Wed, Jan 27, 2010 - Page 6 News List

Lebanon widens search

REUTERS , BEIRUT

Lebanese and international rescue services widened their search yesterday for the victims and missing flight recorders of an Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed in the sea shortly after takeoff from Beirut.

Ships including a US naval vessel and European and UN peacekeeping helicopters searched through the night for the wreckage of the Boeing 737-800 that plunged into the Mediterranean in a ball of fire on Monday.

Ninety people, mostly Lebanese and Ethiopians, were on board Flight ET409 headed to Addis Ababa before it disappeared off the radar five minutes after takeoff.

Lebanese officials said 14 bodies, including those of two toddlers, had been recovered so far. They said an earlier total they gave of 24 was incorrect.

The plane had apparently broken up in the air before plunging into the sea and Lebanon has ruled out terrorism as the reason for the crash.

A Lebanese security official said recovery teams would widen their search perimeter off the Na’ameh coast, 10km south of the capital, after rough seas and high waves hampered them during the night.

Many relatives were angry the plane had been allowed to take off in bad weather.

Information Minister Tareq Mitri, speaking after meeting ministers and security officials late on Monday, said there had been no reason to stop the plane taking off.

“Other planes landed and took off after and before it. There is no reason why the airport authorities should not have allowed it to take off,” he told reporters.

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