Comoran Update

Tuesday, June 30, 2009
By George Hatcher

View larger photo here
Contact photographer Iam Lim
What: Yemenia Air Airbus 310 flight 626 en route from Yemen’s capital Sanaa to Moroni
Where: Indian Ocean near the Comoros archipelago
When: Monday June 29, 2009
Who: 142 passengers, 11 crew ( 6 Yemenis, 2 Moroccans, 1 Indonesian, 1 Ethiopian and 1 Filipino). 66 on board were French Nationals. A young girl survived. 5 bodies were found.
Why: Airbus attributes the crash to bad weather. The crash occurred on the pilot’s second attempt to land. The first landing was aborted because of 50 mph winds. The plane had circled to make a 2nd attempt and was flying low and impacted the ocean. Earlier reports described a “u turn.”

The 19 year old plane has 51,900 flight hours. Two years ago, aviation officials reported problems with this plane. Fifty-one percent of the airline is owned by the Yemeni government. Forty-nine percent is owned by the Saudi Arabian government.

Its fleet includes two Airbus 330-200s, four Airbus 310-300s and four Boeing 737-800s, according to the company website.

Comorian President Ahmed Abdallah Sambi cut short his attendance at the AU summit in Libya to return to Moroni to “mourn alongside those who lost loved ones in the crash.” He expressed “condolences to the Comorian people and to the affected families.”

Yemin call center: for more info contact the call center at 00967 1250800 or the emergency No 00967 1 250833 or call center 00967 1 250800 #IY626

Gen. Bruno de Bourdoncle de Saint-Salvy is the senior commander for French forces in the southern Indian Ocean. The islands are considered a French “department” and 80,000 immigrant Comorans are domiciled in Marseille. The general is quoted as saying that the Airbus 310 crashed 9 miles north of Comoros and 21 miles from the Moroni airport.

Reports of a toddler being found have not been verified; but when a young girl could not grasp the ring that had been tossed to her, Sgt. Said Abdilai jumped in the water and rescued her. The water was apparently too rough to recover more than five bodies. No other live victims have been found.

Comoros honorary consul in Marseille, Stephane Salord calls Yemenia’s planes “flying cattle trucks” and is quoted saying “This A310 is a plane that has posed problems for a long time, it is absolutely inadmissible that this airline Yemenia played with the lives of its passengers this way,” he said.

Stephane Salord (whom we were trying to reach to interview for this column) is on the presumed dead list.

The plane in question has been also referred to as “ancient, old, elderly, and geriatric.”

There are complaints about Yemenia Airlines:

Some people stand the whole way to Moroni,” said Mohamed Ali, a Comoran who went to Yemenia’s headquarters in Paris to try to get more information.
Thoue Djoumbe, a 28-year-old woman who lives in the French town of Fontainebleau, said she and others had complained about the airline for years.
“It’s a lottery when you travel to Comoros,” said Djoumbe. “We’ve organized boycotts, we’ve told the Comoran community not to fly on Yemenia airways because they make a lot of money off of us and meanwhile the conditions on the planes are disastrous.”

Safety breaches have put this area on a French “watch list.” A group called “SOS Voyage aux Comores” claims Yemenia Airlines is run by “cowboy operators.” They list complaints like:

  • The beating of passengers in transit.
  • Ill-treatment of Comoran victims,
  • Problems related to transit in Sana’a as Dzaoudzi,
  • Ticket prices escalating in price more than 60%,
  • Loss of employment in return for delay at work,
  • The flight duration up to 5 days without notice or explanation,
  • Lack of consideration of the Comorian clients,
  • Tickets prices inflate while oil price does not
  • Delays and baggage lost without explanation or apology,
  • Dates and times of departure / return not always respected or honored,
  • Ill-treatment and humiliation inflicted on the passengers,
  • Some mothers forced to carry their babies on their knees while their places were paid …


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