Teen rescued after jet crashes off Comoros

Previous reports of five-year old survivor unconfirmed


A 14-year-old girl who survived the Yemenia airline crash Tuesday is being treated in a hospital in the Comoros where she is in a state that is "not worrisome," according to a Comoros Red Cross spokesman.

"The young girl, aged 14, has arrived at the El Maarouf hospital. We were told that her condition is not worrisome," Ramulati Ben Ali told AFP.

Sole survivor

A man identified as one of the girl's rescuers told France's Europe 1 radio that the teenager was seen swimming in choppy waters in the middle of bodies and plane debris around 4:20 am (0120 GMT).

"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.

Yemeni Transport Minister Khaled al-Wazir had said that a five-year-old boy among the 142 passengers and 11 crew on Flight IY 626 had been rescued alive and Arfachad Salim, a rescue coordinator for the Comoros Red Crescent, had said the child was brought ashore.

Buta Comoran government spokesman said that the teenage girl is the only survivor so far and that she is from the southeast village of Nioumadzaha.

"She is conscious, she is speaking, but we are trying to warm her" after being pulled from cold sea waters, said Ada Mansour, the examining doctor at the hospital where the girl is being treated.

Mansour added that earlier reports of a five-year-old boy surviving the crash were "based on information received from boats near the search site. But I have not seen him."

She is conscious, she is speaking, but we are trying to warm her

Ada Mansour, examining doctor at Comoros hospital

Abort landing

It was the second time in less than a month that an Airbus has crashed into the ocean. This time French authorities said the Yemeni carrier had been under surveillance and that the 19-year-old jet had been banned from French airspace.

The Yemeni Airbus jet carrying 153 people crashed into the Indian Ocean as it came in to land in the Comoros islands early Tuesday.

Officials said the plane crashed into rough seas in darkness, after disappearing from control tower radar screens at 1:51 a.m. Tuesday (2251 GMT Monday).

Witnesses said they saw the jet try to make a landing before it turned back and disappeared.

"I saw the plane approach and then go away again, I just could not understand it," said former defense minister Houmed Msaidie, who went to Moroni-Hahaya airport to pick up his mother in law.

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

I saw the plane approach and then go away again, I just could not understand it

Former defense minister Houmed Msaidie

Faulty jet

France's Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau said French inspectors had in 2007 found numerous faults on the A310 and that the airline was being closely monitored by EU authorities.

"The plane had not since then reappeared in our country," he said.

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 to avoid being placed on an EU blacklist.

A commission spokesman said the company had complied with its obligations, without elaborating.

The document also showed that Airbus had undertaken to monitor maintenance and engineering work and operation of Yemenia's aircraft.

Yemenia's deputy managing director for operations Mohammed al-Sumairi told France 24 television that the plane was "technically sound" when it left Sanaa, "and it departed without any technical problems at all."

He said three bodies had been recovered from the sea by early Tuesday.

Floating bodies

French civil aviation officials said 66 passengers were French. Many of the passengers were likely to hold dual nationality, however. Three small babies were also among the passengers, officials said.

France sent two navy ships and a plane from its nearby Indian Ocean territories to help the rescue.

"Bodies were seen floating on the surface of the water and a fuel slick was also spotted about 16 or 17 nautical miles from Moroni," senior Yemeni civil aviation official Mohammad Abdel Kader told reporters in Sanaa.

"Weather conditions were bad," he said. "The sea was rough."

Airbus, which is still reeling from the crash of an Air France A330-320 into the Atlantic on June 1 with 228 people on board, immediately set up a crisis cell and sent investigators to the Comoros.

No cause has yet been announced for the Air France disaster. The black box flight recorders have yet to be found and their signal is due to stop emitting on July 2.

The European plane maker said the jet which crashed off Moroni was made in 1990 and had been operated by Yemenia since 1999.

Airbus said in a statement the jet had accumulated approximately 51,900 hours in the air from some 17,300 flights.

The Yemenia flight started at Paris Charles de Gaulle on Monday morning, using a more modern Airbus A330-200 for the first legs of the journey.

The plane flew to Marseille in southern France, where there is a large Comoran community, and then went on to Sanaa. There were about 100 passengers on board when it left Marseille, Yemeni civil aviation official Kader said.

Unsafe Comoros flights

Passengers are packed in like cattle on flights between Yemen and the Comoros on planes that fail to meet safety criteria, activists in the French city of Marseille said Tuesday.

The campaign group called "SOS voyage aux Comores" (SOS Comoros Travel) called on French authorities to act to stop a repeat of Tuesday's crash near the Indian Ocean Comoran islands.

"Flights between Sanaa and Moroni are carried out by cowboy operators," spokesman Farid Soilihi told AFP at the airport in the southern French city which has 80,000 Comoran residents.

"They treat people like cattle, they pile them in, they don't respect timetables, there are always technical problems," he said.

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

Farid Soilihi -- Activist