AVIATION

'We have only seen body parts', says delegation member at the site of Air Algerie crash

First images from the site of Air Algerie crash show complete devastation

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 July, 2014, 6:27am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 July, 2014, 6:27am
AFP

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As the first images emerged of the Air Algerie crash site, showing a charred landscape and debris scattered over a wide area, it emerged that 10 members of one French family died in the crash.

"It's brutal. It has wiped an entire family from the earth," said Patrice Dunard, mayor of Gex, where four of the Reynaud family lived.

The small town of Menet in central France was also left devastated when residents discovered that a local family of four - a couple, their 10-year-old daughter, Chloe, and 14-year-old son, Elno - had died.

Denise Labbe of the local town hall said Chloe had confided to her teacher that she was scared of taking a plane, which she was doing for the first time.

France bore the brunt of the disaster, with some 54 French citizens among the overall death toll of between 116 and 118, according to unexplained conflicting figures given by the carrier and French authorities. French President Francois Hollande said in a sombre televised address: "Sadly, there are no survivors."

Travellers from Burkina Faso, Lebanon, Algeria, Spain, Canada, Germany and Luxembourg also died in the crash, blamed on bad weather that forced the pilots to change course.

The French army released initial images of a scene of devastation, with twisted and charred fragments of the McDonnell Douglas 83 jet littering a scorched earth in what is clearly a barren and remote environment.

Such was the apparent violence of the crash that debris was barely recognisable as parts of an aircraft.

"It is difficult to retrieve anything, even victims' bodies, because we have only seen body parts," said General Gilbert Diendiere, chief of staff for Burkina Faso's presidency.

He was a member of a delegation sent to the crash site by President Blaise Compaore that arrived in the Gossi area, about 100 kilometres from Gao, northern Mali's main city, on Friday afternoon. "Debris was scattered over an area of 500 metres which is due to the fact that the plane hit the ground and then probably rebounded," he added.

The plane, operated by Spanish charter firm Swiftair on behalf of Air Algerie, went down less than hour after take-off from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso on its way to Algiers.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said weather conditions appeared to be the most likely cause of the accident - the worst air tragedy for French nationals since the crash of Air France flight 447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris in June 2009.

But Hollande insisted that no potential cause for the accident was being ruled out.

Swiftair has a good safety record, and the head of France's civil aviation authority said on Thursday that the plane had passed through France last week and been given the all-clear.

Air Algerie flies the four-hour passenger route from Ouagadougou to Algiers four times a week. The Spanish crew had already flown it five times with the same plane, Algeria's transport minister said.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said around 180 French and Malian forces had arrived at the crash site, as had 40 Dutch soldiers from the MINUSMA United Nations stabilisation force in Mali.

The black box flight recorder of the plane had already been recovered, Hollande said.

This year has already seen Algeria mourn the loss of another plane when a C-130 military aircraft carrying 78 people crashed in February in the country's mountainous northeast, killing more than 70 of those on board.