Severe turbulence injures many in Air Europa flight

An Air Europa flight from Madrid to Montevideo had to make an emergency landing at a Brazilian airport due to “severe turbulence,” the airline reported. Approximately 40 passengers, most with minor injuries, were taken to hospitals in Natal, the capital of Rio Grande do Norte state, after the plane was diverted early on Monday.

According to news website G1, some passengers suffered fractures and others hit their heads during the turbulence. At least four remained in the hospital on Monday afternoon. The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner departed Madrid at 11:57 PM on Sunday with 325 people on board and was scheduled to arrive in Montevideo, Uruguay, early Monday.

At 2:32 AM, Flight UX045 requested an emergency landing at Natal airport in northeastern Brazil – 4,000 km from Montevideo – as per its operator, Zurich Airport Brazil. Air Europa posted on Twitter/X that Natal was “the airport that could most quickly attend to passengers with medical needs.” There were “injured passengers of varying severity,” the airline stated.

The state’s public health department confirmed that 40 passengers – from Spain, Uruguay, Israel, Germany, and Bolivia – received treatment in state-run hospitals. Most were discharged after receiving medical attention. Four passengers remained “stable” at Monsenhor Walfredo Gurgel hospital, awaiting test results before being discharged. Five others were transferred to private hospitals.

A user on social media platform X, claiming to have been on the flight, shared pictures of broken ceiling panels with exposed pipes and wires. At 1:12 PM, Air Europa reported that passengers who were not injured were being transferred to Recife – the capital of Pernambuco state, 255 km from Natal – “where they will be accommodated and then travel to Montevideo.”

In May, a 73-year-old British man died, and several other passengers and crew suffered skull, brain, and spine injuries when a Singapore Airlines flight from London to Singapore encountered turbulence and made an emergency landing in Bangkok. A week later, eight people were hospitalized after turbulence during a Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Ireland.

Scientists attribute the worsening of clear air turbulence, which is invisible to radar, to the climate crisis. Research by Reading University indicates that higher temperatures resulting from the climate crisis are causing significant increases in turbulence across transatlantic flights. They found that incidents of severe turbulence increased by 55% between 1979 and 2020, due to changes in wind velocity at high altitudes.

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