Page last updated at 15:26 GMT, Wednesday, 1 July 2009 16:26 UK

France reverses 'black box' claim

The 14-year-old plane crash survivor recovers in hospital

A French government minister has reversed earlier claims that a "black box" recorder from a plane that crashed in the Indian Ocean has been found.

French Minister for Co-operation Alain Joyandet said signals picked up by rescuers came from a distress beacon.

Earlier, an official said efforts to retrieve one of the black box recorders would begin during the day.

The plane, flying from the Yemeni capital Sanaa to the Comoros, came down in bad weather with 153 on board.

Meanwhile doctors say the only survivor of the crash, teenage girl Baya Bakari, is recovering and in no danger.

There were 66 French nationals among the passengers. Most of the rest were Comorans.

map of comoros islands

Most of the passengers had flown on a different Yemenia aircraft from Paris or Marseille before boarding flight IY626 in Sanaa.

Most aircraft have a flight data recorder and a cockpit voice recorder.

"The Transall (military plane) that picked up an acoustic signal did not, despite what was said this morning, detect the beacons of the flight recorders, but rather what appear to be its distress beacons," Mr Joyandet said in Moroni, the Comoros capital, AFP news agency reported.

'Still hope'

A French vessel has been sent to the site to start recovery operations, she added. French rescue teams are already involved in the search for survivors.

She's a very timid girl, I never thought she would escape like that
Father of survivor Baya Bakari

Apart from the 14-year-old girl found alive, no-one from the plane has been confirmed alive, and rescuers say chances of finding more survivors are slim.

AFP news agency quoted hospital sources in the Comoros capital Moroni as saying they were preparing to receive another child survivor, but Mr Joyandet later said no more survivors had been found.

Sources close to the Comoran rescue team say the only confirmed survivor, who has been named as Baya Bakari, was being treated in Moroni and her condition had improved.

The Associated Press news agency quoted her father as saying she had been travelling with her mother to the Comoros from Paris to visit family.

Kassim Bakari said she had been ejected from the plane when it came down and clung to debris for several hours until she was rescued.

"She's a very timid girl, I never thought she would escape like that," he said, describing her as "fragile" and barely able to swim.

He added that he was mourning the loss of his wife whilst overjoyed at his daughter's extraordinary escape.

Doctors at the hospital said she had cuts to her face and a fractured collarbone, but was not in danger.

"She is very calm given the shock she suffered," surgeon Ben Imani told Reuters.

Angry protest

The Yemenia Airbus 310 that crashed - photo Air Team Images
France said the plane had been banned from its airspace

The French transport ministry had earlier said the Airbus 310 plane which crashed had been banned from France because of "irregularities".

But Yemenia responded by criticising "false information and speculation about technical problems" on the plane.

Several Comoran expatriates angry with what they see as the poor state of the company's aircraft tried to stop passengers from checking in for another Yemenia flight leaving Paris Charles de Gaulle airport for Sanaa.

About 60 people failed to check in, reports said, but it was not clear how many did so as a result of the protest.

The crash was the second involving an Airbus aircraft in recent weeks. 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.

Infographic of black box
Flight data recorders, or "black boxes", are in fact orange or red.
Commercial aircraft carry two. One logs performance and condition of aircraft in flight, another records conversations of crew and their contact with Air Traffic controllers during the flight.
The Crash Survivable Memory Unit (CSMU) contains a memory board surrounded by thermal insulation and steel armour that can withstand a crash impact thousands of times the force of gravity and survive in the sea at depths of 20,000ft (6,096m).
The CSMU is insulated to sustain temperatures up to 1,100C for up to an hour or "low" temperature fires of around 260C for 10 hours.
An underwater locator beacon fitted on recorders emits continuous ultrasonic "ping" when they come into contact with water. The signal can reach the surface from depths of 14,000ft.

Yemen airline's safety questioned
01 Jul 09 |  Europe
France 'banned Yemen crash plane'
30 Jun 09 |  Africa
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
Country profile: Comoros
27 May 11 |  Country profiles

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