Botswana tries to allay air safety fears

2011-10-21 20:37

Gaborone - Botswana's transport minister has sought to quell fears about safety on aircraft serving the tourist attraction of the Okavango Delta wetlands following an accident that claimed eight lives.

"I would like to assure all that they are safe to travel within Botswana and should not hesitate to do so. Botswana skies are safe," Frank Ramsden said.

"Botswana has one of the best civil aviation safety records regionally. In the last 10 years, we have only had one fatal accident. Statistically, over 90 000 000km have been flown by local operators in the Okavango Delta," he added.

Ramsden said that including last week's crash Botswana's safety record was the equivalent of 0.022 fatal accidents per million kilometres flown.

"Most countries in the world would aspire to a safety record such as this. Our record is quite phenomenal compared to first world countries," he said.

Ramsden said a preliminary government report on the accident on October 14 would be ready in two to three weeks.

Three French, three Swiss and two Britons, including the British pilot, were killed when a Cessna 208 of local carriers Moremi Air crashed shortly after take-off from the island of Pom Pom, a luxurious safari destination in the north.

Two Botswana nationals escaped with light injuries and pulled to safety two French passengers, who were later airlifted out to South Africa for treatment.

The Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (Hatab) said the accident had not affected visitor reservations for the Delta, a Unesco world heritage site which has numerous airstrips serving the various tourist camps and lodges.

The airport at Maun, the main town in the Delta, is one of the busiest in Africa.