MORONI, Comoros — A Yemeni jetliner carrying 153 people crashed into the Indian Ocean on Tuesday as it attempted to land amid severe turbulence and howling winds. Officials said a teenage girl was plucked from the sea, the only known survivor.
The crash off this island nation came two years after aviation officials reported equipment faults with the plane, an aging Airbus 310 flying the last leg of a Yemenia flight from Paris and Marseille to Comoros, with a stop in Yemen to change planes.
Most of the passengers were from Comoros, a former French colony. Sixty-six on board were French nationals.
Khaled el-Kaei, the head of Yemenia airline's public relations, said a 14-year-old girl survived the crash, and Yemen's embassy in Washington issued a statement saying a young girl was taken to a hospital. It also said five bodies were recovered.
Sgt. Said Abdilai told Europe 1 radio that he rescued the girl after she was found bobbing in the water. She couldn't grasp the life ring rescuers threw to her, so he jumped in, Abdilai said. He said rescuers gave her warm water with sugar.
There were earlier statements from officials that a 5-year-old boy survived. El-Kaei said that was not known and the airline had lost contact with its office in Comoros because of bad weather.
Yemeni civil aviation deputy chief Mohammed Abdul Qader said the flight data recorder had not been found and it was too early to speculate on the cause of the crash. But he said winds in excess of 40 miles per hour were pummeling the plane as it was landing in darkness in the early morning hours.
Turbulence was believed to be a factor in the crash, Yemen's embassy in Washington said.
French inspectors found a "number of faults" in the plane's equipment during a 2007 inspection, French Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau said on French television. He did not elaborate.