South African media are calling it a “riot” in the skies. Flights were grounded at Johannesburg’s JNB Airport on Saturday morning after a major fire erupted in the aircraft engine room, said Pascal Zulkens, the department of domestic air transport’s communications manager. Smoke from the fire could be seen in the distance. Zulkens said three of the eight passengers and five crew members were able to disembark and police escorted the remaining passengers and crew members to a nearby terminal as fire crews worked to extinguish the blaze. Eyewitnesses described “furious scenes” and passengers on social media said they were being kept on the tarmac for hours. Police and airport officials subsequently confirmed that the fire had not resulted in any injuries and the aircraft had returned to the gate, although no passengers have yet been allowed to board the plane. The spokesperson for South African Airways, Wayne Berry, said only one of the damaged engines had been taken apart for inspection. He said damage to the aircraft had so far been limited to its left engine and that the planes in its fleet were expected to arrive at other airports.
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