herald

Saturday 21 October 2017

French race to secure crash site as 116 die in plane disaster

A relative of Lebanese national Manji Hasan holds up his mobile phone displaying a picture of Manji and his children, who the family said were all on board Air Algerie flight AH 5017. Photo: Reuters
A relative of Lebanese national Manji Hasan holds up his mobile phone displaying a picture of Manji and his children, who the family said were all on board Air Algerie flight AH 5017. Photo: Reuters

French officials have dispatched a military unit to secure the site where an Air Algerie plane crashed with the loss of 116 people.

France's interior minister said that terrorism cannot be excluded as a cause for the tragedy, though it was likely due to bad weather.

French president Francois Hollande announced today that there were no survivors in the crash.

The flight disappeared from radar less than an hour after it took off early yesterday from Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou, for Algiers.

COURSE

The plane had requested permission to change course due to bad weather.

Speaking after a crisis meeting, Mr Hollande also announced that one of the aircraft's two black boxes has been found in the wreckage, in the Gossi region near the border with Burkina Faso.

It is being taken to the northern Mali city of Gao.

A French Reaper drone based in Niger spotted the wreckage, French transport minister Frederic Cuvillier said.

Two helicopter teams also flew over the location, noting that the wreckage was in a concentrated area.

A column of soldiers in some 30 vehicles were dispatched to the site, he said.

A statement early today from Mr Hollande's office said the aircraft had been clearly identified "despite its state of disintegration".

Quick discovery of the wreckage is "decisive" in piecing together what happened, the transport minister said, describing the aircraft as "disintegrated" and debris "in an apparently small area".

"We think the plane went down due to weather conditions, but no hypothesis can be excluded as long as we don't have the results of an investigation," French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said.

"Terrorist groups are in the zone," he said. "We know these groups are hostile to Western interests."

Nearly half the 110 passengers aboard the plane were French.

hnews@herald.ie

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