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Child survives as Yemeni jet goes down with 153 on board

AN Airbus A310-300 from Yemen with 153 people on board crashed into the sea off the Indian Ocean archipelago of Comoros as it approached in bad weather early yesterday, officials said.

A doctor in the Comoros told Reuters that a child had been plucked alive from the sea and was being taken to a medical center. The manager of the international airport in Moroni said the child was five. He said five bodies had also been found.

The Paris airport authority said 66 French nationals were aboard the plane, which was flying the final leg of a trip from Paris and Marseille to Comoros via Yemen.

A Yemeni aviation official said there were also people from Canada, Comoros, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Morocco, the Palestinian territories, the Philippines and Yemen on the plane. It was the second Airbus to plunge into the sea this month. An Air France Airbus A330-200 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean killing 228 people on board on June 1. A preliminary report on that crash is due tomorrow.

The Paris-Marseille-Yemen leg of the Yemenia flight was flown by an Airbus A330. In Sanaa, those passengers who were flying on to the Comoros changed onto a second Yemenia plane, the A310 that crashed.

French Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau said faults had been detected during inspections in France in 2007 on the Yemenia A310, and that it had not flown to France since.

"The A310 in question was inspected in 2007 by the DGAC (French transport authorities), and they noticed a certain number of faults," he told the i-Tele television channel.

"The company was not on the blacklist but was subject to stricter checks on our part and was due to be interviewed shortly by the European Union's safety committee."

"The question we are asking ... is whether you can collect people in a normal way on French territory and then put them in a plane that does not ensure their security. We do not want this to happen again," he said.

But Yemen's transport minister said the plane was thoroughly checked in May under Airbus supervision.

"It was a comprehensive inspection carried out in Yemen ... with experts from Airbus," Khaled Ibrahim al-Wazeer told Reuters from Sanaa. "It was in line with international standards."

The EU suspended permission for Yemenia to maintain EU-registered planes in February after it failed a set of audit inspections, the EU's aviation safety agency said

French TV showed pictures of relatives of the passengers weeping at Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport, many of them railing at the airline.


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