An Air Algerie flight carrying 116 people has vanished while en route from Burkina Faso to Algeria. A French government official and the plane’s Spanish owner says contact was lost with the aircraft over northern Mali.
France has sent a military unit to secure the wreckage of an Air Algerie plane that crashed in Mali on its way from Burkina Faso to Algeria with 116 people on board.
President Francois Hollande’s office said in a statement Friday the plane, which was carrying 51 French nationals, was clearly identified even though it has “disintegrated”.
There have been no reports of survivors.
Burkina Faso army General Gilbert Diendere confirmed the plane was located about 30 kilometers north of the Burkina Faso border, in the Malian region of Gossi.
“At this location the (rescue) mission found debris from the plane that unfortunately included the remains of human bodies,” Diendere said.
“We have not been able to evaluate properly because night began to fall and rescuers confirmed to us that they have seen the totally burnt and scattered wreckage of the plane. Unfortunately, our team saw nobody (alive). The team saw no survivors there,” he said.
Authorities say the flight encountered strong storms after taking off from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso.
There were few clear indications of what might have happened to the airliner, but Burkina Faso’s transport minister said the crew asked to adjust their route at 0138 GMT because of a storm in the area.
It is not yet known if weather played a role in the plane’s disappearance. The flight from Burkina Faso to Algiers should have taken four hours.
Earlier, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters the aircraft “probably crashed,” as French fighter jets based in West Africa were taking part in the search.
French President Francois Hollande canceled a planned visit to overseas territories and said all military means on the ground would be used to locate the aircraft.
Earlier Thursday, Kara Terki, a spokesman for Air Algeria, confirmed there had been no sign of the plane since around 0330 GMT, about one hour before it was scheduled to land in Algiers Thursday morning.
The MD-83 aircraft, constructed in 1996, was chartered by Air Algerie from Spanish airline Swiftair. SwiftAir said in a statement it was continuing to work with Air Algerie and local authorities to locate the missing plane.
Last seen over northern Mali
Security officials in Mali told VOA that the plane was last seen on radar over northern Mali, between Gao and Tissalit, near the border with Burkina Faso.
Gao was one of the towns in northern Mali seized by al-Qaida-linked Islamist militants in 2012. The Malian government regained control after a French-led military intervention last year, but militants continue to attack French and government troops.
Algerian officials have set up a crisis team at the Algiers airport, while Swiftair said emergency equipment and personnel have been deployed to find out what happened to the plane.
According to Burkina Faso’s Ministry of Transportation, there were 110 passengers and six crew members on board, including 50 French citizens and 24 Burkinabe.
They said most of the passengers were in transit to destinations in Europe.
The plane was chartered by Air Algerie from Spanish airline Swiftair.
VOA’s Jennifer Lazuta contributed to this report. Some information for this report provided by Reuters. allAfrica
The wreckage of a plane that disappeared with 116 people on board on a flight from Burkina Faso to Algiers has been found in Mali, officials say.
French troops based in the region are on their way to secure the site, about 50km (30 miles) from the border with Burkina Faso, French officials said.
Air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane early on Thursday after pilots reported severe storms.
The passengers on the Air Algerie flight included 51 French citizens.
The McDonnell Douglas MD-83 – Flight AH 5017 – had been chartered from Spanish airline Swiftair.
French President Francois Hollande expressed solidarity with the friends and families of those on board.
“A French military unit has been sent to (the area) to secure the site and gather evidence,” his office said in a statement (in French).
The statement went on to say that the plane had “disintegrated”, without giving further details.
France’s Interior Minister said it appeared likely the plane had crashed due to bad weather.
‘Burnt and scattered’
The crash site was identified on Thursday by the Burkina Faso army near the village of Boulikessi, officials said.
Gilbert Diendere, a Burkina Faso army general, said Mali had agreed to their cross-border search which was launched after a resident in Gossi described seeing a plane go down to the south-west of the town.
“Sadly, the team saw no-one on site. It saw no survivors,” he told reporters.
“They found human remains and the wreckage of the plane totally burnt and scattered,” he added.
Malian state radio said shepherds had been the first to spot the wreckage and had informed the authorities, the BBC’s Alex Duval Smith reports from the Malian capital, Bamako.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told French radio network RTL that “the aircraft was destroyed at the moment it crashed”, meaning that it did not appear likely that the plane was attacked mid-flight.
“We think the aircraft crashed for reasons linked to the weather conditions, although no theory can be excluded at this point,” he said.
Earlier, French fighter jets and UN helicopters had been hunting for the wreck in the more remote desert region of northern Mali between Gao and Tessalit.
Algerian officials held a crisis meeting on the crashed plane
Contact with Flight AH 5017 was lost about 50 minutes after take-off from Ouagadougou early on Thursday morning, Air Algerie said.
The pilot had contacted Niger’s control tower in Niamey at around 01:30 GMT to change course because of a sandstorm, officials say.
Burkina Faso authorities said the passenger list comprised 27 people from Burkina Faso, 51 French, eight Lebanese, six Algerians, two from Luxembourg, five Canadians, four Germans, one Cameroonian, one Belgian, one Egyptian, one Ukrainian, one Swiss, one Nigerian and one Malian.
The six crew members are Spanish, according to the Spanish pilots’ union.
Flight AH 5017 flies the Ouagadougou-Algiers route four times a week, AFP reported.
BBC West Africa correspondent Thomas Fessy says it a route often used by French travellers.
France sent troops to Mali in January 2013 after al-Qaeda-linked militants threatened to overrun the capital, Bamako.
It ended its military deployment in Mali in July, but agreed to keep troops in the region as part of a new military operation based in Chad, focused on targeting Islamist extremists in the Sahel region.
France has strong ties to many west African countries. Mali, Algeria and Chad were all former French colonies.
McDonnell Douglas MD-83
Chris Yates, aviation analyst, said the aircraft was “relatively elderly”
- Twin rear-engine, short-medium range airliner
- More powerful version of the MD-80 type, based on earlier DC-9
- Range: 4,637km (2,881 miles)
- Capacity: 172 passengers
- First flew: 1984