British woman swam from hijack plane

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The Independent Online
Moroni, Comoro Islands (agencies) -- Two British women, Katherine Hayes and Elizabeth Anders, told yesterday of their escape from the hijacked Ethiopian Airlines plane which crashed into the Indian Ocean off Grande Comore, the main island of the Comoro Islands.

They suffered only slight injuries when the Boeing 767 dived into the sea and broke up in the middle, killing more than 100 of the 175 passengers and crew. Ms Hayes, 30, faxed news of her safety, saying: "I was able to undo my seat belt and swam up to the surface."

The women, both in the music business and from the Surrey-London area, had decided to take a year out to see the world. They were among 52 survivors of the disaster. The Foreign Office in London said eight Britons were on board the plane. The fate of the six others was not known but one of the Britons feared dead in the crash was Andy Meakins, 43, from Beckenham, Kent, who works with the Christian charity Tear Fund in Addis Ababa.

Rescuers have recovered 67 bodies, leaving 56 others presumed dead.

The British women and some of the other survivors were flown to the neighbouring island of Reunion last night.

Rescue workers yesterday continued to pull bodies from the wreckage. The airliner ran out of fuel and plunged into the sea on Saturday afternoon after hijackers battled the pilot for the controls.

The hijackers commandeered Flight 961 shortly after it took off from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on a flight to Abidjan, Ivory Coast with stops in Nairobi, Kenya; Brazzaville, Congo; and Lagos, Nigeria.

Yonas Mekuria, the co-pilot, said that the three hijackers refused to allow the pilot - who is among the survivors - to land at the airport in Moroni, capital of the Comoro Islands about five miles from the crash site, even though he was insisting the plane was running out of fuel.

A leading African television cameraman, Mohamed Amin, was among the passengers who died.

Amin, 53, of Reuters Television, won acclaim for bringing Ethiopia's disastrous 1984 famine to the eyes of the world.