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Last Updated: Sunday, 17 June 2007, 13:20 GMT 14:20 UK
Milan airport shut by hare plague
By Mark Duff
BBC News, Milan

Policeman at Linate with trapped hare, 17 June 2007
Some 80 hares are thought to be causing the disruption

Officials have been forced to suspend flights into an airport in the Italian city of Milan due to a plague of hares.

The animals invaded the runways at Milan's Linate Airport - and affected the operation of vital equipment.

Airport bosses are baffled as to why the hare population at Linate has risen so dramatically in the past few months.

Whatever the cause, the result has been chaos - in the past two weeks alone, two hares have ended up beneath the wheels of charter planes.

Unusual step

Hares have plagued Milan's Linate Airport for months

They have also confused the ground radar that is meant to prevent a repeat of Italy's worst ever air crash, which left 118 people dead, at Linate in 2001.

Things have become so serious that officials have taken the unusual step of closing Linate for three hours - from first light on Sunday - while a team of local wildlife experts try to catch the 80 or so hares that have been causing the problem.

The hares will be taken to nature reserves around Milan - though officials have warned that they have not ruled out a cull if this fails.

Linate is the airport of choice for anyone wanting a quick trip into Milan - lying as it does just five kilometres (three miles) from the city centre - unlike the city's other airports which can often take more than an hour to reach on the area's congested motorways.

Hares are not the only natural hazard to afflict Linate: it's also prone to bouts of dense fog.

Italy airport set for hare hunt
14 Jun 07 |  Europe

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