An Airbus A310 with 153 people on board crashed into the Indian Ocean early Tuesday morning as it tried to land in the Comoros Islands amid gusty winds and rough seas.
The Yemenia Airlines jet was making its final approach to Moroni airport when it went down about nine miles off the Comoran coast.
Weather reports state that wind speeds averaged about 38 miles per hour at the time of the crash.
Early reports offered conflicting accounts of whether or not there were any survivors, with some saying a 5-year-old boy or a 14-year-old girl were still alive, while others reported that no one survived. What is known is that rough seas were hampering rescue efforts.
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The flight originated in Paris and stopped at both Marseille and the Yemeni capital of Sana’a.
Passengers changed planes in Sana’a before starting the final leg of the journey to Moroni.
The Comoros islands archipelago, a former French colony, is located off the eastern coast of Africa, about 1,800 miles south of Yemen near the island of Madagascar. Most of the passengers were native Comorans who live in France and were headed home to visit relatives for the summer.
The crash has reignited debate about the safety of the plane in question. In 2007 French Airbus inspectors found a number of faults with the jet, and EU officials had put the plane on a watch list.
It is not clear whether the faults were ever fixed. After the 2007 inspection Yemenia apparently shifted the plane to Middle Eastern service only, and it was barred from flying into France. Yemenia officials claim that the plane met international safety standards, and the government said the planes were fit to fly.
But questions about the plane’s safety were echoed by many Comorans interviewed after the crash, who say they have always worried about the conditions of Yemenia’s jets. One Comoran called the aircraft “flying cattle trucks.”
By Karen Elowitt for PeterGreenberg.com.