The Ethiopian airliner carrying 90 people exploded and plunged into the sea off Lebanon just after takeoff in stormy weather early on Monday. Here are some key details on the crash:
– Ethiopian Airline Flight 409 was heading from Beirut to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa
– The plane exploded into four pieces before crashing shortly after takeoff at 2:30 am (0030 GMT) in a heavy thunderstorm ,a defense ministry official said
– Witnesses reported seeing flames as the plane plunged into the sea.
– The official number of passengers was 90, including: 54 Lebanese, 20 Ethopians, 3 French, 1 Turkish, 1 Syrian, 1 Jordanian and 1 African.
– The black box has not been found yet according to Minister Ghazi Aridi
– Defense minister Elias Murr said it was unclear what caused the crash
– President Michel Suleiman ruled out terrorism or sabotage . “Up until now we have ruled out foul play,” Suleiman told reporters.
– Lebanese MP Yassin Jaber, said 15 of those on board hailed from the southern town of Nabatiyeh.
– The plane is Boeing 737-800. It is one of the latest versions of the world’s most widely used short to medium-haul airliners, and is capable of carrying up to 189 passengers. Ethiopian Airlines ordered 10 more Boeing Next-Generation 737-800s for a total price of $767 million last Friday
– The plane lost contact with the airport control tower shortly after takeoff and crashed into the Mediterranean sea 2.5 nautical miles off the coastal town of Naameh, south of the airport, according to Minister Ghazi Aridi
– “The control tower was assisting the pilot of the plane on takeoff and suddenly lost contact for no known reason,” Aridi told reporters.
– A massive international search and rescue operation involving the Lebanese army and navy , the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) , France, Britain, Cyprus and the United States in which helicopters and ships are used is still ongoing and dozens of bodies have been found
– Prime Minister Saad Hariri, parliament speaker Nabih Berri as well as a number of ministers and deputies were at the airport to comfort the families of the victims
– Ethiopian Airlines, which was established in 1946 and operates an all-Boeing fleet, is considered one of Africa’s best carriers
– The Lebanese health ministry said it had set up a crisis unit in a bid to identify the victims through DNA tests or jewelery items found.
– Hariri declared Monday a national day of mourning, as parliament cancelled a scheduled legislative session.
– One French passenger was identified as Marla Sanchez Pietton, the wife of France’s ambassador to Lebanon, Denis Pietton, according to the French embassy
– Thousands of Ethiopians are employed as domestic workers in Lebanon and Ethiopian Airlines operates a regular flight between Addis Ababa and Beirut.
– Many Lebanese, especially from the south of the country, work in Africa and Addis Ababa is a transit point.
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