Comoros urges France to step up black box hunt
Comoros President Ahmed Abdallah Sambi urged France to step up efforts to recover the black boxes of a Yemenia Airbus.Moroni – Comoros President Ahmed Abdallah Sambi urged France Saturday to step up efforts to recover the black boxes of a Yemenia Airbus that crashed off the Indian Ocean's island coast with 153 people aboard.
Sambi said he had used a meeting with French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, on a visit to the archipelago to express his country's condolences over the accident, to request efforts be strengthened.
"I am grateful to France for its support. I took the opportunity of the meeting to ask France for the search operation to be reinforced as much as necessary in order to recover the black boxes," Sambi said.
Fillon, who arrived in the capital Moroni Saturday and made his way past signs declaring "Comoros in mourning", expressed hope the boxes would be recovered in several days.
He also recalled that France had already sent help in the form of sea, air and diving teams.
On 5 July, search teams detected signals from the aircraft's black boxes, but the vital recording devices are yet to be recovered.
A 12-year-old girl is thought to be the sole survivor of the crash. There were also 66 French nationals on board.
Fillon also announced Saturday 200 victims' relatives would travel free of charge to the Comoros Monday from Paris and Marseille, where many of the plane crash victims came from.
They would travel on a flight chartered by Yemenia, but provided by a different company, he said.
"This is in response to an urgent request from the victims' families who want to mourn in the Comoros," Fillon said.
Sambi also said he had asked for France's help to get more airlines serving the islands.
"I also asked France for support in our struggle against the Comoros' air isolation," he said.
Few airlines serve the Indian Ocean archipelago, and Yemenia considered suspending flights there after the crash in the wake of a public backlash over the state of the crashed aircraft.
Fillon and Sambi made no mention in public of a row between France and the Comoros in the wake of the accident.
Sambi had accused France of not passing on exact information about the state of the aircraft, which was banned from flying in France. Fillon has denied this.
During his visit to Moroni, Fillon awarded a medal to a rescuer who helped save the crash's only survivor, Bahia Bakari, 12, from Paris.
Libouna Selemani Matrafi, 43, responded to a call for volunteers on the night of the crash.
"When we found the young girl, she was on a piece of plywood which she let go of when she saw our boat," the sailor recalled.
"I swam 30 metres to reach her as she was too tired to swim.
"She clung on to me and the boat sent out a rubber ring."
AFP / Expatica