14-year-old survives Airbus ocean crash

Rescuers were last night hailing the “miracle survival” of a single child after a passenger jet crashed into the sea off the Comoros Islands in the Indian Ocean. With the remaining 152 passengers and crew aboard Yemenia flight IY626 feared dead, it emerged that the aircraft had been the subject of an EU investigation two years ago.

Relatives were last night waiting for news in Paris, Marseille and Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, after officials said the airbus had plunged into the ocean short of its final destination on the island of Grand Comore.

The Yemenia flight’s complicated route had seen passengers collected on a different plane from Paris and Marseille before switching to the 19-year-old Airbus A310 in Sana’a to make the final leg of the journey to Comoros.

According to rescuers, the sole survivor was a young girl called Bahia, who was making a good recovery in hospital on the largest of the Comoros Islands. The girl, 14, who was said to have been travelling with her mother, was plucked from the sea near the crash site and then confirmed her identity to local officials. “She is well now,” said a spokesman. “She was able to talk to the authorities.”

Rescuers continued to comb the wreckage with help from the French navy last night, battling 40mph winds and high seas. Initial reports that a five-year-old boy had been rescued were later corrected as officials said no other survivors had been found.

Back in France, anger was mounting over allegations that authorities had known the aircraft was unsafe |to travel. Many of the missing passengers were French, or holders of dual French-Comoran passports, and EU officials admitted that they were considering blacklisting Yemenia Air over safety concerns.

Speaking from Marseille, home to around 80,000 Comoran immigrants, honorary consul Stephane Salord compared Yemenia’s planes to “flying cattle trucks”.

“This A310 is a plane that has posed problems for a long time. It is absolutely inadmissible that this airline Yemenia played with the lives of its passengers this way,” he said. “It is an absolute disgrace that we tolerate this kind of thing and I think the company’s responsibility is considerable.”

Much of the controversy centred on the practice by which passengers were taken out of European air space on planes that met stringent safety requirements before being switched to older planes to make their onward journey. In addition, there were particular concerns with the specific Airbus, which had clocked up more than 51,000 hours flying prior to the crash in the early hours of yesterday morning.

France’s Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau said French aviation inspectors found a “number of faults” during a 2007 inspection of the plane. Meanwhile, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said it had suspended Yemenia’s permission to maintain EU-registered planes in February after the carrier failed a set of audit inspections.

However, the airline owned jointly by Yemen and Saudi Arabia was not on the EU’s airlines blacklist, set up two years ago. EU Transport Commissioner Antonio Tajani defended the decision not to blacklist Yemenia saying it had passed the necessary tests.

“The airline wasn’t on the EU blacklist because it had passed the checks ... After today’s accident we shall be contacting the company and we should verify the blacklist,” he told a news conference in Brussels. “The European blacklist works pretty well in Europe,” he said, before proposing that a worldwide blacklist be set up.

Those reassurances were of little consolation to the scores of relatives

who yesterday gathered at Paris’ Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport and at Marseille Marignane airport to wait for news. “They put us aboard wrecks, they put us aboard coffins. That’s where they put us. It’s slaughter. It’s slaughter,” one relative in Paris told French TV.

Thoue Djoumbe, another Comoran in Paris, said she and other passengers had been complaining about flight conditions on the airline for years.

“It’s a lottery when you travel to Comoros,” she told Associated Press. “We’ve organised boycotts, we’ve told the Comoran community not to fly on Yemenia airways because they make a lot of money off of us and, meanwhile, the conditions on the planes are disastrous.”

On Grand Comore, the largest of the three Comoros Islands about 190 miles north-west of Madagascar, a crowd of relatives were said to be trying to force their way into the airport for news.

The Yemenia flight was the second Airbus to crash into the sea in as many months and the second air tragedy to strike France after Air France Airbus A330-200 flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris crashed into the Atlantic on 31 May, killing all 228 people on board.

Yemeni civil aviation deputy chief Mohammed Abdul Qader said it was too early to speculate on the cause of the crash as the flight recorder had not been recovered.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
footballLive! Chelsea vs West Ham kicked off 10 Boxing Day matches, with Arsenal vs QPR closing the action
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all