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Saudi Soccer Team Safe After Plane's Engine Appears To Catch Fire


Saudi players leave their Rossiya Airbus A319 after a tense landing in Rostov-on-Don on June 19.

Saudi Arabia's national soccer team says its players are safe after an engine appeared to catch fire on their plane as it was landing in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, where they are due to play their next World Cup match.

Russia's aviation watchdog Rosaviatsya said late on June 18 that flames shot from one of the engines as the plane was landing and that it would investigate the incident, Russian news agencies reported.

Saudi media footage and videos posted online appeared to show one of the engines catching fire, but a spokesman for the airline, Rossiya, denied a fire had occurred and said the accident was caused by a bird strike.

The team was traveling on a Rossiya Airbus A319 from St. Petersburg to Rostov-on-Don, where they are scheduled to play their second Group A match against Uruguay on June 20.

As it came in to land, the plane "suffered a technical fault with one of its engines, with a bird getting caught seen as the preliminary cause," a Rossiya airlines spokesman said in a statement.

Reports of a fire in one of the engines were incorrect, the spokesman said.

"Nothing threatened the safety of the passengers. The aircraft's landing took place in a routine fashion. No warning was sounded during the landing."

Videos posted online showed an aircraft identified as the Saudi team's plane with its wing on fire while it was in the air.

The footage was shared on a civil aviation monitoring website, Airlive.net, which said the fire broke out on the approach to Rostov airport.

The Saudi newspaper Al-Yaum posted a video showing flames coming out from under the plane's starboard wing against the dark backdrop of the sky, with the wing glowing bright orange.

A photograph shared by state-owned Saudi television channel Al-Ekhbariya, also taken from inside the plane, showed flames shooting out from under the wing just as it was touching down on the landing strip.

The Saudi federation released photographs of the players smiling and looking calm as they boarded a bus after landing, headed for the Mercure Hotel in central Rostov.

"All the Saudi national team players are safe after a technical failure in one of the airplane engines...and now they're heading to their residence safely," it said in a statement on Twitter.

The team, which is participating in the World Cup for the first time since 2006, suffered the biggest defeat in the tournament so far when they were shut out 5-0 by hosts Russia in the opening game in Moscow on June 14.

"I want to reassure you that we got to Rostov safely. It was a simple technical fault in the airplane, but thank God we are now in the hotel and things are good," Osama Hawsawi, captain of the Saudi team, said in a video shared on social media.

"The whole delegation is well," midfielder Hattan Bahebri said in a video shared on the team's official Twitter page.

"Of course, we were a bit frightened, but thank God," he added, laughing.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa, Interfax, and TASS
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