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Page last updated at 15:46 GMT, Friday, 3 July 2009 16:46 UK

Month mourning for Comoros crash

Muslims attend Friday prayers at a mosque near Galawa beach, where search parties continue to look for crash debris (3 July 2009)
Crash victims were remembered at Friday prayers

The Comoros has begun 30 days of mourning for those who died in a plane crash in the Indian Ocean, President Ahmed Abdullah Sambi has announced.

He told state television that Comoran authorities needed more international help to find out why the plane crashed.

It was heading to the Comoros from Yemen when it came down in bad weather on Tuesday. All but one of 153 people on board are thought to have died.

French and US crews are assisting the Comorans with the salvage operation.

The BBC's John Ngahyoma in the Comoros says flags will fly at half-mast during the month-long mourning period.

He says life in the capital, Moroni, is returning to normal - but the surrounding villages are much quieter and the usual festivals and weddings are not taking place.

President Sambi, who cut short his time at an African Union summit in Libya, announced the country was in mourning during a televised address.

Search teams off Galawa beach,07/03

"From today, our country is in a period of mourning for 30 days," he said.

He urged France to help find out what happened as the plane attempted to land in Moroni.

There was only one survivor - a 12-year-old girl, who was reunited with her father in France on Thursday.

Many of those who died had started their journey with Yemenia Air in France, before changing planes in Yemen.

Yemenia has now halted all flights in and out of Marseille in southern France after a vocal protest by the large Comoran expatriate population there.

And controversy has continued over the crashed plan - a 19-year-old Airbus A310.

French officials said after crash that the plane had been banned from French airspace because inspectors had found faults with it.

And Comorans say they had repeatedly warned that the planes used by Yemenia between the Yemen capital Sanaa and Moroni were dangerous.

But Yemeni aviation official Abdul-Rahman Abdul-Qader rejected the accusations about the plane's condition.

"This is baseless, otherwise we would not have allowed the plane to go on an overseas trip," he told Reuters news agency.

"We exercise strict control on our planes and if anything like this [was discovered] the plane would, of course, never be allowed to take off," 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.

Map of aircraft's route



SEE ALSO
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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