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Expat Comorans say they warned about crash airline
MARSEILLE, France |
MARSEILLE, France (Reuters) - Expatriate Comorans, mourning Tuesday's crash of an Airbus off the Indian Ocean archipelago, said they had complained to French authorities as recently as last week about the Yemeni operator's aircraft.
Members of an association created in France to complain about travelling conditions to the Comoros accused the Yemenia airline of low standards over a number of years.
"The accident was predictable," said Farid Soilihi, president of the group "SOS-Voyages to the Comoros", denouncing what he said were dirty and badly maintained aircraft.
Stephane Salord, the Comoran consul in Marseille, said he had long heard complaints from the city's large expatriate community about journeys that were "too long, too expensive, too risky".
The undersecretary of Yemen's civil aviation authority, Abdul-Rahman Abdul-Qader, rejected the accusations about the plane's condition.
"This is baseless, otherwise we would not have allowed the plane to go on an overseas trip. We exercise strict control on on our planes and if anything like this (was discovered) the plane would, of course, never be allowed to take off," he told Reuters in Sanaa.
The aircraft crashed with 153 people on board, including 66 French. Many of them were families from France's large Comoran community who were travelling home for the holidays.
French Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau said faults had been detected during inspections in France in 2007 on the A310-300 aircraft that crashed and it had been banned from French soil. European Union officials said the plane had sparked an inquiry two years ago into the airline's safety record.
Yemen's transport minister said the plane that crashed had been thoroughly checked in May under Airbus supervision.
"It was a comprehensive inspection carried out in Yemen ... with experts from Airbus," Khaled Ibrahim al-Wazeer told Reuters. "It was in line with international standards."
Faysal Emran, area manager for Yemenia in Paris, said bad weather appeared to be the cause of the accident and he said there were no problems with the A310-300.
"The plane was normal, operative, last flight was to London, 2,3 or 4 flights, a good A310," he told reporters.
Soilihi said he had sent a letter last week to the French foreign, interior and transport ministers warning them of the association's concerns about the airline.
He had also organised a protest for Aug. 11 at the Paris airport where many boarded the doomed plane.
Yemenia had used a different plane, an A330, to pick the passengers up in Paris and Marseille before transferring them to the A310-300 in the Yemeni capital Sanaa.
Families arriving at the airport in Marseille were met by Comoros consul Stephane Salord. He said it was very regrettable direct flights had been been stopped for reasons of profitability.
"The Comorans save up for several months in the year to go to Comoros with their families. In this plane there were entire families, parents, children, elders who were with them," he said.
"There is a lot of anger and emotion today....Just because we're a developing country doesn't mean we have to be dependent on companies that do not respect international norms."
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