Ethiopian jet with 90 crashes

Ethiopian jet with 90 crashes

search for life: A Lebanese commando pulls a body from the water into a helicopter above the area where an Ethiopian plane crashed as a vessel (R) searches for survivors at Khaldeh, south of Beirut, on Monday. Reuters

The cause of the crash was not immediately known. Lebanon has seen stormy weather since Sunday night, with crackling thunder, lightning and pouring rain.
Lebanese President Michel Suleiman said terrorism was not suspected in the crash of Flight 409, which was headed for the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. “Sabotage is ruled out as of now,” he said.

Weeping relatives streamed into Beirut’s airport to wait for news on their loved ones. The dead include several children, according to a Lebanese defence official who asked that his name not be used because he is not authorised to speak to publicly.

Bad weather
The Boeing 737-800 took off around 2:30 am (7:30 pm EST) and went down 2 miles (3.5 km) off the coast, said Ghazi Aridi, Public Works and Transportation Minister. The Lebanese army said in a statement the plane was “on fire shortly after takeoff.” “The weather undoubtedly was very bad,” Aridi told reporters at the airport.
Pieces of the plane and debris were washing ashore in the hours after the crash, including passenger seats, a baby sandal, a fire extinguisher and bottles of medicine.
The wife of Denis Pietton, the French ambassador to Lebanon, was on the plane, according to the French embassy.

Helicopters and naval ships were scrambled for a rescue effort as huge waves slammed into the shore. Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced a day of mourning and closed schools and government offices.

Ethiopian Airlines’ CEO Girma Wake told journalists in Addis Ababa that he had no information on the fate of those on board or about the cause of the crash. He said the aircraft had been serviced on December 25 and passed inspection.
He said the plane had been leased in September from CIT Aerospace. Calls to CIT Aerospace were not immediately returned on Monday.

The plane was carrying 90 people, including 83 passengers and 7 crew, Lebanese officials said. Aridi, the transportation minister, identified the passengers as 54 Lebanese, 22 Ethiopians, one Iraqi, one Syrian, one Canadian of Lebanese origin, one Russian of Lebanese origin, a French woman and two Britons of Lebanese origin.
Ethiopian Airlines reported that there were 82 passengers and eight crew; the discrepancy could not immediately be explained.

Safest planes
The Boeing 737 is considered one of the safest planes in airline service. The jet was first introduced in the 1960s, and today is the workhorse on many short and medium-range routes.

Aviation safety analyst Chris Yates said it was far too early to say what caused the crash, but he noted that modern aircraft are built to withstand all but the foulest weather conditions.

Ethiopian Airlines has long had a reputation for high-quality service compared to other African airlines, with two notable crashes in more than 20 years.
A hijacked Ethiopian Airlines jet crash-landed off the Comoros Islands in the Indian Ocean when it ran out of fuel in November 1996, killing 126 of the 175 people aboard. In September 1988, an Ethiopian Airlines jet crashed shortly after taking off when it ran into a flock of birds, killing 31 of the 104 people on board.

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