An Air Algerie flight en route from Ouagadougou to Algiers is missing with 110 passengers on board, almost half of them French citizens, officials said yesterday.
There were no clear indications of what might have happened to the flight en route north to Algiers from the Burkino Faso capital, but Burkinabe Transport Minister Jean Bertin Ouedrago said the aircraft asked to change route because of a storm in the area.
Two French fighter jets based in the region have been dispatched to try to locate the airliner along its probable route, a French army spokesman said, while security sources in Niger said planes were flying over the border area with Mali to search for the flight.
Photo: Reuters / Ouagadougou Airport
Algeria’s state news agency APS said authorities lost contact with Flight AH5017 an hour after it took off from Burkina Faso, but other officials gave differing accounts of the times of contact, adding to the confusion about the fate of the flight and where it might be.
Swiftair, the private Spanish company that owns the aircraft, confirmed it had lost contact with the MD-83 operated by Air Algerie, which it said was carrying 110 passengers and six crew.
Whatever its fate, the loss of contact is likely to add to nerves in the airline industry after a Malaysia Airlines plane was downed over Ukraine last week, a TransAsia Airways (復興航空) crashed on Penghu during a thunderstorm on Wednesday and airlines canceled flights to Tel Aviv due to the conflict in Gaza.
An Air Algerie representative in Burkina Faso, Kara Terki, told a news conference that all the passengers on the plane were in transit, either for Europe, the Middle East or Canada.
He said the passenger list included 50 French, 24 Burkinabe, eight Lebanese, four Algerians, two Luxembourgers, one Belgian, one Swiss, one Nigerian, one Cameroonian, one Ukrainian and one Romanian.
Lebanese officials said there were at least 10 Lebanese citizens on the flight.
A spokeswoman for SEPLA, Spain’s pilots union, said the six crew were from Spain. She could not give any further details.
An Algerian aviation official said the last contact Algerian authorities had with the missing Air Algerie aircraft was when it was flying over Gao, Mali.
Ouedrago said the flight asked the control tower in Niamey to change route because of a storm in the Sahara.
However, a source in the control tower in Niamey, who declined to be identified, said it had not been contacted by the plane, which in theory should have flown over Mali.
Burkinabe authorities have set up a crisis unit in Ouagadougou airport to provide information to families of people on the flight.
A diplomat in the Malian capital, Bamako, said that the north of the country — which lies on the plane’s likely flight path — was struck by a powerful sandstorm overnight.
Malian National Civil Aviation Agency head Issa Saly Maiga said that a search was under way.
“We do not know if the plane is Malian territory,” he said. “Aviation authorities are mobilized in all the countries concerned — Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Algeria and even Spain.”
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