A Libyan Afriqiyah Airways plane with 104 people on board crashed yesterday on approach to Tripoli’s airport, killing at least 96 people.
A 10-year-old Dutch boy was the only known survivor, Libya’s transport minister said.
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 gathered small personal items such as wallets and cellphones from the wreckage.
Others sifted through debris — some of it still smoldering — including a flight recorder and green seats with television screens on them. A large piece of the plane’s tail was visible, bearing Afriqiyah’s brightly colored logo with the numbers “9.9.99,” a reference to the date of the founding of the African Union.
Libyan Transport Minister Mohammed Ali Zaidan said 96 bodies had been recovered from the wreckage. Libya’s official JANA news agency quoted him as saying a Dutch boy has survived the crash, but did not say anything on his condition.
Rescue workers were looking for more bodies, Zaidan said.
In Amsterdam, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said dozens of Dutch citizens were aboard the plane and confirmed a Dutch boy survived. The exact number of Dutch victims was not known, he said.
The Airbus A330-200 arriving from Johannesburg, South Africa, was approaching the airport in the Libyan capital Tripoli when it crashed at around 6am.
There was no immediate word on the cause, according to a statement by the airlines posted on its Web site.
Afriqiyah said flight 771 left Johannesburg at 1am yesterday.
“Afriqiyah Airways announces that our flight 771 had an accident during landing at Tripoli International airport,” the statement said. “At this moment, we have no information concerning possible casualties or survivors. Our information is that there were 93 passenger and 11 crew aboard. Authorities are conducting the search and rescue mission.”
The airlines later issued a second statement saying a search-and-rescue operation at the crash site “has now been completed and casualties have been moved to various hospitals.”
The flight was scheduled to continue on to London’s Gatwick airport after the stop in Tripoli.
Weather conditions over the international airport in Tripoli were good yesterday, with 4.8km visibility, scattered clouds at 3km and winds of 4.8kph.
Daniel Hoeltgen, spokesman for the European Aviation Safety Agency, said Afriqiyah had undergone 10 recent safety inspections at European airports, with no significant safety findings.
He said a team of French crash investigators was already on its way to Tripoli.
“We are currently talking to Airbus and with the French accident investigator BEA, which will be involved in the investigation,” Hoeltgen said. “We will lend our support if this is required by authorities in charge.”
Afriqiyah Airways is not on the EU list of banned airlines. The list has nearly 300 carriers deemed by the EU not to meet international safety standards.
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.
The main runway at Tripoli Airport is 3.3km long.