OUAGADOUGOU: The wreckage of an Air Algerie plane missing since early yesterday with 116 people on board has been found in Mali near the Burkina Faso border, an army coordinator in Ouagadougou said.
“We have found the Algerian plane. The wreck has been located... 50km north of the Burkina Faso border” in the Malian region of Gossi, said General Gilbert Diendiere of the Burkina Faso army.
“At the moment we have no further information on (the fate of) the passengers but our teams are hard at work,” he said.
Diendiere gave no indication as to what may have caused the plane to crash. A witness had earlier reported seeing the plane “falling” in the region.
Flight AH5017, which took off from Ouagadougou for Algiers with 51 French nationals aboard, according to Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, went missing amid reports of heavy storms, company sources and officials said.
The airline said there were also 24 Burkinabe, eight Lebanese, six Algerians, six Spanish, five Canadians, four Germans and two Luxembourg nationals on board.
The flight had been presumed lost before French President Francois Hollande appeared on TV to announce: “Everything leads us to believe that the plane has crashed.”
He said the plane’s Spanish crew had signalled they were altering course “due to particularly difficult weather conditions”.
“Contact was lost with the McDonnell Douglas 83 at 1.47 (local time), a little after the pilots said they were diverting from the route due to meteorological reasons,” Fabius said.
Algerian radio quoted Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal as saying the plane dropped off the radar at Gao, 500km from the Algerian border.
Mali, Algeria, Niger and France coordinated search efforts under the French-led military intervention in Mali, Operation Serval.
“Though the aircraft was above Mali, it was in airspace managed by the control centre in Niamey in Niger,” an air traffic control said, without providing details about the passengers and the crew.