Thursday, May 13, 2010

TRIPOLI, Libya | A Libyan plane carrying 104 people crashed Wednesday on approach to Tripoli’s airport, leaving a field scattered with smoldering debris that included a large chunk of the tail painted with the airline’s brightly colored logo. A 10-year-old Dutch boy was the only known survivor.

The Dutch prime minister said everyone on the Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A330-200 arriving from Johannesburg, South Africa, was killed except the child, whose survival was hailed as a miracle.

The boy was taken to a hospital in Tripoli and was undergoing surgery for injuries including broken bones. Libyan TV showed video of the dark-haired child lying in a hospital bed with a bandaged head and wearing an oxygen mask. He had intravenous lines in one arm and appeared to be conscious.

The Royal Dutch Tourism Board said 61 of the dead came from the Netherlands, including many vacationers who had been on package tours to South Africa.

Dutch flags were lowered and campaigning for the June 9 parliamentary elections was suspended in respect for the dead. Hundreds of people phoned emergency numbers to ask about family and friends while authorities at other destination airports set up crisis centers.

“We are sad and sore at the thought of the more than 100 passengers and crew who lost their lives,” the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, said in a statement. “We thank God for the sole survivor. In his survival, we see that even in this dark cloud of death, there is this ray of hope.”

The crash left a large field scattered with small and large pieces of plane debris. Dozens of police and rescue workers with surgical masks and gloves gathered small personal items such as wallets and cell phones from the wreckage.

Others sifted through debris — some of it still smoldering — including a flight recorder and green seats with television screens on them. A large piece of the plane’s tail was visible, bearing Afriqiyah’s brightly colored logo with the numbers “9.9.99,” a reference to the date of the founding of the African Union.

The plane was carrying 93 passengers and 11 crew, Afriqiyah Airways said in a statement.

“Afriqiyah Airways announces that our flight 771 had an accident during landing at Tripoli International airport,” the statement said. “Authorities are conducting the search and rescue mission.”

Libyan Transportation Minister Mohammad Zaidan confirmed the sole survivor was a 10-year-old Dutch boy.

A Dutch Embassy official planned to visit the survivor in the hospital later Wednesday, said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Ozlem Canel. She said officials were still trying to verify his identity.

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