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World News

Ivory Coast clears homes around airport after child stowaway's death

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Authorities in Ivory Coast have evicted tens of thousands of people living near the country’s main airport in response to the death of a 14-year-old boy in the undercarriage of a plane earlier this month.

The boy, Laurent Barthelemy, is believed to have snuck into Abidjan airport through the shantytown along the perimeter before jumping a fence.

His body was found when the Air France flight landed in Paris earlier this month.

The government announced it would create a 200-metre security perimeter around the airport to prevent such incidents happening again and ordered the Adjouffou neighbourhood evacuated.

Ahead of the deadline on Monday, people in Adjouffou, a warren of dilapidated, low-slung houses with some 200,000 residents, hurriedly gathered their belongings, including tin roofs, mattresses and toilet seats.

Many did not know where to go next.

“We’re leaving, but where are we going to go?” said high school student Epiphanie Djossou. “I had to leave my stuff with family members and I don’t know how to get it back so I can go to school.”

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Others expressed anger they were being forced to leave over the actions of a child from another part of town.

“A child came from Yopougon and because of that we are going to evacuate the entire neighbourhood of Adjouffou. Why?” asked Jean Diriga.

At a ceremony last week at the Sant’ Egidio church in Abidjan, family and friends paid tribute to Barthelemy, even as they struggled to explain why he had snuck onto the plane.

Several stowaways trying to reach Europe from African countries have been reported in recent years, with most dying en route.

“I had never wished for my child to try and go on such a risky venture,” said his father, Marius Barthelemy. “I gave him what I could and what I thought was necessary for everyday life.”

Air France has said it was investigating Barthelemy’s death.

Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly and Media Coulibaly; Writing by Anna Pujol-Mazzini and Juliette Jabkhiro; Editing by Aaron Ross and Mike Collett-White

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