2 Jul 2009

Comoros crash survivor reunites with father

9:03 pm on 2 July 2009

The sole survivor of a Yemeni jet that plunged into deep water while attempting to land on the Indian Ocean archipelago of Comoros was reunited with her father in France on Thursday.

Bahia Bakari, who can barely swim, clung on to floating debris for more than 12 hours before search teams spotted her struggling in rough seas.

French officials said that she was 12 years old, contradicting earlier reports she was 14.

Rescuers have failed to find any of the remaining 152 passengers and crew since the Yemenia Airbus A310 crashed in rough weather early on Tuesday.

American and French military aircraft continued to scour the crash site on Thursday as hopes of another miracle find faded fast and efforts turned towards locating the wreckage thought to be in waters up to 500 metres deep.

Comoros doctors, who marvelled at the girl's escape with little more than cuts, bruises and a fractured collar bone, said she was discharged on her father's request.

Television images showed Bahia Bakari lying weakly in an intensive care bed, unaware that her mother had died in the crash.

Dr Jean Youssef said El Marouf hospital in the capital Moroni lacked the facilities needed to properly scan the girl's body for any internal damage.

Bahia Bakari returned to France on a French government jet with French Cooperation Secretary Alain Joyandet.

Flight recorder still missing - ministry

Rescuers suspect many of the dead remained trapped inside the doomed plane and say the search effort should focus on finding the wreck. The cause of the crash is still unknown, officials say.

The French defence ministry denied on Wednesday reports by the state-run airline that the flight recorder had been found.

The aircraft, which was on the final leg of a trip from Paris and Marseille, was the second Airbus to crash into the sea in a month.

Yemenia Air said there were 75 Comoran passengers on board, along with 65 French nationals, one Palestinian and one Canadian.

The crew comprised of six Yemenis, two Moroccans, one Indonesian, one Ethiopian and a Filipina.