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Middle east

Fingers pointed at Yemenia Airways after Airbus crash

Video by Philip CROWTHER

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-07-01

Relatives of passengers aboard Yemenia Airways flight IY 626 which crashed en route to the Comoros from Paris on Monday have criticised the airline for having a poor safety record. Out of 153 on board, a 14-year-old was rescued alive.

Paris airport emergency number for families of passengers: +33.(0)
Yemenia Airways's call centre in Sanaa: +967.1.250.800/ emergency number: +967.1.250.833



A Yemenia Airbus 310-300 with 153 people on board crashed into the sea late Monday night while approaching the Indian Ocean archipelago of the Comoros. A 14-year-old girl is the sole survivor so far, according to the local Red Cross and rescuers.


Earlier reports had suggested the survivor was a five-year-old child.


Three bodies have been recovered, while the location of up to a hundred others has been identified by search and rescue personnel, according to authorities.


There were up to 66 French nationals on Yemenia flight IY 626, which originated from Paris. French authorities have also dispatched two airplanes and a ship from the Reunion islands to aid the search.


Contact with the flight was lost at 1:51 am local time (GMT+2), when the plane appears to have pulled off from its final approach to land for a second try. According to a senior Yemeni aviation official, Mohammad Abdel Kader, “the weather conditions were bad, with winds gusting up to 61 knots”.



The Yemenia flight took off from Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport, subsequently making stopovers in Marseilles and Djibouti, with a change of aircraft in Sanaa. The 143 passengers on board included nationals from France, Canada, Comoros, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Morocco, the Palestinian territories, the Philippines and Yemen.



 Questions on safety record


The airport authorities cite bad weather at the time of the accident, and Yemenia’s deputy director assured FRANCE 24 that "the plane had taken off without any technical problem."


But the crashed aircraft had been cited for technical faults earlier, according to France’s transport minister Dominique Bussereau, and “banned” from French airspace. It was also an aircraft that did not belong to Yemenia, but it was owned by another company, the lessor International Lease Finance Corp.

"The Airbus A310 in question was checked in 2007 by the DGCA [France’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation], and they noticed a certain number of faults. The unit has since not reappeared in our country," Bussereau told TV channel I-Tele.


Relatives of passengers at the Charles de Gaulle airport also told FRANCE 24 correspondent Gulliver Cragg that the plane from Sanaa to Moroni was usually “in very poor condition” and badly maintained.


Also at the airport were activists from a group called "SOS voyage aux Comores" (SOS Comoros Travel) who said that they had already protested against conditions on the flights earlier.


"Flights between Sanaa and Moroni are carried out by cowboy operators," spokesman Farid Soilihi told AFP. "They treat people like cattle, they pile them in, they don't respect timetables, there are always technical problems."


Airbus and France’s Office of Investigations and Analysis (BEA) will be sending teams to the region to investigate the accident.


The European Commissioner for Transport, Antonio Tajani, has said that it would contact Yemenia to inquire on its safety record, and would also propose a “global blacklist” along the lines of EU’s current blacklist of banned airlines.


Date created : 2009-06-30