News Africa

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Wreckage spotted in desert after Air Algerie jet carrying 116 people crashes

  • Wreckage found this evening according to Burkina Faso official
  • Two French fighter jets based in region dispatched to try to locate missing Air Algerie plane
  • Plane likely to have at least 51 French people on board, says French Transport Minister
  • Air Algerie flight from Ouagadougou to Algiers disappeared from radar
  • Air traffic loses track of plane 50 minutes after takeoff
  • Flight AH5017 had 116 on board at time
  • Flight has been missing since shortly after 2.55am UK time: reports
  • Plane likely to have been flying over Mali

    Published 24/07/2014 | 10:27

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    An Air Algerie flight that went missing en route from Burkina Faso to Algiers has crashed, an Algerian aviation official revealed today.

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    "I can confirm that it has crashed," the official said, declining to give details of where the plane was or what caused the accident.

    AH5017 went missing this morning after authorities have lost contact with the Air Algerie flight en route from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso to Algiers with 110 passengers on board, Algeria's APS state news agency and a Spanish airline company said on Thursday.

    Earlier, PS said authorities lost contact with flight AH 5017 an hour after it took off from Burkina Faso, although other officials gave other timings, adding to confusion about the fate of the flight and where it might be.

    The logo of the Spanish private airline company Swiftair is seen at its headquarters, outside Madrid July 24, 2014
    The logo of the Spanish private airline company Swiftair is seen at its headquarters, outside Madrid July 24, 2014

    Spanish private airline company Swiftair confirmed it had no contact with its MD-83 aircraft operated by Air Algerie, which it said was carrying 110 passengers and six crew.

    The passenger list of a missing Air Algerie flight included 50 French citizens, the airline's representative in Burkina Faso told a news conference in Ouagadougou.

    Burkina Faso Transport Minister Jean Bertin Ouedrago said the Air Algerie flight that was en route from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso to Algiers had asked to change route at 0138 GMT because of a storm in the area.

    Cameramen stand in front of the headquarters of Spanish private airline company Swiftair, outside Madrid July 24, 2014
    Cameramen stand in front of the headquarters of Spanish private airline company Swiftair, outside Madrid July 24, 2014

     Two French fighter jets based in West Africa were deployed to try and locate a missing Air Algerie flight, a French army spokesman said on Thursday.

    "Two Mirage 2000 jets based in Africa were dispatched to try to locate the Air Algerie plane that disappeared on Thursday," French army spokesman Gilles Jaron said. "They will search an area from its last known destination along its probable route."

    "There were likely French people on board, and if there were French people on board there were certainly many of them," Frederic Cuvillier told reporters.

    The company said in a notice posted on its website that the aircraft took off from Burkina Faso at 0117 GMT and was supposed to land in Algiers at 0510 GMT but never reached its destination.

    An Algerian aviation official said the last contact Algerian authorities had with a missing Air Algerie aircraft carrying 116 people from Burkina Faso to Algiers was at 0155 GMT when it was flying over Gao, Mali.

    Aviation authorities in Burkina say they handed the flight to the control tower in Niamey, Niger, at 1:38 am (0138 GMT). They said last contact with the flight was just after 4:30 a.m. (0330 GMT).

    Burkinabe authorities have set up a crisis unit in Ouagadougou airport to provide information to families of people on the flight.

    A diplomat in the Malian capital Bamako said that the north of the country - which lies on the plane's likely flight path - was struck by a powerful sandstorm overnight.

    Issa Saly Maiga, head of Mali's National Civil Aviation Agency, said that a search was under way for the missing flight.

    "We do not know if the plane is Malian territory," he told Reuters. "Aviation authorities are mobilised in all the countries concerned - Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Algeria and even Spain."

    Whatever is the fate of the flight, the loss of contact is likely to add the to jitters in the airline industry after a Malaysia Airlines plane was downed over Ukraine last week, a TransAsia Airways crashed off Taiwan during a thunderstorm on Wednesday and airlines cancelled flights into Tel Aviv due to the conflict in Gaza.

    A senior French official said it was unlikely that fighters in Mali had weaponry that could shoot down a plane.

    The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the fighters have shoulder-fired weapons which could not hit an aircraft at cruising altitude.

    The AFP news agency have quoted an unnamed Air Algerie company source as saying that the plane was close to the Algerian frontier when it was asked to make a detour because of poor visibility and to prevent a possible collision with another plane on the Algiers-Bamako route.

    The source said contact was lost after this change of course.

    An Algerian official confirmed to Reuters the aircraft is an Airbus A320. Flight AH 5017 flies the Ouagadougou-Algiers route four times per week.

    Reuters

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