[QODLink]
Middle East
Bodies recovered from Beirut crash
Officials say unlikely anyone survived Ethiopian plane's plunge into sea.
Last Modified: 25 Jan 2010 22:53 GMT

The Lebanese army has said it is unlikely that anyone will have survived the air crash [AFP]

The bodies of at least 35 people have been recovered after an Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed into the Mediterranean Sea off the coast off Lebanon, military officials have said.

Flight ET409 lost contact with authorities on the ground shortly after taking off from Beirut, the Lebanese capital, early on Monday.

The aircraft, which was bound for the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, is thought to have been carrying 83 passengers and seven crew members.

Witnesses reported seeing a "ball of fire" plunging into the sea off the coast.

Lebanese army patrol boats, helicopters and divers searched an area off Na'ameh, 10km south of the capital, but said that there was little chance of finding survivors in the rough seas.

Mangled aircraft seats and luggage were washed up on the shore.

Waiting for news

Friends and relatives gathered at the airport and local hospitals awaiting news of their loved ones.

Al Jazeera's Rula Amin, reporting from Beirut, said families were pouring into the hospitals.

"They have been giving DNA samples so that the forensic experts will be able to match them with the bodies they have found because many of the bodies that have arrived here have been mutilated," she said.

"That is why the families have been expressing frustration. They really are desperate to know what happened to their relatives who were on that plane."

In the past two days, many parts of Lebanon have suffered harsh wintry storms that have caused heavy flooding and damage in some parts of the country.

"There was bad weather," Girma Wake, the Ethiopian Airlines chief executive, said. 

"How bad it is, I will not be able to say. But, from what I see, probably it was manageable weather otherwise the crew would not have taken off."

The Ethiopian News Agency in Addis Ababa said Ethiopian Airlines had sent a team to Beirut to investigate the crash.

'Cataclysmic failure'

Chris Yates, a UK-based aviation analyst, said that modern aircraft are built to withstand all but the foulest weather conditions.

"One wouldn't have thought that a nasty squall in and of itself would be the prime cause of an accident like this," he said.

Many relatives flooded Beirut airport or local hospitals to wait for news [AFP]
He said that reports of fire could suggest "some cataclysmic failure of one of the engines" or that something had been sucked into the engine, such as a bird or debris.

Tobias Rueckerl, an aviation consultant, said: "It is much too early to speculate about the cause, but it seems like the weather had a major impact on that crash.

"Ethiopian airlines is one of the much better African airlines," he told Al Jazeera from Hamburg in Germany.

"They have a comparably young fleet of aircraft, they have very well trained people, they are following near European standards. So I would count them as a safe airline basically.

Michel Sleiman, the Lebanese president, said he did not think the plane had been brought down deliberately, emphasising that "a sabotage attack is unlikely".

The passengers included 54 Lebanese nationals, 22 Ethiopians, as well as Iraqi, Syrian, British and French nationals, he said.

There were also several dual nationals including one British-Lebanese, one Canadian-Lebanese and a Russian-Lebanese.

Saad Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister, announced a day of mourning and closed schools and government offices.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
More than one-quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Muslim charities claim discrimination after major UK banks began closing their accounts.
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Featured
Frustration grows in Kiev as pledges to end corruption and abuse of power stagnate after Maidan Square protest.
Thousands of Houthi supporters have called for the fall of Yemen's government. But what do the Houthis really want?
New ration reductions and movement restrictions have refugees from Myanmar anxious about their future in Thailand.
US lawyers say poor translations of election materials disenfranchise Native voters.
US drones in Pakistan have killed thousands since 2004. How have leaders defended or decried these deadly planes?
join our mailing list