GIS – 07 September 2017: Fireball 2017, an air crash simulation exercise mobilising more than 20 key emergency response agencies and institutions and involving over 200 participants, was carried out yesterday at Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport, in Plaine Magnien. The objective was to test the emergency response and knowledge of Airports of Mauritius Co Ltd (AML), the Airport operator, as well as that of all stakeholders in a crisis situation as per the Airport Emergency Plan.
The exercise is organised by AML every three years and, is in line with the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s recommendations to ensure a safe, efficient, secure and responsible civil aviation sector. It also constitutes an important step leading to the renewal of the Airport’s operation licence.
Significant resources were deployed for the ninth edition with the scenario depicting the crash, at 13.13 hours, of an Airbus 319 upon take-off with 47 passengers and 7 aircrew on board. The flight CL190 of Cloud Air was set to reach Madagascar after taking off from SSR International Airport.
The full emergency notice protocol was immediately set into motion by the Air Traffic Control Tower after heavy smoke was detected and consequently the notification cascade call out was activated to inform all emergency services of the air crash. The Airport Rescue and Fire Fighting Services along with the Mauritius Fire and Rescue Service joined forces to control the fire coming out of Airbus 319. Police, SMF, SAMU, Red Cross and other emergency response agencies arrived on site to carry out rescue operations.
Moreover, the Emergency Operations Centre was activated, under the responsibility of AML CEO with the collaboration of the Airfield Safety and Operations department and key stakeholders were alerted to monitor the crisis.
The following Centres were also activated: Survivors’ Reception Centre (SRC) to accommodate the wounded; Relatives’ Reception Centre (RRC) to provide support to passengers’ parents/acquaintances; and Reunification Centre to reunite passengers and their relatives. A profiling mechanism was deployed in the Tour Operator’s hall at the Passenger Terminal to profile the parents/acquaintances of passengers who were on board. The relatives were then channelled to the RRC. The Media Centre was also operational and representatives of AML, the Airline Company and Police Press Office relayed confirmed information to the press by issuing three Press Releases.
The Scientific Crime Office and relevant authorities were also on the air crash site to initiate investigative procedures and black boxes were retrieved and transferred to the Civil Aviation department.
The death toll for the Fireball 2017 Exercise scenario was 15 at the end of the rescue operations. All 54 passengers were evacuated from the crash site, and the 30 injured passengers were transferred to Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital while the remaining 9 who sustained minor injuries were cared for at the SRC. Nationalities of travelling passengers are as follows: eight Mauritians; 12 South Africans; 12 Indians; eight French; and seven Malagasy nationals. The Airport was declared safe for operations by the Airport authorities and normal activities resumed at 15.50 hours.
Around 38 observers from Government, Airline companies, Embassies also participated and they will submit a report with recommendations to improve emergency response of AML. The preparatory phase leading to Fireball 2017 Exercise took around 120 days but every year, modular exercises are conducted to test specific emergency aspects each time.