BAMAKO: All passengers and crew on board an Air Algerie jetliner that crashed in Mali died in the tragedy, which completely wiped out several families, France announced.
As the first images emerged of the crash site, showing a charred landscape and debris scattered over a wide area, French President Francois Hollande said in a somber televised address: “Sadly, there are no survivors.”
France bore the brunt of the disaster, with some 54 French citizens among the overall death toll of between 116 and 118, according to unexplained conflicting figures given by the carrier and French authorities.
Travellers from Burkina Faso, Lebanon, Algeria, Spain, Canada, Germany and Luxembourg also died in the crash, blamed on bad weather that forced the pilots to change course.
The French army released initial images of a scene of total devastation, with twisted and charred fragments of the McDonnell Douglas 83 jet littering a scorched earth in what is clearly a barren and remote environment.
Such was the apparent violence of the crash that debris was barely recognizable as parts of an aircraft.
“It is difficult to retrieve anything, even victims’ bodies, because we have only seen body parts on the ground,” said General Gilbert Diendiere, chief of staff at Burkina Faso’s presidency.
He was a member of a delegation sent to the crash site by President Blaise Compa- ore that arrived in the Gossi area, about 100 kilo– meters from Goa, northern Mali’s main city, on Friday afternoon.
“Debris was scattered over an area of 500 meters which is due to the fact that the plane hit the ground and then probably rebounded,” he added.
Meanwhile, the scale of the tragedy for some communities was becoming clear, as it emerged that 10 members of one French family died in the crash.
“It’s brutal. It has wiped an entire family from the earth,” said Patrice Dunard, mayor of Gex, where four of the Reynaud family lived.
And the small town of Menet in central France was left devastated when residents discovered that a local family of four—a couple, their 10-year-old daughter Chloe and their 14-year-old son Elno—had died.
Denise Labbe of the local town hall said Chloe had confided to her teacher that she was scared of taking a plane, which she was doing for the first time.
The McDonnell Douglas 83 jet, operated by Spanish charter firm Swiftair on behalf of Air Algerie, went down shortly after take-off from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso on its way to Algiers.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said weather conditions appeared to be the most likely cause of the accident—the worst air tragedy for French nationals since the crash of the Air France A330 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris in June 2009.
But Hollande insisted that no potential cause for the accident was being ruled out.
Swiftair has a good safety record, and the head of France’s civil aviation authority said
Thursday that the MD-83 had passed through France this week and been given the all-clear.
The Spanish pilots’ union Sepla said the plane’s two Spanish pilots were “very experienced”.
The Air Algerie crash was the third worldwide in the space of just eight days, capping a disastrous week for the avia-tion industry.
On July 17, a Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down in restive eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.
And a Taiwanese aircraft crashed in torrential rain in Taiwan on Wednesday, killing 48. AFP