A Libyan Airbus jet crashed early on Wednesday as it tried to land in Tripoli airport, killing 103 people on board, most of them Dutch, leaving a young Dutch boy the sole survivor, officials said.
The Airbus A330-200, which had only been in service since September, was flying from Johannesburg to the Libyan capital when it crashed just short of the runway around 6:00 a.m (0400 GMT), the airline and planemaker said.
Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said there were several dozen Dutch passengers on board the aircraft. Libyan officials said 22 of the victims were Libyans, but they gave no details of the other nationalities on board.
“Everybody is dead, except for one child,” Libyan Transport Minister Mohamed Zidan told a news conference at Tripoli airport. The plane was carrying 93 passengers and 11 crew, Libyan officials and executives from the airline said.
The minister said investigators were working to establish the cause of the crash but he ruled out terrorism.
He told reporters the survivor was a 10-year-old Dutch child who did not have life-threatening injuries. “The child is in good condition and is in hospital undergoing checks,” he said.
Reuters pictures from the crash site showed the ground carpeted with small pieces of debris from the plane and passengers’ personal effects, including a Dutch-language guide book to South Africa.
Only the tail fin, decorated with state-owned Afriqiyah Airways’ red, green and yellow insignia, was more or less intact, standing upright but leaning at an angle.
A Reuters reporter at the airport said ambulances were ferrying bodies of the victims to hospital mortuaries. Libyan officials said they had recovered dozens of bodies.
BLACK BOXES RECOVERED
A spokesman for Dutch Motorists’ Association ANWB, which has an emergency assistance service for Dutch people abroad, said that 61 Dutch nationals were killed in the crash.
Saleh Ali Saleh, head of the airline’s legal department, told Reuters by telephone that the plane’s black boxes had been recovered from the crash site in Tripoli and an investigation was underway.
“The deaths were probably due to the impact as I did not hear any report of a fire. The plane was travelling fast as it was still short of the runway when it crashed,” Saleh said.
Planemaker Airbus issued a statement confirming it had manufactured the plane involved in the crash. “Airbus will provide full technical assistance to the authorities responsible for the investigation into the accident,” it said.
The crashed aircraft was delivered from the production line in September 2009 and had accumulated approximately 1,600 flight hours in some 420 flights, Airbus added.
The aircraft is the same type as Air France flight 447, which crashed in the Atlantic on June 1 last year. The cause of that crash has not been firmly identified.
Afriqiyah Airways executives said the crash was the first in the history of the airline, which was established in 2001.
Airline staff said they had no more details about passengers’ nationalities.
“We extend our deepest sympathy to the families and friends of the victims,” a statement from the airline said.