ALGIERS/BAMAKO, (Reuters) – Authorities said yesterday they located the wreckage of an Air Algerie flight after it crashed in northern Mali carrying 116 passengers and crew, nearly half of them French, en route from Burkina Faso to Algeria.
Regional aviation officials said they had lost contact with flight AH5017 at around 0155 GMT on Thursday, less than an hour after takeoff, following a request by the pilot to change course due to bad weather.
Two French Mirage fighter jets and United Nations helicopters on Thursday had for hours hunted for the wreck of the McDonnell Douglas MD-83 plane in remote northern Mali, a region prey to scattered Islamist militants and Tuareg separatist fighters. Malian state television said the wreckage of the flight was discovered between the town of Gossi and the Burkina Faso border. It said President Ibrahima Boubacar Keita would visit the site of the crash on Friday. General Gilbert Diendere, a member of the crisis unit in Burkina Faso, said his team of investigators had already inspected the wreckage near the village of Boulikessi, 50 km (31 miles) from the frontier. “This team has confirmed that it has seen the remains of the plane, totally burned out and scattered on the ground,” Diendere told local television, adding the remains of dead bodies had also been discovered.
“Sadly, the team saw no one on site. It saw no survivors.”Communications Minister Alain Edouard Traore said the accident was the worst in Burkina Faso’s aviation history. President Blaise Compaore declared two days of national mourning, starting on Friday.
Burkina Faso authorities said the passenger list included 51 French, 27 Burkinabe, eight Lebanese, six Algerians, five Canadians, four Germans, two from Luxembourg, one Cameroonian, one Belgian, one Egyptian, one Ukranian, one Swiss, one Nigerian and one Malian.