8-year-old survives Libya plane crash

The tail of an Afriqiyah Airways plane is seen among the debris after it crashed in Tripoli, Libya. (May 12, 2010)

CAIRO—A Libyan Afriqiyah Airways plane with 104 people on board crashed on landing Wednesday at the airport in the capital Tripoli and the head of European Parliament said about 100 people died while an 8-year-old child survived.

The Dutch tourism board says 61 of the victims of a plane crash in Libya were from the Netherlands — more than half of those on board.

The Royal Dutch Tourism Board ANWB released the figure on its website. It did not give the age or condition of the surviving child.

Libyan state television showed a large field scattered with small and large pieces of plane debris and dozens of police and rescue workers with surgical masks and gloves, some of them carrying at least one body away. They were gathering small personal items such as wallets and cellphones from the wreckage.

Others sifted through the debris — some of it still smouldering — including a flight recorder and green seats with television screens on them. A large piece of the plane’s tail bearing the Afriqiyah brightly colored logo was visible, and other parts of the plane were in shreds. A crane lifted a burnt, smashed car off the field.

The Airbus A330-200 arriving from Johannesburg, South Africa was coming in to land when it crashed at around 6 a.m. local time (11 p.m. EDT Tuesday). There was no immediate word on the cause, according to a statement by the airlines posted on its website.

“Afriqiyah Airways announces that our flight 771 had an accident during landing at Tripoli International airport,” the statement said. “Our information is that there were 93 passenger and 11 crew aboard. Authorities are conducting the search and rescue mission.” The head of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek said he had been informed that about 100 people on board died while an 8-year-old child survived, saying that was “truly a miracle.”

According to initial reports, the plane crashed as it neared the threshold of Tripoli International’s main east-west runway, while preparing to touch down from the east.  Weather conditions over Tripoli’s international airport were good on Wednesday, with 4.8-kilometre visibility, scattered clouds at 10,000 feet and winds of only three miles per hour.  In Johannesburg, Afriqiyah’s office said it was still trying to provide a breakdown of the nationality of passengers. It said the flight 771 left Johannesburg at 1 a.m. Wednesday local time (8 p.m. EDT Tuesday).

In London, a Foreign Office spokesman said he was aware of unconfirmed reports that there were British Nationals on board the flight. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government policy.  Afriqiyah Airways operate an all Airbus fleet. It started its operations with five leased planes and then signed a contract with the Airbus Company during the Paris Flight Exhibition in 2007 for the purchase of 11 new planes including five Airbus A-320 and six A-350 models in addition to the right to purchase four further types of the same plane.

It was founded in April 2001 and is fully owned by the Libyan government.  According to the airline website, there are three Airbus A330-200s in its fleet.  The plane has a seating capacity of 200 economy and 30 business seats.

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