Child, 8, survives as 103 killed in Libya plane crash
A Libyan airliner arriving from South Africa disintegrated on landing at Tripoli airport Wednesday, killing 103 people but leaving an eight-year-old child as the sole miracle survivor, officials said.
Sixty-one Dutch citizens were killed in the crash, the Dutch tourism federation ANWB said.
Libyan Transport Minister Mohammed Ali Zidan said the other dead included two Germans as well as passengers from Britain, France, Finland, the Philippines, South Africa and Zimbabwe, but he did not give a breakdown on the numbers. The 11-strong Libyan crew also perished.
In London, the Foreign Office confirmed that at least one Briton had been on board the fated flight.
Zidan said an inquiry was under way to determine what caused the Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A330 to break up massively as it was landing, but he ruled out terrorism.
Witnesses spoke of the aircraft inexplicably breaking up as it came down to land in clear weather at around 6:00 am (0400 GMT).
"It exploded on landing and totally disintegrated," one security official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity. Another official said the plane had burst into flames just before landing.
Bongani Sithole, an official of Afriqiyah Airways at Johannesburg airport, said the crash happened "one metre (yard) away from the runway."
Libyan television showed teams of emergency workers wearing face masks sifting through the wreckage, which was scattered in a wide arc across the landing area.
Zidan said the remains of 96 victims had already been recovered. He added that the child who survived was an eight-year-old Dutch boy.
The Dutch foreign ministry could not confirm the nationality, but said the child underwent surgery for broken bones at a Tripoli hospital some nine hours after the crash.
"He is being operated on for fractures from the crash," ministry spokeswoman Ozlem Canel told AFP in The Hague.
"We don't know how serious his injuries are."
Dutch broadcaster NOS, which interrupted normal programming to follow the crash developments, showed footage of the survivor with facial bruises in a Libyan hospital bed.
It translated a doctor as saying the child was a girl with several broken bones but "all the important organs in working order".
The Dutch daily Telegraaf said the child had been travelling with his or her parents and an 11-year-old sibling.
The child's repatriation to the Netherlands was "in preparation", tourism federation spokeswoman Annemie Tichelaar said.
EU parliament president Jerzy Buzek described the child's survival as "truly a miracle."
Last June, a 12-year-old girl was the sole survivor of a Yemeni plane crash off the Comoros.
In the Netherlands, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende reacted with "shock" to the loss of life while Queen Beatrix's press office said she was "horrified."
The government announced that the flag would be flown at half-mast at all official buildings until sunset.
The Libyan transport minister said that the crash plane was new and had only been acquired by the airline last September.
He said it had received its last mechanical check from German airline Lufthansa in Milan on March 5 and had since flown only 1,586 hours.
He said both black boxes had been recovered and that four investigators from Airbus and three from France were on their way to Tripoli to join the inquiry.
Afriqiyah Airways said it would offer transport, assistance and accommodation to relatives of victims of the crash wishing to get to Tripoli.
Wednesday's crash was the deadliest air accident in Libya since December 22, 1992 when a Libyan Arab Airlines plane crashed near Tripoli airport killing 157 people.
Twenty-two people were killed in an oil company plane crash in January 2000.
In other major accidents, 79 people were killed when a Korean Air plane crashed in Tripoli in July 1989. And 59 people died in a Balkan Bulgarian Airlines crash near Benghazi in December 1977.
Afriqiyah started operations with five leased aircraft and signed a contract with Airbus at an exhibition in Paris in 2007 for the purchase of 11 new planes.
It was founded in April 2001 and at first fully owned by the Libyan state. The company's capital was later divided into shares to be managed by the Libya-Africa Investment Portfolio.
© 2010 AFP