Heatwave stops Zimbabwe plane from landing

Harare - Think you're hot? Temperatures rose so high in Zimbabwe's resort town of Kariba that a pilot was unable to land his plane there and had to go on to Victoria Falls, the official Herald reported on Saturday.

The Air Zimbabwe MA 60 was on a scheduled flight from Harare to Kariba on Friday morning, the paper reported.

When temperatures at Kariba Airport went above 40°C, it was judged to be unsafe to land the aircraft.

The pilot had to take the plane on to Victoria Falls, where it was slightly cooler, and then back to Harare, according to the report.

Chris Kwenda, an Air Zimbabwe manager, told the paper there was a danger of tyres bursting or of an engine malfunction.

"There are prescribed temperatures the aircraft should not operate under," Kwenda was quoted as saying.

"We made a decision to fly past Kariba and [we] landed in Victoria Falls as the temperatures exceeded the prescribed 40°C that our airlines are allowed to operate under," he added.

New heat records

Zimbabwe is in the middle of a heatwave, with temperatures breaking decades-old records in some places.

The official Chronicle newspaper reported on Friday that Bulawayo's Joshua Nkomo International Airport had reached a high of 38°C during the week, beating a record set 25 years ago.

Temperatures in the mining town of West Nicholson in the south of the country reached 42.5 degrees last weekend. Beitbridge, on the border with South Africa, has hit 44 degrees. The hottest temperature ever recorded in the busy town was 44.4°C, in 1941, the Chronicle said.

New heat records have been set this week in the towns of Plumtree, Rusape and Marondera and in Tsholotsho district.

Weather forecasters are predicting thundershowers from Sunday.

Friday's incident could mean that Air Zimbabwe will have to rethink its regular flight times to Kariba, according to the Herald. Air Zimbabwe only resumed plying the Harare-Kariba-Victoria Falls flight last year after a seven-year hiatus.

Zimbabwe's MA 60 planes are turboprop-powered and produced in China. Last year sources said that there was only one MA 60 still in operation in the country.

Well-known journalist Zenzele Ndebele @zenzele asked how other aircraft managed to land in extremely hot conditions, tweeting: "My [question] is how so? Planes land in deserts and hot places like Dubai."

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