The severe turbulence which hit an EgyptAir plane in the air earlier this week, injuring 12 people on board, is a "rare incident," Egypt's civil aviation minister has said.
Ten passengers and two crew members were taken to hospital when the Boeing 777, travelling from New York, landed in Cairo on Tuesday.
Civil Aviation Minster Hossam Kamel told Al-Ahram daily in an interview published Saturday that the incident was caused by the plane entering "an air vacuum, a phenomenon that cannot be spotted or foreseen by aircraft radars."
The minister also praised the pilot 's handling of the situation.
"The decision to continue on the designated route, the fact that only 12 out of 268 passengers were injured, are signs showing how wisely the pilot dealt with the situation," said Kamal.
Kamal's statements came amid accusations on social media of negligence, and passengers accounts which criticised the pilot and the crew's lack of experience in dealing with the situation.
Shortly after the incident, Yasmeen Abouel-Noor, a passenger who was on board, posted on Facebook complaining about EgyptAir's "unprofessionalism" in dealing with the situation.
"Upon hitting the turbulence, the seatbelt signs did not light up, clear evidence that the pilot was probably not anywhere near the cockpit. It took around 40 seconds for the pilot to take 'control,'" said Abouel-Noor.
She said she had been told by one of the cabin crew that during the incident the aircraft has suddenly dropped 700 feet.
Photos of injured passengers being hospitalised as soon as they arrived in Cairo airport were widely circulated on social media.
Kamal said that a technical committee has been formed to investigate the incident and will complete its report in a week.
EgyptAir issued an official apology to all passengers who were on the craft, describing the "rare incident" as being beyond the pilot's control.