Zimbabwe plane alert was exercise--official
* Zimbabwe tests emergency services
* "Normal" practice is for alert before drill
(Adds background, aviation industry official)
HARARE/LONDON, Aug 5 (Reuters) - An accident reported at Harare airport on Thursday was actually an exercise and no aircraft were involved in any incident, a Zimbabwean aviation official said.
Civil aviation authorities initially reported an accident at the airport leading to injuries but no deaths, and media reports said the flight involved had originated in London.
"There was a drill. We have to test our preparedness and response capabilities every now and then," said the senior official of the Civil Aviation Authority, who declined to be identified. A news briefing was scheduled later on Thursday.
Britain's Foreign Office also said the incident was a drill.
"As we understand it, it's a drill, it isn't real, it hasn't really happened," a British Foreign Office spokeswoman said.
A Reuters witness said the situation at the airport was normal with people waiting for flights arriving and departing.
Air Zimbabwe is a member of a safety registry maintained by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which requires an audit on accident procedures to be carried out every two years.
Air Zimbabwe was last audited on behalf of the Geneva-based airlines group around two months ago in June but no IATA inspections were taking place on Thursday, a spokesman said.
An aviation industry official with direct knowledge of the situation confirmed that the incident was an "exercise or a drill" but said there had been no widespread warning beforehand.
"A lot of airlines carry out emergency drills. Normally you would see a notification going out so that people are not surprised," the official said, asking not to be identified.
"I am not aware of any notification this time. I have never seen it done in quite this way."
Kenyan airport authorities caused brief panic in 2006 when they reported the crash of a plane carrying 80 people. Fire engines and ambulances roared to the incident site at Nairobi airport but it turned out to be a dry run. (Reporting by Nelson Banya in Harare, Tim Hepher in Paris and Michael Holden in London; Writing by Marius Bosch; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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