Page last updated at 20:45 GMT, Thursday, 2 July 2009 21:45 UK

Air crash survivor back in France

Baya Bakari and her father both spoke to the media as she arrived in France

The only known survivor of the Yemenia flight which crashed into the Indian Ocean has arrived back in Paris on a French government plane.

The 12-year-old girl, Baya Bakari, was found clinging to wreckage in the sea, hours after the crash.

The plane, going to the Comoros from Yemen's capital, Sanaa, came down in bad weather with 153 people on board.

Yemenia has halted all flights in and out of Marseille in France, where many crash victims began their journey.

Kassim Bakari holds his daughter's hand as she lies on a stretcher
Mr Bakari said his daughter was fragile and barely able to swim

Baya Bakari had been treated in hospital in the Comoros Islands for injuries thought to include a broken collar bone and burns.

She was accompanied on the journey back to France by medical staff and France's Minister for Co-operation Alain Joyandet, who had flown to the Comoros after the crash.

On arrival at Bourget airport, she was taken by ambulance to a Paris hospital for further treatment.

"In the midst of the mourning, there is Baya," Mr Joyandet told a news conference at the airport.

"It is a miracle, it is an absolutely extraordinary battle for survival."

He said France would do everything to help Baya, who had sent a message to the world that "almost nothing is impossible".

Her father, Kassim Bakari, met her on arrival and said he was "relieved but at the same time sad".

"I am happy I can see my daughter but at the same time, I lost my wife and it is not only my wife I mourn but for all the people who died in the crash," he said.

'Timid girl'

Speaking from Paris on Wednesday, Mr Bakari said his daughter had been thrown from the plane as it hit the water.

He said she clearly recalled the chaos of her time in the water, including hearing voices around her in the darkness.

Woman in colourful dress at Marseille airport
Demonstrators at Marseille welcomed the cancellation of the Yemenia flights

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

An uncle who visited the girl in hospital in Moroni told the BBC she did not yet know that her mother had died and had been told she was in another room.

The announcement that Yemenia had cancelled its Marseille flights was welcomed by about 100 Comoran expatriates, who were staging demonstrations at the airport to highlight what they call poor safety standards on the airline.

It could have been easier for us if France had communicated to us the list of Airbus planes not good to fly
Idi Nadhoim,
Comoros vice-president

Earlier on Thursday about 500 protesters attempted to block Yemenia check-in counters, and the daily flight to Moroni was cancelled for the second day running.

There were also protests at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.

The EU and France have both said they highlighted safety concerns over Yemenia planes and that the jet that crashed had not flown into EU airspace since 2007.

The French transport ministry said on Tuesday that the Airbus 310 plane had been banned from France because of "irregularities".

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

Manslaughter case

The vice-president of the Comoros, Idi Nadhoim, also said France had not told them the plane was unsafe.

map of comoros islands

"It could have been easier for us if France had communicated to us the list of Airbus planes not good to fly, which is not the case," he told France 24 television.

The French AFP news agency reported that the authorities were investigating whether a manslaughter case could be opened, but it was unclear against whom.

The cause of the crash has not yet been identified but officials believe it is unlikely more survivors will be found.

Sunken plane

Attempts are continuing to locate the plane and its black box flight recorders.

Ibrahim Abdourazak, of the Comoros rescue centre, told Reuters it was likely the victims' bodies were still inside the sunken plane.

"In two days we haven't found a body, any large pieces of debris or suitcases floating on the water," he said.

There were 66 French nationals among the passengers. Most of the rest were Comorans, and most had flown on a different Yemenia aircraft from Paris or Marseille before boarding flight IY626 in Sanaa.

Mr Joyandet said that Comoros and France were working "arm in arm to find out everything that happened".

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.

Survivor speaks of Yemenia crash
01 Jul 09 |  Africa
France reverses 'black box' claim
01 Jul 09 |  Africa
Yemen airline's safety questioned
01 Jul 09 |  Europe
France 'banned Yemen crash plane'
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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