Kilimanjaro airport/Arusha, October 31st, '99 (FH) - Several United Nations staff travelling to Rwanda for the first UN court visit there had a lucky escape Sunday when the Air Tanzania plane carrying them failed to take off from Kilimanjaro International Airport, Tanzania. Four of the passengers were injured after they were ordered to evacuate.

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The aircraft was on the point of takeoff when passengers felt a jolt and the pilot then started to brake. At least three passengers sitting on the right hand side of the aircraft said they saw a "fireball" from the engine. As the aircraft came to a standstill, passengers were told to evacuate. A certain amount of panic then ensued, and several people had to jump from the aircraft wings. Fire engines and rescue services arrived quickly and the 'plane did not, in fact, burst into flames. One of the wheels was obviously punctured. Airport officials said it was "too early" to say exactly what had gone wrong. UN staff were travelling to Rwanda for a court visit to massacre sites and an Organization of African Unity (OAU) meeting. Tribunal officials say the ICTR judicial visit due to start Monday will nevertheless go ahead as planned. This will be the first time that judges, accompanied by prosecution and defence, will visit sites in Rwanda linked to a genocide trial. The visit forms part of the trial of former Rwandan mayor Ignace Bagilishema, who is charged with genocide and crimes against humanity in the western Rwandan prefecture of Kibuye. JC/FH (BS§1031e)