Paris, Jul 25: French President François Hollande confirmed on Friday that none of the 116 people on board has survived the Air Algerie passenger plane crash in the desert of Mali on Thursday during a flight between Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso and Algiers. French troops on Friday reached the site of the wreckage of the MD-83 aircraft and found one of the black boxes of the jetliner, and sent it to Gao, in the north of Mali, Hollande said.
“There are no survivors,” said Hollande in a brief statement, adding that “it is still too soon to reach conclusions” on the cause of the crash, in which 51 French citizens were believed to have perished. Although bad weather was cited as the most plausible explanation fr teh crash, Hollande said he did not rule out any hypothesis.
The plane was spotted in the Malian region of Gossi near the border with Burkina Faso, where French troops were dispatched to gather evidence and secure the area. In a statement, the Elysee Palace said the aircraft had been “clearly identified” even though it had “disintegrated”.
The aircraft, chartered by Air Algerie from Spanish airline Swiftair, went missing early Thursday in bad weather 40 minutes after takeoff from Ouagadougou on a flight to Algiers with 116 people on board, including 51 French passengers and six Spanish crew members. France on Thursday dispatched two Mirage fighter jets, a military C-130 aircraft and two helicopters to search for the aircraft.
Hollande said contact with the plane was lost shortly after the pilot asked to change his route due to bad weather conditions. “The only certainty we have is the weather alert,” said French Foreign minister Laurent Fabius. He added, however, that “no hypothesis can be ruled out” when he was asked about the possibility of a terrorist attack in the area, where jihadis are active.
Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra said Friday that armed insurgents in northern Mali were helping rescue efforts and were the first to spot the wreckage and inform authorities. The insurgents, opposed to the central Malian government in Bamako, “have pledged to deploy all rescue efforts and maintain security on the site”, Lamamra said.
The minister also ruled out a technical failure and said the aircraft had recently passed an inspection in France. The latest airline tragedy comes after a Malaysia Airlines jetliner was downed over eastern Ukraine last week killing all 298 people on board, and a TransAsia Airways plane crash landed in Taiwan Wednesday in bad weather killing 48.