At least 131 killed in Lebanese plane crash in Africa
At least 131 people, most of them Lebanese, were killed when a Boeing 727 crashed into the sea off the coast of the small west African state of Benin, the country's transport minister announced on Friday.
Twenty-two people survived, Hamed Akobi said, giving a revised casualty toll from Thursday's disaster in which a Lebanese-owned Union Tranport Africaines (UTA) carrying 156 passengers and seven crew crashed on take-off.
Search teams pursued a hunt for bodies in the morning. Eleven of those who died in Thursday's crash were dragged onto a beach from the wreckage.
Benin's minister gave the revised toll to a team from Lebanon, lad by Foreign Minister Michel Obeid, which arrived in Cotonou Friday morning. The Lebanese visitors went to see some of the survivors in the hospital center.
According to AFP, a hospital source said that four survivors had died of their wounds during the night, but Akobi confirmed that 22 survivors were still alive on Friday morning.
Technical problems delayed the UTA flight, which originated in the Guinean capital Conakry and stopped in the Sierra Leone capital Freetown before picking up 71 passengers in Cotonou, aviation officials said.
As it began its delayed departure, its landing gear failed to re-engage, sending the plane skidding down the runway and smashing into a building, witnesses said.
A senior aviation official suggested the aircraft may also have been overloaded or unbalanced. It then exploded and tumbled nose down into the sea, witnesses said. Akobi said rescue teams were searching for the plane's black box, but it had not been found. (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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