Algerian Flight AH5017 has been located in the country of Mali, about 30 miles from the Burkinabe border.
116 people, six of whom were crew members, were lost on an Air Algerie flight from Burkina Faso to Algiers when it disappeared. Air traffic controllers lost contact with the passenger plane early yesterday after the pilot reported sand storm activity over the Sahara.
BBC News reports that French soldiers have identified the wrecked plane in northern Mali. There are no reports of survivors. The crash is not believed to be the work of terrorists. The territory where the wreckage has been located is held by Malian rebels, but there’s little chance that they could be responsible for the crash; they lack the technology to shoot a plane out of the sky at an altitude of 33,000 feet. Burkina Faso’s transport minister, Jean Bertin Ouedrago, has said that the pilot requested permission for a weather-based route change only 20 minutes into the flight.
Flight authorities lost contact with the passenger plane an hour after take-off, according to Algeria’s new agency, APS. Other reports have given differing times.
The plane, a McDonnell Douglas MD-83, crashed to the ground between Aguelhoc and Kidal. Upon learning of the crash, the French president, Francois Hollande, ordered all French military in the locale to assist the U.N. and local authorities in the search for the missing plane.
Among the passengers were citizens of Burkina Faso, Lebanon, Algeria, Luxembourg, Belgium, Switzerland, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ukraine, Canada, Germany, and Romania. The crew was Spanish and the plane itself was chartered from the Spanish airline Swiftair.
Rumors that Fidel Castro’s niece, Mariela Castro, was on the flight have been dismissed.
According to a Reuters‘ article on the search for AH5017:
Burkina Faso authorities said the passenger list comprised 27 Burkinabe, 51 French, eight Lebanese, six Algerians, two from Luxembourg, five Canadians, four Germans, one Cameroonian, one Belgian, one Egyptian, one Ukranian, one Swiss, one Nigerian and one Malian. The Lebanese Foreign Ministry said its embassy in Abidjan estimated the number of Lebanese citizens on the flight was at least 20. Some of these may have dual nationality.
As the International Business Times has pointed out, this is the third air crash in just eight days, following Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 on July 17 and a Taiwanese plane which went down in bad weather yesterday.
In an update filed at 9:45 BST by Reuters, it was explained that the environment on the ground was a hinderance to the search as the region is a scrubland desert only sparsely populated; much of the terrain is controlled by Tuareg separatist rebels who seized control of northern Mali for a short time. In effect, the Malian government has very little presence or influence in the area and must rely on the U.N. and the French to help them maintain peace.
A Burkina Faso army general has said that Mali allowed a cross-border search after residents in a local town claimed to have seen a plane go down nearby. Gilbert Diendere said:
“They found human remains and the wreckage of the plane totally burnt and scattered.”
The three flights have, together, claimed the lives of 454 people in eight days.
[Image courtesy of The Inquisitr]