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Africa

Yemenia suspends flights to and from Marseille

Video by Shona BHATTACHARYYA

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-07-04

After days of protests at the Marseilles airport by angry Comorans following Tuesday’s crash off the Comoros, Yemenia airlines announced it was suspending flights to and from the Mediterranean port city.

Emergency numbers:

Paris airport number for families of passengers: +33.1.48.64.59.59
Yemenia Airways emergency number: +967.1.250.833

 

AFP - The 12-year-old girl who survived a Yemeni airliner crash by clinging to wreckage in the Indian Ocean flew back to Paris on Thursday for an emotional reunion with her father.


Later Thursday, Yemenia airlnes announced it was suspending flights to and from the French Mediterranean port city of Marseille, after a second day of protests at the airport there by members of the Comoran community.

Bahia Bakari, the only known survivor among the 153 people on the Yemenia Airbus A310 jet which crashed off the Comoros on Tuesday, was brought home on a French government plane.

Bakari, who lost her mother in the crash, returned to a warm welcome at Paris's Le Bourget airport where her father and relatives embraced her as she was carried off the plane on a stretcher.

"She is doing well," her father Kassim Bakari told reporters, saying he was "very, very grateful" to be reunited with his daughter.

Suffering from exhaustion, with a fractured collarbone and burns to her knee, Bahia was taken by ambulance to a Paris intensive care ward for a full check-up, hospital officials said.

Barely able to swim, Bahia was ejected into the ocean in pitch darkness when the Airbus plunged into the sea after attempting to land at Moroni airport.

Despite the trauma, she seemed to "feel safe" on the flight home and managed to eat some lasagna and papaya, said French Cooperation Minister Alain Joyandet who accompanied her on the flight.

Joyandet said Bahia told him that in the final minutes of the flight she heard "some instructions, she felt like a jolt of electricity, then a loud noise and she found herself in the water."

Bahia's father said that -- according to her account -- others had survived the initial impact in the rough seas.

President Nicolas Sarkozy attended a multi-faith ceremony at the Paris mosque on Thursday in memory of the crash victims and met with the families.

The Yemenia flight left Paris on Monday for Marseille and Sanaa aboard a modern Airbus A330 but passengers switched to the older A310 jet to continue to Djibouti and Moroni.

At Marseille airport Thursday, Yemenia official Mohamed Zoubeidi told reporters: "The company has decided to stop, for an undetermined period, its flights from Marseille to Sanaa."

The announcement came after more than four hours of talks between airline officials, the airport management and representatives of the Comoran community in Marseille.

Up to 500 Comorans had staged a second day of protests there, police said, setting up a human chain to block Yemenia's check-in counters and forcing officials to cancel the airline's daily flight to Moroni.

"The situation is very, very tense," airport director Pierre Regis told AFP.

Yemenia has offered initial compensation of 20,000 euros (28,000 dollars) to each of the victims' families.

But both the French authorities and members of the Comoros community in France have pointed the finger at the state of the airliner and shortcomings in maintenance.

The 19-year-old jet had already been banned from French airspace because of safety doubts.

But in Sanaa, Yemen's transport minister rejected European criticism of Yemenia's safety standards as "unfair".

Khaled al-Wazir said his ministry "reserves the right to take legal action against the parties deliberately seeking to damage the image of the Yemeni national airline."

In the Comoros, French and US divers joined the search for debris and bodies. But French army captain Raphael Pouyadou told journalists it was becoming increasingly difficult to find crash debris.

Airbus, still reeling from the crash of an Air France A330 into the Atlantic on June 1 with 228 people on board, has sent investigators to the Comoros and a French judicial investigation is underway.

 

 

Date created : 2009-07-02

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