World Cup 2018: Saudi Arabia team plane 'catches fire' mid-flight
The plane carrying Saudi Arabiaâs World Cup football squad suffered an apparent engine fire in mid-air.
The Airbus A319 was flying from St Petersburg to Rostov-on-Don ahead of the Saudisâ second Group A match against Uruguay when the drama unfolded.
Saudi Arabia, who are making their first appearance at the World Cup since 2006, suffered the biggest defeat in the tournament so far when they were thrashed 5-0 by hosts Russia in the opening game in Moscow on Thursday.
Social and Saudi media footage appeared to show one of the engines catching fire. Russiaâs aviation watchdog Rosaviatsya said that during the landing there was a brief fire on one of the engines and that it would investigate the incident, Interfax reported.
Nonetheless, a spokesman for airline Rossiya denied a fire had occurred and said the fault was due to a bird strike. As it came in to land, the plane âsuffered a technical fault with one of its engines, with a bird getting caugh t seen as the preliminary cause,â a spokesman said in a statement.
Reports of a fire in one of the engines were incorrect, the spokesman added.
âNothing threatened the safety of the passengers. The aircraftâs landing took place in a routine fashion. No warning was sounded during the landing.â
Videos shared on social media purported to show the Saudi teamâs plane with its wing on fire while it was in the air.
The footage, which could not be verified independently, was shared by civil aviation monitoring website Airlive.net, which said the fire broke out on the approach to Rostov airport.
A video on the social media account of Saudi local paper Al Yaum showed flames issuing from under the planeâs starboard wing against the dark backdrop of the sky, with the wing glowing in flickering, bright orange light.
And a photograph shared by state-owned Saudi television channel al-Ekhbariya, also taken from inside the plane, showed a flame shooting out from under the wing just as it was touching down on the landing strip.
The Saudi federation released photographs of the players s miling and looking calm as they boarded a bus for the Mercure Hotel in central Rostov.
âAll the Saudi national team players are safe, after a technical failure in one of the airplane engines ... and now theyâre heading to their residence safely,â it said in a statement on Twitter.
âI want to reassure you that we got to Rostov safely, it was a simple technical fault in the airplane but thank God we are now in the hotel and things are good,â Osama Hawsawi, captain of the Saudi team, said in a video shared on social media.
âThe whole delegation is well,â midfielder Hattan Bahebri said in a video shared on the teamâs official Twitter page. âOf course, we were a bit frightened, but thank God,â he added, laughing.
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