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Teen survivor “doing well”

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Miraculous escape: 14-year-old Baya Bakari, survivor of the Yemenia airliner crash, greets French Cooperation Minister Alain Joyandet at the Moroni hospital on Wednesday.
Miraculous escape: 14-year-old Baya Bakari, survivor of the Yemenia airliner crash, greets French Cooperation Minister Alain Joyandet at the Moroni hospital on Wednesday.

MORONI (Comoros): A teenage girl who is the only known survivor of a Yemeni jetliner crash could barely swim but managed to hang on long enough for rescuers to find her in the ocean, her father told French radio on Wednesday. A nurse who treated the girl said she was “doing well” in a hospital in the Comoros.

A Yemenia Airbus 310 jet carrying 153 people crashed into the Indian Ocean early Tuesday as it attempted to land in the dark amid howling winds. A French Minister said on Wednesday the plane’s black boxes — flight data and cockpit voice recorders — appear to have been found.

Kassim Bakari said he spoke with his oldest daughter, 14-year-old Baya, by phone after Tuesday’s crash. Baya had left Paris on Monday night with her mother to see family in the Comoros. He said she was ejected and found herself beside the plane after the crash in the middle of the night.

“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,” said Mr. Bakari on France’s RTL radio, describing her as “fragile” and saying she could “barely swim”.

Sergeant Said Abdilai told Europe 1 radio that he rescued the girl after she was found bobbing in the water. She could not grasp the life ring rescuers threw to her, so he jumped into the sea, he said. He said rescuers gave the trembling girl warm water with sugar.

The crash a few kilometres off this island nation 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 the Comoros, with a stop in Yemen to change planes. Most of the passengers were from the Comoros, a former French colony. Sixty-six on board were French nationals.

Turbulence was believed to be a factor in the crash, said Yemen’s embassy in Washington. Boats plied the waters on Wednesday, trying to find survivors. Yemen’s embassy said five bodies had been found so far. The tragedy — and dwindling hopes that anyone else made it out alive — prompted an outcry in Comoros, where residents have long complained of a lack of seat belts on Yemenia flights and planes so overcrowded that passengers had to stand in the aisles. — AP


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