Search for Missing Plane Debris Widens to Tanzania

By: Sukhdev Chhatbat and Ali Sultan AP
By: Sukhdev Chhatbat and Ali Sultan AP

ARUSHA, Tanzania (AP) - An airline seat and a sheet of metal with an "Airbus" inscription washed ashore in Tanzania, officials said Wednesday, as two French investigators arrived to see if the debris was linked to the Yemenia Airways plane crash hundreds of miles away.

The search for the remains of Flight 626 has widened since the plane crashed June 30 while trying to land in the Comoros with 153 passengers aboard. Only one girl survived.

Teams from the French aviation investigation agency BEA and the French navy were still searching for the planes' black boxes off the Comoran coast. But currents may have carried wreckage and bodies from the plane nearly 500 miles (800 kilometers) along the coast of East Africa to Tanzania's largely undeveloped Mafia

Two French embassy officials were assisting with the search there but their efforts to find further debris were hampered by bad weather, said Mafia Island District Commissioner Manzie Mangochie.

Tanzanian police spokesman Mohammed Mhina said debris recovered
on Mafia Island included a single passenger seat and what appeared
to be part of a wing with the inscription "Airbus 310," the make of the missing plane.

Mhina said two Tanzanian ships and two helicopters were helping local fishermen and officials with the search there.

The mission continued in the Comoros despite rough seas, Comoran official Ali Abou Abasse said.

French Foreign Ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier said France was "cooperating fully and in all transparency with all the parties concerned by this tragedy."

He declined to comment on threats by Yemenia Airways to cancel Airbus orders following criticism of the plane's safety record by French officials.

"The main thing at this point is to find bodies of victims, as well as for the needs of the investigation, the aircraft's black boxes," he said.

Investigators have reportedly concluded that the black boxes - the plane's cockpit voice and flight data recorders - lie in waters too deep for divers and are awaiting specialized robots that can operate underwater. The robots are due in Comoros on July 12.

Protests in France over conditions on Yemenia planes have drawn over 15,000 people. Critics claim the airline uses good planes for trips to Europe and worse planes for the trip from Yemen to the Comoros Islands.

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