti to Dire Dawa on Thursday when clouds of insects slammed into the plane’s engines, windshield and nose. Photo: COURTESY