Who? Herbert Prins, professor of Resource Ecology
What? Got stuck with 45,000 fellow passengers at Kathmandu airport in Nepal after a plane slid off the runway.
When? From Wednesday 4 to Monday 9 March. ‘Luckily I am now back in South Africa, where I am on sabbatical.’
‘A Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul tried to land twice, but visibility was too poor, partly because of all the brick kilns in the valley belching out soot. At the third attempt to land, the plane slid off the runway. It pulled all the electricity cables out of the ground, switching off the runway lighting.’
‘The airport only has one runway, and there were no guidelines for dealing with a calamity and no trained staff. In the end the plane left again on Sunday and the electricity cables were mended. But by then the number of stranded passengers had risen to 45,000. On Monday I suddenly got the chance to take a flight to Abu Dhabi.’
Was it difficult to cater for so many passengers?
‘Most of the stranded passengers were migrant labourers in the gulf states, where megalomaniac football stadiums have to be built. Nothing was arranged for these labourers, apart from riot police to keep them under control. The airlines set up no helplines, no accommodation was arranged, and most international tourists had to arrange their own hotels.’