Jet carrying 153 crashes into ocean

Rescued child likely to be lone survivor, authorities fear safety violations by Yemeni plane

Teams searching the Indian Ocean for survivors of the crash of a passenger jet from Yemen early on Tuesday have rescued a child alive, officials said, as the air safety authorities in Europe raised questions about the airworthiness of the plane that went down near the island nation of Comoros with 153 people on board.

The plane was carrying 142 passengers and 11 crew on a flight from the Yemeni capital of Sana to Moroni, on the main island of Grand Comore. The flight originated in Paris on an Airbus A330 and stopped in Marseille before continuing to Yemen, where the passengers and crew changed to an Airbus A310-300.

The second plane crashed as it approached the Prince Said Ibrahim International Airport in Moroni in heavy winds 12 miles off the island’s coast, the Yemeni authorities and airline officials said.

French Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau told French television that the “A310 in question was inspected in 2007 by the DGAC and they noticed a certain number of faults.” He was referring to the French civil aviation authority. The plane had not returned to France since that inspection, Bussereau said, adding that the airline was to be interviewed “shortly” by a European Union committee which has the power to ban airlines from European skies in the case of serious safety violations.

Airline blacklist

The European Union is due to publish its latest quarterly list of airlines banned from the region next month. Antonio Tajani, the European Union’s Transport commissioner, said in Brussels on Tuesday that Yemenia was not currently on an airline blacklist but that European safety officials would contact the airline for more details about the safety record of plane in question, which was 19 years old, as well as the rest of its fleet.
The majority of the passengers on the doomed jet were from Comoros, returning home from Paris , the deputy chief of Yemen’s civil aviation authority, Mohammed Abdul Qader, told journalists in Sana.

The French Foreign Ministry said in a statement that 66 of the passengers were French. Hadji Mohamed Ali, the director of the airport at Moroni, told French radio that the plane lost radio contact with air traffic controllers five minutes before the crash.

A spokesman for Yemenia said a child appeared to be the sole survivor of the crash to be found so far and that the search for additional survivors was ongoing. Media reports from Yemen said the child was five years old and had been taken to a hospital. The Yemeni authorities said the bodies of at least five victims had been recovered, along with debris.

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