Netherlands to repatriate child survivor after 'horrifying' crash

12th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Dutch leaders expressed horror at Wednesday's plane crash in Libya that killed 61 Netherlands citizens, while officials prepared to repatriate a child who miraculously survived.

Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende reacted with "shock" and Queen Beatrix's press office said she was "horrified," as the Dutch tourism federation ANWB put the Dutch toll at 61 of the total of the 103 dead.

"Sixty-one Dutch people were killed," when an Afriqiyah Airways plane from Johannesburg disintegrated on landing around 6:00 am (0400 GMT) at Tripoli airport, ANWB spokesman Ad Vonk told AFP.

Only one Dutch passenger, a child, survived the crash, said Vonk, and "is in hospital."

Libyan officials identified the sole survivor as 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."

Canel said government officials hoped to speak to the child as soon as possible after the operation, "hopefully then we will be able to confirm that he is a Dutch citizen."

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, and translated a doctor as saying the child was a girl with several broken bones but "all the important organs in working order".

The ANWB declined to give out any information on the Dutch victims or the lone survivor, saying: "The foreign ministry is working with the identification of the victims so we don't give any information."

The Dutch daily Telegraaf said the child had been travelling with his or her parents and an 11-year-old sibling.

The 62 Dutch passengers on board the fated flight had been in two separate organised tour groups on their way to Brussels and Dusseldorf, with a stop-over in Tripoli, according to the ANWB.

The child's repatriation to the Netherlands was "in preparation", added ANWB spokeswoman Annemie Tichelaar. "We don't know when or how."

Balkenende earlier told a press conference he had been informed that a Dutch child was the only survivor, "but I don't have any further details".

The premier said embassy staff were at the scene of the crash "to offer help and to assess the situation on the ground."

A crisis team has also been set up in the foreign ministry.

"Our thoughts are with those who are waiting in uncertainty," said Balkenende.

Queen Beatrix was "horrified" at news of the crash, said the government communications service, which also announced that the flag would be flown at half-mast at all government buildings until sunset.

© 2010 AFP

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