Teen recovers after miracle rescue from jet crash

2nd July 2009, Comments 0 comments

Amid mounting anger over the condition of the Yemenia airline jet that crashed early Tuesday, a desperate hunt for other survivors resumed.

Moroni -- Teenager Bahia Bakari recovered in hospital Wednesday a day after miraculously surviving the Yemeni jet crash off the Comoros feared to have killed 152 other people.

Amid mounting anger over the condition of the Yemenia airline jet that crashed early Tuesday, a desperate hunt for other survivors resumed and the French government said one black box flight recorder from the A310 had been detected.

Thirteen-year-old Bakari, who lives in Marseille, France, escaped without serious injuries from the crash as the jet attempted to land at Moroni airport at the end of a four stage flight from France.

French Cooperation Minister Alain Joyandet met the girl in hospital on Wednesday and heard how she was pulled out of the sea.

One rescuer told France's Europe 1 radio that the girl was seen swimming in choppy waters in the middle of bodies and plane debris in the dark about two hours after the crash.

"We tried to throw a life buoy. She could not grab it. I had to jump in the water to get her," the rescuer said.

"She was shaking, shaking. We put four covers on her. We gave her hot, sugary water. We simply asked her name, village."

Her father Kassim Bakari told French radio the girl had suffered some burns when she was thrown from the plane. She hardly knew how to swim, he told RTL radio, but clung to some debris and heard the voices of the rescuers.

The girl's mother was also among the 141 other passengers and 11 on Flight IY 626 who are feared dead.

"She is conscious, she is speaking.... but we are not asking her too many question so as not to tire her," said Ada Mansour, the doctor who treated the girl at the hospital, where she was in the intensive care unit.

The plane crashed into rough seas in darkness, after disappearing from control tower radar screens at 1:51 am Tuesday (2251 GMT Monday).

The A310 had aborted a landing and was making a second attempt when it crashed, officials said. French authorities have said the 19-year-old jet had been banned from France's airspace because of doubts about its safety.

French Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau said French inspectors had in 2007 found numerous faults on the plane and that the airline, founded in 1961, was being closely monitored by EU authorities.

"The plane had not since then reappeared in our country," he told i-tele news.

The flight left Paris on Monday for Marseille and Sanaa aboard a modern Airbus A330, where passengers switched to the older Airbus jet to continue to Djibouti and Moroni.

According to an EU legal document, other inspections in Germany and Italy had shown up "deficiencies" with the airline, and in July last year the EU commission had insisted Yemenia provide an "action plan" to address safety concerns.

Yemen's Transport Minister Khaled al-Wazir told AFP the plane was technically sound and had "been overhauled in May 2009” and regularly flew to Europe.

French civil aviation officials said there were 66 French nationals on board, though many of passengers were likely to hold dual nationality. Three babies were also among the passengers, officials said.

Comorans in the French city of Marseille, home to more Comorans than the tiny Indian Ocean state's capital, said the tragedy was waiting to happen.

"We had been sounding the alarm bells, both here and in the Comoros," said Moegni Toahiry, 39, as he stood outside his Comoran consulate hoping for news of his cousin and three children who were on the flight.

Some Comorans staged a protest at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport on Wednesday delaying a Yemenia flight for 40 minutes to highlight what they call the poor safety conditions on the planes.

A campaign group called "SOS voyage aux Comores" (SOS Comoros Travel) called on French authorities to act to stop a repeat of the crash.

"Flights between Sanaa and Moroni are carried out by cowboy operators," spokesman Farid Soilihi told AFP. "They treat people like cattle, they pile them in, they don't respect timetables, there are always technical problems."

Airbus, which is still reeling from the crash of an Air France A330 into the Atlantic on June 1 with 228 people on board, has sent investigators to the Comoros.

Ali Moindjie/AFP/Expatica

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