Plane with 153 Passengers Crashes off Comoros, Child Rescued

By: By TOM MALITI Associated Press Writer
By: By TOM MALITI Associated Press Writer

DZAEUDZI, Comoros (AP) - A passenger jet carrying 153 people from Yemen crashed into the Indian Ocean in bad weather early Tuesday while trying to land at the island nation of Comoros. Search teams rescued a child from the sea, officials said, but there was no word on other survivors.

The Yemeni Airbus 310 was flying the last leg of a journey taking passengers from Paris and Marseille to Comoros via Yemen. Most of the passengers were from Comoros, returning from Paris. Sixty-six on board were French nationals.

The rescued child was 5 years old and the flight also had at least three babies, Yemeni civil aviation deputy chief Mohammed Abdul Qader said.

Three bodies from the flight were retrieved along with debris from the plane, according to Comoros immigrations officer Rachida Abdullah.

Qader said it was too early to speculate on the cause and the flight data recorder had not been found.

"The weather was very bad ... the wind was very strong," he said, adding the windy conditions were hampering rescue efforts. He said the wind was 40 miles per hour (61 kph) as the plane was landing.

The Yemenia (Yemen Airways) plane was the second Airbus to crash into the sea recently. An Air France Airbus A330-200 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean May 31, killing all 228 people on board, as it flew from Rio de Janeiro to Paris.

The Comoros is an archipelago of three main islands situated about 1,800 miles (2,900 kilometers) south of Yemen, between Africa's southeastern coast and the island of Madagascar.

Gen. Bruno de Bourdoncle de Saint-Salvy, the senior commander for French forces in the southern Indian Ocean, said the Airbus 310 crashed in deep waters about 9 miles (14.5 kilometers) north of the Comoran coast and 21 miles (34 kilometers) from the Moroni airport.

French aviation inspectors found a "number of faults" during a 2007 inspection of the plane that went down, French Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau said on i-Tele television Tuesday.

In Brussels, EU Transport Commissioner Antonio Tajani said the airline had previously met EU safety checks and was not on the bloc's blacklist. But he said a full investigation was now being started amid questions why passengers were put on another jet in the Yemeni capital of San'a.

An Airbus statement said the plane that crashed went into service 19 years ago, in 1990, and had accumulated 51,900 flight hours. It has been operated by Yemenia (Yemen Airways) since 1999. Airbus said it was sending a team of specialists to the Comoros.

The A310-300 is a twin-engine widebody jet that can seat up to 220 passengers. There are 214 A310s in service worldwide with 41 operators.

Christophe Prazuck, French military spokesman, said a patrol boat and reconnaissance ship were being sent to the crash site as well a military transport plane. The French were sending divers as well as medical personnel, he said.

In Paris, a crisis cell was set up at Charles de Gaulle airport. Most of the passengers on board were from the French city of Marseille, which has a large Comoros community.

"There is considerable dismay," said Stephane Salord, the consul general of the Comoros in the Provence-Alps-Cote d'Azur region of France. "These are families that, each year on the eve of summer, leave Marseille and the region to rejoin their families in the Comoros and spend their holidays."

In France, this week is the start of annual summer school lacations.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy "expressed his deep emotion" about the crash and asked the French military to help in the rescue operation, particularly from the French islands of Mayotte and Reunion.

Yemenia airline officials say the 11-member crew was made up of six Yemenis, including the pilot, two Moroccans, one Indonesian, one Ethiopian and 1 Filipino. The officials asked that their named not be used because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
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Associated Press Writers Deborah Seward and Angela Charlton in
Paris, Sarah El Deeb in Cairo and Yoann Guilloux in Saint-Denis de
la Reunion, Reunion Island, contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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