Rescuers have started to recover bodies after a plane flying from Paris to the Comoros islands crashed in the Indian Ocean with more than 150 people on board, airline officials said today.
"We still do not have information about the reason behind the crash or survivors," Mohammad al-Sumairi, an official from Yemenia Air told Reuters. "The weather conditions were rough; strong wind and high seas. The wind speed recorded on land at the airport was 61km an hour. There could be other factors," he said.
Most of the passengers on the Yemenia Air Airbus 310 were believed to be Comoros residents returning from Paris. The plane had stopped off in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, on the way to Moroni, the capital on the main island of the Comoros archipelago.
A Yemenia Air official said the plane, which authorities believe crashed in the early hours, had 142 passengers and 11 crew members on board.
Ibrahim Kassim, a representative from Asenca, the regional air security body, said the plane was believed to have come down between three and six miles from the coast.
"We think the crash is somewhere along its landing approach," he said. "The weather is really not very favourable. The sea is very rough."
Military and civilian boats are helping in the search.
French military planes from the Indian Ocean islands of Mayotte and Réunion are also taking part in the operation, and the army has sent speedboats to the area.
A Paris airport spokeswoman said a Yemenia flight left Paris yesterday morning.
Comoros, a Yemeni state, covers three small volcanic islands, Grande Comore, Anjouan and Mohéli, in the Mozambique channel, about 1,800 miles south of Yemen, between Africa's south-eastern coast and Madagascar.
The Yemenia plane is the second Airbus to crash into the sea this month. An Air France Airbus A330-200 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean killing 228 people on board on 1 June.
Yemenia is 51% owned by the Yemeni government and 49% owned by the Saudi Arabian government. Its fleet includes two Airbus 330-200s, four Airbus 310-300s and four Boeing 737-800s.