Yemenia Airbus crashes off the Comoros, at least one survivor rescued
Source: BI-ME and agencies , Author: BI-ME staff
Posted: Tue June 30, 2009 3:04 pm

YEMEN. An Airbus from Yemen's national airline with 153 passengers and crew members on board crashed in the Indian Ocean just before it was due to land in the Comoros Islands.

The Airbus SAS A310 plane was 15 minutes from touching down in the islands’ capital, Moroni, when it crashed today, a Yemenia official, Taha al-Ashwal, told Bloomberg  from Yemen's capital, Sana'a.

A survivor was rescued from the sea, another Yemenia official said.

"We still do not know the nationality or the gender of the person rescued. We have just learned from the Comoros that one person was rescued," Mohammad al-Sumairi, deputy general manager for Yemenia operations told Reuters by telephone from Sanaa.

Rescuers on Tuesday found a child survivor, a hospital official said.

"A child was found alive. He is now on a rescuers' boat," said Ben Imani, a doctor at Moroni's main hospital told AFP.

A Comoros Red Cross official confirmed the rescue.

"We have all that is needed -- drips, equipment -- to assist the child immediately," said Al fachad Salim.

It was not immediately clear if the child was the same survivor reported earlier in Sanaa by a Yemenia airline official.

An inspection of the plane in France in 2007 noted “a certain number of faults,” French Transportation Minister Dominique Bussereau said in an interview with France’s i-tele channel without elaborating on the problems. The aircraft was barred from France after the inspection, and the airline was being monitored by European Union authorities, he said.

It wasn’t immediately known whether anyone else survived, al- Ashwal said, adding officials “lost contact” with the aircraft at 1 a.m. Wreckage was spotted off the coast of the Comoros and some bodies were seen floating about 30 kilometers (18 miles) from Moroni, Agence France-Presse reported, citing senior aviation official Mohammad Abdel Kader.

“The weather was bad at that time and it’s still now,” Yemenia Chairman Abdulkalek Saleh Al-Kadi said in a telephone interview from Sana’a. Winds were gusting as high as 113 kilometers (71 miles) per hour and the sea was rough, AFP cited the aviation official as saying. 

Yemenia flew another plane from Paris to Sana’a via Marseilles, and then transferred the passengers for Comoros onto the A310, which didn’t meet the standards for flying in French airspace, according to Bussereau.

Most of the passengers were of Comorian origin from France, the airline said. Sixty-six French nationals were on the flight, the French Foreign Ministry said.

Yemenia runs four A310-300 that are leased, according to the Arab Air Carriers Organization. The oldest plane was built in 1990 and the newest in 1997. The airline, which is 49% owned by Saudi Arabian Airlines, also operates leased Airbus A330-200 and Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

Airbus SAS said the aircraft in the Yemenia crash was an A310-300 that left its production line in 1990. The plane had been operated by Yemenia since 1999, the planemaker, based in Toulouse, France, told Bloomberg in an e-mailed statement. Airbus said it is providing technical assistance to French investigators on the crash.

 

 

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