Sandakan: Eighteen passengers "died" while 20 others "survived" an aircraft fire here, Tuesday.

The "victims" were among 38 passengers on board a flight headed towards Sandakan from Tawau.

The Sandakan Airport Terminal received an emergency call at 1.37pm and took immediate action by contacting relevant agencies involved in the search and rescue mission.

Among the first to arrive were the Air Force Recruiting Service (AFRS), followed by the Aviation Security (AVSEC) DCA Sandakan, police, Fire and Rescue Department, ambulance from the Duchess of Kent Hospital and the Immigration and Customs Department.

The whole scene, however, was not real but was in fact a search and rescue training drill involving passengers and aircraft at the Sandakan Airport Terminal.

Its Manager, Awang Mali Anak, said: "A real search and rescue situation would be different compared to a training drill, but through training such as this, agencies involved would know their respective roles when faced with similar situations."

"The programme was organised with the objective of filling in the requirement in the Airport Emergency Plan related to emergencies at the airport terminal," he said.

"The efficiency level of agencies involved is also evaluated during the drill," he added.

Towards this end, he said improvement and cooperation among those involved could be enhanced when faced with a real emergency.

More than 100 search and rescue personnel from various agencies participated in the training drill. 

Source : Daily Express