Friday, July 25, 2014

Mali: Update--Air Algerie Crash Likely Caused by Adverse Weather

According to Reuters, poor weather was the most likely cause of the crash of an Air Algerie flight in the West African state of Mali that killed all 116 people on board, French officials said on Friday (July 25).

Investigators at the scene of the crash in northern Mali concluded the airliner broke apart when it hit the ground, the officials said, suggesting this meant it was unlikely to have been the victim of an attack.

"French soldiers who are on the ground have commenced their investigation. Sadly there are no survivors," French President François Hollande told reporters. 

A column of 100 soldiers and 30 vehicles from the French force stationed in the region arrived early on Friday morning to secure the crash site near the northern Mali town of Gossi and recover bodies, a Defense Ministry official said. 

Hollande said one of the black box flight recorders had already been recovered and would be analyzed quickly.

COMMENT: By far, with French nationals making up nearly half of those killed in the crash, it is appropriate that France assume the lead, largely as they already have assets in the region.

Aviation officials lost contact with flight AH5017 at around 0155 GMT on Thursday (July 24), less than an hour after taking off for Algeria, following a request by the pilot to change course due to bad weather.

Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier said the strong smell of aircraft fuel at the crash site and the fact that the debris was scattered over a relatively small area also suggests that the cause of the crash was linked to weather, a technical problem or a cumulation of such factors.

Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was due to visit the crash site later on Friday.

France deployed troops to Mail last year [2013] to halt an al-Qaeda-backed insurgency and has roughly 1,600 soldiers based in Mali, predominantly in the northern city of Gao.

Other than the French nationals, Burkina Faso authorities said the passenger list included 27 Burkinabe, eight Lebanese, six Algerians, five Canadians, four Germans, two from Luxembourg, one Cameroonian, one Belgian, one Egyptian, one Ukranian, one Swiss, one Nigerian and one Malian.

Swiftair, which owned the plane, said the six crew members were Spanish. 

It confirmed in a statement on Friday that the wreckage of the plane had been found in Mali without survivors, adding it was too early to address causation.