Austrian Airlines plane damaged by hailstorm during flight

VIENNA: A hailstorm badly damaged a passenger plane approaching Vienna on Sunday (Jun 9), the airline said, as Austria grappled with violent thunderstorms and widespread flooding.

Hail broke off part of the nose and left cracks in the cockpit windows of the Austrian Airlines aircraft, which was carrying holidaymakers back from Palma de Mallorca.

After issuing a distress call, the plane landed safely at Vienna airport.

None of the passengers or crew were injured in the incident. Several news outlets reported that the plane was carrying 173 passengers and six crew members.

“According to the cockpit crew, the storm was not visible on the weather radar,” the airline said in a statement sent to AFP on Monday.

The plane had hit a “thunderstorm cell”, Austrian Airlines told ABC news. A passenger who was on the flight told the US news outlet that those inside the cabin could hear the hail as it struck the aircraft.

“It was quite loud and … super rocky for a minute,” the passenger said, adding that the plane took about two minutes to fly through the hailstorm.

In recent weeks, torrential rains have led to flooding across Austria, with firefighters carrying out more than 2,000 operations in several provinces.

The area close to the border with Slovenia and Hungary in the southern provinces of Styria and Burgenland has been especially hard hit, with a dam reportedly breaching.

Local authorities said Monday they were still searching for a 77-year-old retiree who went missing in Burgenland after driving to the polling station to vote in Sunday’s European elections.

In Styria, six polling stations were flooded or rendered inaccessible on Sunday, local officials told AFP.

Over the weekend, a 36-year-old Croat died after the excavator he was operating fell into a stream in Styria late on Friday, police said in a statement, adding they consider his death to be a work accident.

Austria’s national weather service warned that rainfall would continue until Wednesday evening.

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