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Africa

‘Locust swarm’ forces Ethiopian Airlines plane to divert

'Locust swarm' forces Ethiopian Airlines plane to divert

Image copyright AFP
Image caption East Africa has been hit by its worst locust invasion in 25 years

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.

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.

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Swarms can vary from less than 1 sq km (0.38 square miles) to several hundred. Each square kilometre can contain at least 40 million insects, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

One website reported that the insects were grasshoppers. Aeronews Global has posted a photo of the plane's nose cone smeared with dead insects:

Skip Facebook post by Aeronews

INCIDENT / Ethiopian Airlines B737-700 (ET-ALN, built 2005) encountered a grasshoppers swarm on approach to Dire Dawa…

Posted by Aeronews on Sunday, 12 January 2020

Report

End of Facebook post by Aeronews

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 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.

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