Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
THE Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructural Development has expressed concern over lack of proper emergency services at the country’s major airports.
Speaking after a tour of Hwange National Park and Victoria Falls airports last Thursday, committee chairperson, Oscar Gorerino, implored the Civil Aviation Authority (CAAZ) to urgently look into the issue.
He said his team has noted that Masvingo, Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International, Hwange National Park and Victoria Falls International airports have ambulances that are not functioning properly, which compromises safety standards.
As such, he said, recommendations would be made to Parliament to have the issue resolved quickly.
“The tour is an eye opener. We started in Masvingo and we were not happy about the fire station.
“We went to JM in Bulawayo and the same issue surfaced as the fire station was not even good with the only available truck having technical problems,” he said.
“It’s an international airport and can’t have a situation where the fire station is not working.
“We’re not happy with maintenance of the Hwange airport which has no fire tender.
“Here at the Victoria Falls airport it’s generally impressive considering the fact that it’s a new airport but there is an issue with the ambulance especially looking at the status of the facility.”
The only ambulance at Victoria Falls airport is grounded although the facility has three international standard fire tenders, which meet required specifications, according to officials at the facility.
There are also no ambulances at the Hwange and Masvingo airports. However, CAAZ engineers said Hwange Airport can use fire equipment from Victoria Falls because aircraft accidents are not sudden, thereby, giving handlers enough time to communicate and arrange for reaction.
Gorerino said the tour was inspired by the need to take stock of the state of aviation facilities in the country and also by the need to have proper facilities.
CAAZ acting director general, Mrs Margaret Mantiziba, said the aviation authority already has plans to rehabilitate its ambulance.
“It’s a fair comment from the committee but it’s something that is in our plans.
“We are going to be buying some ambulances and I can assure you that international airports will be having them this time next year,” she said.
Mrs Mantiziba said CAAZ was also mobilising resources to upgrade the runway at Hwange Airport so that it attracts traffic and business.
The facility is mostly used for unscheduled private landings despite it having the second longest runway measuring 4.2km after Harare International Airport.
Mrs Mantiziba said rehabilitation projects will be done in phases depending on availability of resources.
Victoria Falls Airport manager Mr Ronnie Masawi said seven airlines were flying into the facility, which now has capacity to handle 1,5 million passengers per annum.
The airport can also accommodate wide- bodied aircraft after expansion of the runway and taxiway among other refurbishments that were completed in 2016. — @ncubeleon