Wed, July 01, 2009
World > Asia-Pacific > Yemenia plane crashes

France's Comorans say warnings over 'disastrous' Yemenia flights had been ignored

2009-07-01 05:12:36 GMT2009-07-01 13:12:36 (Beijing Time)

People gather at Roissy airport, north of Paris, Tuesday June 30, 2009, as they wait for information about passengers aboard a jet from Yemen which crashed in the Indian Ocean early Tuesday as it tried to land during heavy wind on the island nation of Comoros.

An unidentified relative of a passenger cries at Marseille airport, southern France after a jet from Yemen with 153 people on board crashed.

France's Comoran diaspora expressed shock and anger Tuesday after the crash of an Yemenia Airbus 310 jet carrying 153 people. Some insisted that their earlier warnings about the airline's safety weren't heeded by authorities.

The Yemenia plane was flying the last leg of a journey taking passengers from Paris and Marseille to the remote Indian Ocean island nation of Comoros via Yemen when it crashed into the Indian Ocean.

Comoros became independent from France in 1975, and many of the island's inhabitants still have strong ties to the former colonial ruler. The southern French port of Marseille is home to around 80,000 immigrant Comorans, more even than Comoros' capital, Moroni.

Most of the passengers were from Comoros, returning from Paris. Sixty-six on board were French nationals.

"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," said Stephane Salord, the Comoros' honorary consul in Marseille.

Salord called Yemeni's aircraft "flying cattle trucks."

"It is an absolute disgrace that we tolerate this kind of thing and I think the company's responsibility is considerable," he said on France-3 television.

Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau said French aviation inspectors found a "number of faults" during a 2007 inspection of the plane that crashed into the Indian Ocean in bad weather early Tuesday while trying to land at Moroni.

Comorans in Paris who have flown Yemenia flights to the Indian Ocean archipelago - located 1,800 miles (2,900 kilometres) south of Yemen - were harshly critical of travel conditions on the flights.

"From Paris to San'a everything is fine, by the book. But from San'a to Moroni, they board you like you were getting into a minibus in the bush, no one has assigned seats, it's first come, first serve," said Mouijui Abdou, a Comoran who went to Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport following news of the crash.

"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. "If you complain, Yemenia just says "If you want to get on, get on, if you don't, then find another flight.""

Ali Iliassa, 63-year-old retiree, said he knew five people assumed to be aboard the flight, including a friend and her three children and a cousin.

He went to the Yemenia office because he said sometimes the airline leaves passengers in the Yemeni capital of San'a and he was trying to find out whether those he knew were on the plane that crashed.

"I'm very, very shocked. They treat us like dogs on the aircraft," Iliassa said.

Thoue Djoumbe, a 28-year-old woman who lives in Fontainebleau and has taken the Yemenia flight to Comoros, said she and other passengers have been complaining about flight conditions on 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."

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