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Plane debris washes ashore in Tanzania

AN airline seat and a sheet of metal with an "Airbus" inscription washed ashore in Tanzania, officials said yesterday, as two French investigators arrived to see if the debris was linked to the Yemenia Airways plane crash hundreds of kilometers away.

The search for the remains of Flight 626 has widened since the plane crashed on June 30 while trying to land in the Comoros with 153 passengers aboard. Only one girl survived.

Teams from the French aviation investigation agency BEA and the French navy were still searching for the planes' black boxes off the Comoran coast. But currents may have carried wreckage and bodies from the plane nearly 800 kilometers along the coast of East Africa to Tanzania's largely undeveloped Mafia Island.

Two French embassy officials were assisting with the search there but their efforts to find further debris were hampered by bad weather, said Mafia Island District Commissioner Manzie Mangochie.

Tanzanian police spokesman Mohammed Mhina said debris recovered on Mafia Island included a single passenger seat and what appeared to be part of a wing with the inscription "Airbus 310," the make of the missing plane.

Mhina said two Tanzanian ships and two helicopters were helping fishermen and officials with the search.

The mission continued in the Comoros despite rough seas, Comoran official Ali Abou Abasse said.

French Foreign Ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier said France was "cooperating fully and in all transparency with all the parties concerned by this tragedy."

He did not comment on threats by Yemenia Airways to cancel Airbus orders following criticism of the plane's safety record by French officials.

Investigators have reportedly concluded that the black boxes - the plane's cockpit voice and flight data recorders - lie in waters too deep for divers and are awaiting specialized robots.


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