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Yemeni plane crashes off Comoros, 153 on board

Moroni, June 30, 2009

An airliner with 153 people on board belonging to Yemeni state carrier Yemenia crashed into choppy seas as it came in to land on the Indian Ocean archipelago of Comoros on Tuesday, officials said.

'The plane has crashed and we still don't know exactly where. We think it's in the area of Mitsamiouli,' said Comoros vice-president Idi Nadhoim from the airport at the main island's capital Moroni.

The Airbus 310 aircraft that also carried an 11-strong crew was in route from Sanaa to Moroni, in the Comoros, said an airline official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
'Not yet,' the official said when asked whether the airline had information about survivors, adding that the 142 passengers included nationals of France and the Comoros.

A Paris airport spokeswoman said a Yemenia flight left Paris on Monday morning before landing in Yemen and then taking off for Moroni.

Ibrahim Kassim, a representative from regional air security body ASECNA, said the plane had probably come down 5 to 10 km (3 to 6 miles) from the coast, and civilian and military boats had been mobilised to start searching.

ASECNA -- the Agency for Aviation Security and Navigation in Africa and Madagascar -- covers Francophone Africa.

'We think the crash is somewhere along its landing approach,' Kassim said. 'The weather is really not very favourable. The sea is very rough.”

The town of Mitsamiouli is on the main island Grande Comore.

Coming to land

Interior Minister Hamid Bourhane said the army had sent small speedboats to an area between the village of Ntsaoueni and the airport.

'At the moment we don't have any information about whether there are any survivors,' he said.

A medical worker in Mitsamiouli said he had been called in. 'They have just called me to come to the hospital. They said a plane had crashed,' he said.

A United Nations official at the airport, who declined to be named, said the control tower had received notification the plane was coming into land, and then lost contact with it.

Yemenia, which is 51 percent owned by the Yemeni government and 49 percent owned by the Saudi Arabian government, flies to Moroni, according to flight schedules on its Web site.

Yemenia's fleet includes two Airbus 330-200s, four Airbus 310-300s and four Boeing 737-800s, according to the site.

The Comoros covers three small volcanic islands, Grande Comore, Anjouan and Moheli, in the Mozambique channel, 300 km (190 miles) northwest of Madagascar and a similar distance east of the African mainland.

A hijacked Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 767 crashed into the sea off the Comoros islands in 1996, killing 125 of 175 passengers and crew. – Reuters




Tags: crash | Yemenia | Moroni | Comoros | Yemen plane |

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