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Page last updated at 11:27 GMT, Tuesday, 30 June 2009 12:27 UK

Yemen jet crashes in Indian Ocean

The Yemenia Airbus 310 that crashed - photo Air Team Images
The plane has been found to have had a number of faults

A Yemeni airliner with more than 150 people on board has crashed in the Indian Ocean near the Comoros islands.

Some bodies have been found and a child rescued alive, officials from the carrier, Yemenia, said.

The Airbus 310 flight IY626 was flying from the Yemeni capital Sanaa, but many passengers on the plane began their journey in France.

The cause of the crash is not clear. A French minister said faults were found on the plane during a check in 2007.

"The A310 in question was inspected in 2007 by the DGAC [French transport authorities] and they noticed a certain number of faults. Since then the plane had not returned to France," Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau was quoted as telling French TV.

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"The company was not on the black list but was subject to stricter checks on our part, and was due to be interviewed shortly by the European Union's safety committee."

An EU official told Reuters news agency there were concerns about the airline's "incomplete reporting procedure and incomplete follow-up" following the 2007 tests but that its record was now improving.

Yemeni Transport Minister Khaled Ibrahim al-Wazeer told Reutersthat the plane had undergone a thorough inspection and conformed to international standards.

Following the crash, the EU Transport Commissioner Antonio Tajani said he would propose setting up a worldwide blacklist of airlines deemed to be unsafe. The EU already has its own list.

Second tragedy

Reports say the plane was due in the Comoros capital Moroni at about 0230 (2230GMT on Monday). Most of the passengers had travelled to Sanaa from Paris or Marseille on a different aircraft.

The flight on to Moroni, on the island of Njazidja (Grande Comore), was also thought to have made a stop in Djibouti.

There were more than 150 people on board, including three babies and 11 crew.

Anxious relatives of passengers wait at Paris airport

An airport source told AFP news agency that 66 of the passengers were French, although many are thought to have dual French-Comoran citizenship.

This is the second air tragedy this month involving large numbers of French citizens.

On 1 June an Air France Airbus 330 travelling from Rio de Janeiro to Paris plunged into the Atlantic, killing all 228 people on board.

'Aborted landing'

Gen Bruno de Bourdoncle de Saint-Salvy, French naval commander in the Indian Ocean, said the plane came down about 15 km (eight nautical miles) north of the Comoran coast.

A search is under way, with the French military assisting with the operation.

As well as the rescued child, three bodies and some wreckage of the plane have been recovered.

French military personnel leave Reunion to join rescue operation
French military are assisting with the search operation

"The weather conditions were rough; strong wind and high seas," Yemenia official Mohammad al-Sumairi told Reuters news agency.

The three Comoros islands are about 300km (190 miles) northwest of Madagascar in the Mozambique channel.

A resident near the airport told the BBC about 100 people were trying to get into the airport to find out more information, but without much success.

Relatives also gathered at Paris Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport and Marseille Marignane airport to wait for news, some expressing anger at the state of the airline's planes.

"They put us aboard wrecks, they put us aboard coffins. That's where they put us. It's slaughter. It's slaughter," one relative in Paris told French TV.

The airline Yemenia is 51% owned by the Yemeni government and 49% by the Saudi government.

In 1996, a hijacked Ethiopian airliner came down in the same area - most of the 175 passengers and crew were killed.

Map of aircraft's route


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SEE ALSO
In pictures: Yemeni plane crash
01 Jul 09 |  In Pictures
Timeline of Flight IY626
30 Jun 09 |  Africa
Ties that bind: Comoros and France
30 Jun 09 |  Middle East
Air disasters timeline
24 May 10 |  Special Reports
Country profile: Comoros
27 May 11 |  Country profiles

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