Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Libyan jet with 104 crashes; child sole survivor

A Libyan plane carrying 104 people crashed Wednesday on approach to Tripoli's airport, leaving a field scattered with smoldering debris that included a large chunk of the tail painted with the airline's brightly colored logo. A 10-year-old Dutch child was the only known survivor.

The Dutch prime minister said everyone on the Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A330-200 arriving from Johannesburg, South Africa was killed except the child, whose survival was hailed as a miracle.

The youth was taken to a hospital in Tripoli and was undergoing surgery for injuries including broken bones. Officials initially said the child was a boy, but the Dutch Foreign Ministry later said there was uncertainty over the survivor's gender.

The Royal Dutch Tourism Board said 61 of the dead came from the Netherlands.

"This is a large group of Dutch nationals after all, so it's a deeply sad message we have this day," Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said.

Libyan TV showed video of the dark-haired child lying in a hospital bed with a bandaged head and wearing an oxygen mask. The child had intravenous lines in one arm and appeared to be conscious.

An embassy official planned to visit the survivor in the hospital later Wednesday, said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Ozlem Canel. She said officials were still trying to verify the identity.

The Libyans "say and think it is a Dutch child, but that must be determined by our colleague," she said.

The crash left a large field scattered with small and large pieces of plane debris and dozens of police and rescue workers with surgical masks and gloves, some of them carrying at least one body away. They gathered small personal items such as wallets and cell phones from the wreckage.

Others sifted through debris — some of it still smoldering — including a flight recorder and green seats with television screens on them. A large piece of the plane's tail was visible, bearing Afriqiyah's brightly colored logo with the numbers "9.9.99," a reference to the date of the founding of the African Union.