MORONI A Yemeni Airbus A310 jet, carrying 153 people, crashed into stormy seas as it came into land in the Comoros islands early Tuesday — the second Airbus to crash in an ocean in less than a month.
Relief efforts are underway, with assistance from the French government. Reuters reports a five-year old child has been rescued off the coast of the Comoros. 'A doctor from the military hospital aboard one of the rescue boats called the Mitsamiouli hospital to tell them a child had been rescued alive,' Halidi Ahmed Abdou, a doctor at a medical centre opened for survivors said.
Hadji Madi Ali, director of the international airport in Moroni, told national radio the child was five years old. He said five bodies had also been found.
Wreckage from the Yemenia airline flight were spotted in the Indian Ocean near the island archipelago capital, Moroni, aviation officials said. A rescue operation was launched to try to find survivors.
There were 142 passengers and 11 crew on the Yemenia airline flight which had started in Paris early Monday and made stops in Marseille, Sanaa and Djibouti, an official with the carrier said.
Frances Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau said Yemenia was a company 'under surveillance' and that 'numerous faults' had been recorded on the jet involved.
Ali said the control tower lost contact with Flight IY 626 just before it was due to land and confirmed that there was bad weather. French civil aviation officials said 66 passengers were French. Three small babies were also among the passengers, officials said.
Rescue boats were sent to the scene and France sent two navy ships and a plane from its nearby Indian Ocean territories to help. But the stormy weather that the plane was going through when it disappeared from radar screens also hampered the rescue.
'A small plane flew over the scene and the pilot spotted debris and the craft,' said Nourdine Bourhane, the Comoros governments secretary general.
'Bodies were seen floating on the surface of the water and a fuel slick was also spotted about 16 or 17 nautical miles from Moroni,' senior Yemeni civil aviation official Mohammad Abdel Kader told reporters in Sanaa.
Kader said the wind was blowing in gusts of up to 70 miles an hour when the disaster happened. 'Weather conditions were bad,' he said. 'The sea was rough.'
The Yemenia flight left Sanaa at 0945 p.m. on Monday and contact was lost at 0151 a.m. on Tuesday, Kader said.
'Yemenia regrets to announce the missing of its flight No IY626 from Sanaa to Moroni with 142 passengers and 11 crew onboard Airbus 310-300,' the airline announced on its website.
Kader said the 11 crew were made up of various nationalities.
Airbus, which is still reeling from the crash of an Air France A330-320 into the Atlantic on June 1 with 228 people on board, set up a crisis cell straight away. The European plane maker made no immediate comment however.
No cause has yet been announced for the Air France disaster. The black box flight recorders have yet to be found and their signal is due to stop emitting on July 2.
French investigators probing the Atlantic crash have said that the airspeed sensors had been feeding inconsistent readings to the cockpit.
A crisis task force was set up at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport while psychologists were on hand at Marseilles airport to comfort the families of passengers on the plane.
'I am dismayed by what has just happened. It is likely, alas, that we will be affected,' the Marseille mayor Jean-Claude Gaudin said on local radio. About 80,000 Comorans are believed to live in Marseille.
Yemen Airways was founded in 1961 before the formation in 1978 of Yemenia, which is 51 per cent owned by the Yemeni government and 49 per cent by Saudi Arabia, according to its website. — Agencies