19 Aug 2012

Air NZ passengers caught up in Samoan rally

4:46 am on 19 August 2012

Passengers on an Air New Zealand flight were caught in a protest near the main airport in Samoa when villagers staged an armed demonstration.

The airline says passengers were advised to stay in the terminal at Faleolo International Airport on Thursday afternoon while the police negotiated with protesters on the road outside.

The Satapuala villagers have been campaigning against plans to build a hospital on land near the airport.

Police in Samoa say about 100 protesters took part in Thursday's rally, after setting up a roadblock the night before.

They say the passengers from the Air New Zealand flight were prevented from using the road out of the airport for several hours, but were not in any danger.

The Samoan Observer reports that some of the protesters were brandishing machetes, rocks and bottles of kerosene.

The newspaper says at one point police officers fired shots in the air as a warning to the villagers.

Air New Zealand says its flight leaving Samoa on Thursday afternoon was delayed but services have returned to normal since then.