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Teen is only survivor found in crash of Yemeni jetliner

A BRUISED teenage girl who is the only known survivor of a Yemeni jet crash clung to wreckage for more than 13 hours before rescuers found her floating in the Indian Ocean, a French official said yesterday.

There was no word on any other survivors of Tuesday's crash off the coast of Comoros.

The Yemenia Airbus 310 jet was carrying 153 people to the island nation when it crashed into the sea as it attempted to land in the dark amid howling winds.

Government officials visited the survivor, 14-year-old Bahia Bakari, in a Comoros hospital yesterday. She was conscious and had bruises on her face and a gauze bandage on her elbow.

"It is a true miracle. She is a courageous young girl," Alain Joyandet, France's minister for international cooperation, said at the hospital. "She held onto a piece of the plane from 1:30am to 3pm."

He said she was strong enough to signal a passing boat, which rescued her.

"She really showed an absolutely incredible physical and moral strength," Joyandet said.

He said the girl would be flown back to France last night and put in a Paris hospital upon arrival.

"She is physically out of danger; she is evidently very traumatized."

The girl's father told French radio that his daughter was "fragile" and could "barely swim" but managed to hang on.

Kassim Bakari said he spoke with his oldest daughter by phone. Bahia had left Paris on Monday night with her mother to see family in Comoros.

The father said his daughter was ejected in the crash and found herself beside the plane.

"She couldn't feel anything, and found herself in the water. She heard people speaking around her but she couldn't see anyone in the darkness," Bakari said. "She's a very timid girl, I never thought she would escape like that."

The crash came two years after aviation officials reported equipment faults with the plane, an aging Airbus 310 flying the last leg of a Yemenia airlines flight from Paris and Marseille to Comoros, with a stop in Yemen to change planes.

Turbulence was believed to be a factor in the crash, Yemen's embassy in Washington said.

The French air accident investigation agency BEA said it was sending a team of safety investigators accompanied by advisers from Airbus to Comoros, an archipelago of three main islands 2,900 kilometers south of Yemen.


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