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Smoke prompts evacuation of 140 from Czech Airlines plane in Helsinki

The plane was on the taxiway when the captain ordered the evacuation of passengers via the emergency slides.

Czech Airlinesin lentokone Helsinki-Vantaan lentokentällä.
Passengers on the tarmac after being deplaned in Helsinki Friday afternoon. Image: Miikka Leskinen

Some 140 passengers and crew on a Czech Airlines Airbus plane were evacuated in Helsinki on Friday afternoon, apparently because of smoke detected in the aircraft, reports to Finnish news agency STT:

According to STT, police Itä-Uusimaa police said that emergency officials had been checking the aircraft as it stood on the tarmac following the evacuation. However they said that the plan was not on fire.

Police said that according to information they received, smoke or steam had been detected on the plane. Emergency services said that officials were trying to determine the source of the smoke and that no injuries had been reported.

Emergency service workers said that they received a call about a major aviation incident shortly before 4.00pm on Friday.

"The captain decided to evacuate the plane via the emergency slides. The passengers were on the taxiway near the runway at the Helsinki Airport," said duty chief Jarmo Alho of the Keski-Uusimaa emergency services department.

Tabloid daily Iltalehti and largest circulation daily Helsingin Sanomat had previously reported that the aircraft had returned to Helsinki.

The communications unit of airports operator Finavia said that the vessel was part of the Czech Airlines fleet and was bound for Prague. It added that the incident did not affect any other traffic at the airport.

Investigations to continue next week

During a news conference Friday evening, a representative from the Keski-Uusimaa fire department said that once passengers had been evacuated and taken to a terminal building for medical checks, fire officials performed an initial check of the plane for possible signs of a fire.

The Safety Investigation Authority said that its initial checks of the plane including the cabin and luggage hold revealed no trace of a fire on Friday. However technical checks will continue into next week when officials intend to request and review data from the plane's black box or flight data recorder.

Officials at the press conference revealed that passengers seated in rows six and seven reported the odour of smoke and reported it to the crew. They then alerted the captain who ordered the evacuation. The plane's onboard equipment did idicate the presence of any smoke, officials said.

Emergency responders said that some passengers had sustained only mild injuries -- mainly scratches -- during the evacuation and that there were no serious injuries reported.

Some 135 passengers and five crew members were on board at the time of the incident.

Edit: Story updated at 7.15pm to include additional information from a press conference at Helsinki Airport on Friday evening.

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