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Mon, May 21, 2007

Mock Plane Disaster Tests Northern Ireland Crews

Catastrophe Simulation Biggest Ever In UK

It was a simulated disaster involving 1,200 people that was 18 months in the planning.

It included police, fire and ambulance crews, three airports, five hospitals, and 200 role-playing student nurses, that took place in Belfast on Sunday, reports the BBC.

The simulation, named Operation Exodus, focused on a 100-passenger flight leaving George Best Belfast City Airport and bound for City of Derry Airport.

According to the simulation, soon after take-off a catastrophic failure on board forced the plane to divert to Belfast International, where it made a crash landing. The simulation included numerous fatalities on board, as well as many serverly injured "passengers" to test the airport's emergency medical response capabilities.

Up to 150 international observers assessed how authorities coped under pressure. New systems and procedures were also tested for the first time.

Speaking before the simulation, Fire Service group commander Peter O'Reilly said the exercise would test emergency services in "the biggest ever undertaken in the UK."

"It's everything associated with a crash landing -- the fire itself and evacuating people trapped on the plane," he added.

FMI: www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/aviation, www.caa.co.uk

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