It was a chaotic night at the Palma de Mallorca Airport.
Air operations were completely disrupted for more than four hours after a flight from Morocco landed on the island due to a false medical emergency on board.
More than twenty passengers took the opportunity to escape the plane and invaded the runway, before getting lost on the island in what the police fear may be a novel method of illegal immigration. The police are investigating if what happened was due to a previous plan or if it was improvised.
According to the local newspaper Diario de Mallorca, the events occurred when an airplane from the company Air Arabia Maroc declared an emergency while flying from Casablanca (Morocco) to Istanbul (Turkey). A passenger pretended to be seriously ill and the pilot had to land in Mallorca at around 7:00 pm so that he could receive medical help.
When the flight landed and medical help arrived, the passenger - who supposedly suffered from a diabetic coma - declared that he felt much better. Still, he was taken to the hospital for a checkup.
While the alleged sick person was being evacuated, a riot was formed inside the aircraft and more than 20 other passengers managed to escape: their intention was to flee and stay illegally in Spain.
The Civil Guard and the National Police started to look for them on the runway, which had to remain closed until the operation was over.
Fugitives on the run
Some of the passengers that escaped were captured in different places in Mallorca. There are 12 people detained, including the man who pretended an illness. He is suspected of a crime for favoring illegal immigration.
Five of the detainees were captured in the municipality of Marratxí, according to a press release issued by the town. The local police received a call before midnight reporting that four persons were acting strangely. When the police found them, they confessed that they had run away from the airport. Others were found in the morning, but the police are still looking for 11 of the fugitives.
At the airport the chaos lasted for several hours. A few minutes before midnight, the runway was declared clear and air traffic controllers reported on Twitter that air operations had resumed.
Aena, the public company in charge of operating Spain’s airports, informed that up to 13 flights were diverted, mainly to Barcelona and Ibiza, but also to Menorca, Madrid and Valencia. In addition to this, 47 flights from or to Mallorca were cancelled.
*Pablo Morilla is a journalist, author of the blog Michan en Finlandia.