The Electric New Paper:
SCARE IN HONGKONG
Security sweep of plane uncovers suspicious sticks
The suspicious material was found in the plane's toilet
The seven sticks, about 6cm in length, were wrapped tightly in brown paper
May 23, 2002
COULD it have been part of a terrorist attack or was it just a prank?
For several hours on Tuesday evening, Hongkong security personnel grappled with this question as they kept passengers of a Singapore-bound plane waiting in transit.
The security staff had found seven sticks of "firecracker-like-objects" in the toilet of United Airlines Flight UA895 on a routine sweep at Chek Lap Kok airport, an HK Airport Authority spokesman told The New Paper this morning.
"They were not real explosives. The matter has been handed over to the Hongkong police for further investigation", said the spokesman.
Hongkong's Apple Daily newspaper had earlier reported that "explosives" were discovered.
They were hidden in a compartment under the sink of one of the cabin toilets, airport officials and the police told Apple Daily newspaper.
The "explosives" were described as about 6cm in length - about the size of an adult thumb - and contained a black "explosive" substance.
Closely resembling sticks of dynamite, the explosives were wrapped tightly in brown paper, the newspaper said.
335 PEOPLE ON BOARD
The Boeing 747-400 from Chicago had got there at 4.34 pm via San Francisco with 314 passengers and 21 flight crew onboard.
It was scheduled to arrive in Singapore at 7.55pm the same day.
A Hongkong airport official said it was part of Hongkong's safety procedures for security personnel to board and search a plane when it is in transit.
Prof Chao Song Wei (hanyu pinyin) from the Chinese University in Hongkong told Apple Daily said that the tightly wrapped material could intensify the blast.
Even if the blast had not been strong enough to kill anyone, it was likely to generate dense smoke that could endanger the lives of passengers, he speculated.
However, Hongkong's bomb squad told Apple Daily that the circumstances surrounding this case were peculiar, and indicated that further investigations with Singapore and the US need to be carried out.
Hongkong police and United Airlines spokesmen would not comment further.
A more intensive search for other dangerous materials was carried out but revealed nothing further.
The flight finally took off for Singapore at 9.12pm, more than an hour late.
After last year's tragedy in New York, this incident comes as another blow to United Airlines security.
A spokesman maintained that security has been very tight since Sept 11. He could not, however, explain how the objects could have therefore come to be in the plane.