Friday, July 25, 2014

RIP: 5 Canadians aboard Air Algerie flight that crashed in Mali

A Montreal-area family of four and their friend were among the 110 passengers aboard an Air Algerie flight that crashed in Mali.

The wreckage of the plane that went missing Thursday has been found about 50 kilometres from the border of Burkina Faso near a village in Mali, according to Gen. Gilbert Diendere.

"They found human remains and the wreckage of the plane totally burnt and scattered," said the aide to the president of Burkina Faso.

Diendre said search crews went to the site near the village of Boulikessi after a resident described seeing a plane go down.

Two Canadian parents and their two children, along with a family friend, were on their way to a relative’s 50th wedding anniversary celebration,

The parents and two children are members of the Burkina Faso community who live in the Montreal area.

The victims’ ages and identities were not immediately known.

Flight 5017 vanished off the radar early Thursday over northern Mali while a heavy storm pounded the area. The flight took off from Ougadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, late Wednesday night and disappeared from the radar nearly an hour later, according to the official Algerian news agency APS.

The flight was headed to the Algerian capital and was scheduled to land at 1:10 a.m. local time Thursday. It did not arrive.

The airline tweeted that the plane likely went down in Tilemsi, about 70 kilometres from the city of Gao, capital of Mali’s Goa region.

“I am saddened to learn that Air Algérie Flight AH5017, carrying 110 passengers and six crew members on board, crashed in Mali,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement Thursday.

“It is confirmed that Canadians are among the victims.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the passengers and crew who lost their lives in this tragedy.”

Government officials are in contact with local authorities and will provide support “as required,” Harper said.

Fifty-one French nationals were also on the flight, according to Burkina Faso’s Transport Minister Jean Bertin Ouedraogo. French government officials set up an emergency command centre in Paris to deal with the incident.

Two French fighter planes have been flying over the region looking for signs of wreckage, but have yet to find anything, France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Thursday.

French President Francois Hollande held an emergency meeting in Paris with senior government officials, and later released a statement to say that despite the fact wreckage has not been found, all evidence “allows us to believe this plane crashed in Mali.”

According to officials in Burkina Faso, 27 passengers were from Burkina Faso and eight from Lebanon, in addition to six Algerians, four Germans, two Luxembourg nationals and one passenger each from Switzerland, Belgium, Egypt, Ukraine, Nigeria, Cameroon and Mali.

In all, the flight carried 110 passengers and six crew members.

Air Algerie Flight 5017 was a MD-83 aircraft operated by Spanish airline Swiftair, according to a company statement. The plane itself belonged to Swiftair and was being operated by a crew from Spain, the statement said.

The plane’s flight path from Ouagadougou to Algiers was not immediately made public. But Algiers is a nearly straight shot north of Ouagadougou and a flight between the two cities would likely pass over Mali, where al Qaeda-linked rebels have taken control in the north.

French troops attempted to break the extremists’ hold on the region in a military operation last year. However, ethnic Tuareg separatists have continued their fight against the government.

A senior French official told the Associated Press that it is unlikely that rebel fighters in Mali have the firepower to shoot down a plane.

The disappearance of flight 5017 follows a series of recent plane disasters, including the shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines flight over Ukraine exactly one week ago. Another Malaysia Airlines flight disappeared from radar earlier this year and has not been found.


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