by Dayo Laniyan
The wreckage of a plane that disappeared with 116 people for a flight from Burkina Faso to Algiers has been found 50km from with border of Burkina Faso in Mali, according to French officials.
The last contact with Air Algerie Flight AH 5017 was on Thursday at 01:30 GMT, when the pilot reported to Niger’s control tower in Niamey that the flight was changing course due to a sandstorm.
The crash site was identified by members of the Burkina Faso army near the village of Boulikessi. Gilbert Diendere, a Burkina Faso army general said the state of Mali had agreed to the cross border search.
However, on further investigation of the site, he told reporters, ‘The team found human remains and the wreckage of the plane totally burnt and scattered. Sadly they saw no survivors.’
Investigators at the crash scene had concluded that the airline had broke apart when it hit the ground, making it unlikely that it had been attacked.
Because of the 51 French nationals onboard the flight, the French government have taken a special interest in the situation. A statement from the office of President Francois Hollande stated that ‘A French military detachment was dispatched to secure the site and gather first information.’
Several French official figures share the opinion of the investigators on the unlikely outcome of the flight being attacked. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, in an interview with RTL radio said “We think the aircraft crashed for reasons linked to the weather conditions. No theory can be excluded at this point…but that is indeed the most likely theory.”
Separately on France 2 television, Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier said “We exclude- and have done so from the start-any ground strike,” and that the cause of the crash could be linked to either weather or a technical problem, due to the strong smell of aircraft fuel lingering at the site and the debris being scattered over a small area.
Burkina Faso authorities have released the passenger list, which consists of one Nigerian, 51 French, 27 from Burkina Faso; eight Lebanese; six Algerians; five Canadians; four Germans; one Cameroonian; one Egyptian; one Ukrainian and 1 Malian, with six Spanish crew members, according to the Spanish pilots’ union.