39 flamingos die after being hit by Emirates aircraft over Ghatkopar | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times

39 flamingos die after being hit by Emirates aircraft over Ghatkopar

May 22, 2024 08:04 AM IST

39 flamingos killed by Emirates aircraft in Mumbai. Flight was hit by birds during final approach. No injuries to passengers, return flight canceled.

Mumbai: At least 39 flamingos were killed after being hit by an Emirates aircraft flying over Ghatkopar East while it was in its final approach before landing at Mumbai airport on Monday evening.

39 flamingos die after being hit by Emirates aircraft over Ghatkopar
39 flamingos die after being hit by Emirates aircraft over Ghatkopar

According to authorities, the area where the bird strike occurred was not on the natural flight path of the migratory birds, which visit the wetlands of Mumbai and Navi Mumbai between November and May.

The EK 508 Dubai-Mumbai flight landed safely, with no injuries to passengers or crew. However, the bird strike damaged the aircraft, forcing the airline to cancel its return flight to Dubai.

The incident occurred around 8.40 pm on Monday. Residents of Ghatkopar East said the entire junction of Swami Samarth Marg and Andheri-Ghatkopar link road was covered with pieces of flamingo flesh, even as blood fell on many passers-by. “We suddenly heard a big noise, and blood fell on me. Flamingos were lying all over. Initially, we thought that the flight had met with an accident and people ran helter-skelter,” said Deepak Lokhande, a resident of Ghatkopar East.

Lokhande added that a drunkard picked up an injured flamingo who had survived the bird strike and took it away to give it some water. “We don’t know what happened to it later,” he said.

Soon after the incident, forest department officers reached the spot after getting a call from Ghatkopar residents. SY Rama Rao, additional chief conservator of the state forest department’s mangrove protection cell, confirmed that 39 flamingo bodies were found, adding that a post-mortem has been done. Rao also said it was unusual for the flamingo flamboyance to fly over Ghatkopar. “We are still investigating why the birds diverted from their usual flight path.”

Environmental activists stressed the importance of protecting the habitat of the migratory birds. “The Bombay Natural History Society 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 take urgent actions,’’ said Kishor Rithe, director of the Mumbai-based NGO.

Environmentalist D Stalin, director of the NGO Vanashakti, said the new power lines passing through the Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary could have caused the birds to get disoriented. He added that the flamingos might also have been chased away towards the sanctuary from the wetlands in Navi Mumbai, where they also flock.

“Wetlands in the NRI complex area and TS Chanakya lakes [in Navi Mumbai] are the home to the flamingo flamboyance. Since last month, efforts are on to disturb the birds there and get the water bodies to be brought under construction. If someone chased the birds out at night, the flock might have attempted to fly towards Thane creek and, in the process, met with the accident.’’

Monday’s bird strike follows multiple incidents of flamingo deaths and injuries in Navi Mumbai over the last few months. In the last week of April, 12 injured flamingos were found in mangroves near the Seawoods area of Navi Mumbai, out of which five died during treatment. A little before that, a flamingo was hit by a speeding vehicle on Palm Beach Road. In February this year, four flamingos crashed into a hoarding near Nerul jetty and died. The billboard was later taken down by authorities.

Meanwhile, an Emirates spokesperson confirmed the bird strike incident, adding that the aircraft landed safely, with all passengers and crew disembarking without injury. “The aircraft was also damaged in the incident and, as a result, the return flight EK 509 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 21:00 local time.”

Manju Singh, a Kalyan resident who was due to fly from Mumbai to Dallas via Dubai on the EK 509 flight on Monday, said, “We had cleared our security and immigration and were at the boarding gate. Initially, we were told that there was a problem with the engine, but at around 11 pm on Monday we were told that the aircraft was hit by a bird. The airline shifted us to a hotel at around 2.30 am, and we are taking the next flight on Monday.’’

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