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Passengers of Air France Flight 463 being evacuated at Moi International Airport, Mombasa. [Photo: Kelvin Karani/Standard]

Terrified passengers of Air France Flight 463 said they were lucky to be alive after the aircraft made an emergency landing at Moi International Airport (MIA), Mombasa.

Terrified passengers of Air France Flight 463 said they were lucky to be alive after the aircraft made an emergency landing at Moi International Airport (MIA), Mombasa.

It had 459 passengers and 14 crew members on board. Apart from about six passengers who were taken into custody for questioning after the discovery of a suspect device, they were all evacuated into two luxury hotels on the Kenyan coast, under protection by Kenya's security agencies and the French secret service.

Several passengers were wheeled away in tears and in apparent shock into waiting buses and treated for light injuries suffered as they scrambled out.

They told journalists that they were unwilling to fly on the plane even after Kenyan authorities announced the unidentified devices had been taken away from the aircraft safely.

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Most passengers left the plane in tears and some on wheelchairs. Some explained that they knew something was terribly wrong when the captain announced on the loudspeaker that the plane was being diverted to East Africa due to a technical hitch.

Some said they became aware that some form of explosive or dummy bomb had been found in the lavatory. All the passengers left their hand luggage in the aircraft.

John Stephanie, head of Lycee La Bourpomanci (school) in Mauritius, who was on board, said he felt lucky to be alive.

"I thank God for all this. I am safe though shaken a bit," he said as he boarded a shuttle bus belonging to Ketty Tours for Travellers Beach Hotel.

Mr Stephanie said that he was headed back to Paris to be with his family for Christmas.

"We were barely two hours into the flight when the plane's captain made an announcement of a technical hitch that required us to land at the nearest facility," he said.

Another passenger, Pierre Bolonbad said he had gone to Mauritius for holiday and was returning to France when the journey aborted.

"I was hopeful we would make it and here we are in safe hands in Kenya," he said.

Louis Maiellot, a college student, said he was expecting to be in France yesterday only to find himself in Kenya.

Aircraft’s toilet

"This was not to be. I am here in a foreign country. It is my first time here by the way, though just for a short while. I'm full of praise to God for all the good things," he said.

He said that when the plane was diverted passengers were told a technical hitch had caused the change, but on landing at MIA, "we were told that there might be a bomb planted in one of the aircraft's toilets".

Several passengers were booked into Voyager Beach Resort and the crew at Mombasa Serena Beach Hotel. Ann Dali, who was travelling with her two children and husband Denis, said the airline crew handled the crisis professionally and calmly.

"The plane just went down slowly, so we just realised probably something was wrong," said a passenger who identified himself as Benoit Luchini of Paris.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery told the passengers that Air France would dispatch a plane to pick them up.

"Kenya's own security agencies are fully in charge of the investigations here," Mr Nkaissery, who was accompanied by Internal Security Principal Secretary Monica Juma and Kenya Airports Authority Managing Director Yatich Kagungo, said.

Air France bomb scare emergency landing explosive

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