26 July 2014

Tunisia: Poor Weather Given As Likely Cause of Air Algerie Crash

Bad weather has been cited as a likely cause of the crash of Air Algerie flight AH5017, which killed at least 116 people. French troops have secured one of the plane's black boxes, to be examined by investigators.

A team of investigators was on Saturday set to analyze one of the flight recorders, with adverse weather given as the most probable cause of the crash of the flight between Burkina Faso and the Algerian capital, Algeria.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said it appeared that adverse weather conditions appeared the most likely cause of the accident.

Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier said the small crash radius of the site suggested weather may have been a cause, the plane's pilot having requested a diversion just before the crash because of a storm. Cuvillier said a surface to air strike, such as that suspected in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine, had never been suspected.

Spanish airline Swiftair, which operated the flight on behalf of Air Algerie, was said to have a good safety record with both of the plane's Spanish pilots described as "very experienced."

However, French President Francois Hollande - who was set to meet relatives of crash victims on Saturday - has insisted that no potential cause for the accident was being left out. Hollande announced earlier on Friday that there had been no survivors.

Presidential visit to site

Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore on Friday visited the remote crash site, close to the border with his country, to express his condolences.

Malian authorities have launched an international inquiry into the fate of flight AH5017, the wreckage of which was found late on Thursday in northern Mali.

The plane crashed less than an hour after leaving the Burkinabe capital Ouagadougou. Aviation authorities lost contact with the flight at about 0155 UTC, on Thursday, soon after the pilot requested a change of course because of a storm.

French, Malian and Dutch soldiers from the UN peacekeeping force MINUSMA secured the crash site, which lies about 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of the northern Malian town of Gossi, soon after the wreckage was spotted.

France was worst affected by the disaster, with some 54 French citizens believed to have been on the flight. The death toll stands at between 116 and 118, with conflicting figures given by the carrier and French authorities.

Other victims of the tragedy came from Burkina Faso, which lost some 27 nationals, as well as Lebanon, Algeria, Spain, Canada, Germany and Luxembourg.

rc/jm (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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