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Entire families wiped out in Air Algerie plane crash

All people on board an Air Algerie passenger plane that crashed in Mali died in the tragedy, including several families that were wiped out, France announced on Friday (25 July).

BAMAKO: All people on board an Air Algerie passenger plane that crashed in Mali died in the tragedy, including several families that were wiped out, France announced on Friday (25 July).

"Sadly, there are no survivors," President Francois Hollande said on television a day after the plane went down.

There were 116 or 118 people on board, according to conflicting tolls given by the carrier and French authorities. The discrepancy was not immediately explained.

The occupants included 54 French citizens, some of them dual nationals, as well as people from Burkina Faso, Lebanon, Algeria, Spain, Canada, Germany and Luxembourg.

The cause of the crash has not yet been determined, but it was being increasingly blamed on bad weather which had forced the pilots to divert course.

The McDonnell Douglas 83 jet, operated by Spanish charter firm Swiftair on behalf of Air Algerie, went down shortly after take-off from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso on its way to Algiers.

The first footage of the crash site in Mali's hard-to-reach Gossi region, filmed by soldiers from nearby Burkina Faso, showed a stark, sandy-looking terrain littered with debris, the ground blackened in some areas.

Such was the apparent violence of the crash that debris was barely recognisable as parts of an aircraft.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said weather conditions appeared to be the most likely cause of the accident - the worst air tragedy for French nationals since the crash of the Air France A330 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris in June 2009.

But Hollande insisted that no potential cause for the accident was being left out.

Swiftair has a good safety record and the head of France's civil aviation authority said Thursday that the MD-83 had passed through France this week and been given the all-clear.

The Spanish pilots' union Sepla said the plane's two Spanish pilots were "very experienced".

AIRLINE DISASTER WEEK

The plane crash was the third worldwide in the space of just eight days, capping a disastrous week for the aviation industry.

On July 17, a Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.

And a Taiwanese aircraft crashed in torrential rain in Taiwan on Wednesday (23 July), killing 48.

France was extremely active in the search and retrieval efforts for the Air Algerie plane, dispatching military forces and crash experts to the site after one of its drones found the wreckage.

There was already a strong French military presence in the area because of an offensive France launched in Mali last year to stop Islamist extremists and Tuareg rebels from marching onto Bamako.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters that around 180 French and Malian forces had arrived on the crash site, as had 40 Dutch soldiers from the MINUSMA United Nations (UN) stabilisation force in Mali.

"Their mission is to make the zone secure and to allow information to be gathered, which will be essential for the investigation," he said.

The black box flight recorder of the plane has already been recovered, Hollande said earlier. The Malian and Burkina Faso presidents on Friday (25 July) were in the area and due to visit the site along with the French minister for French citizens abroad, Fleur Pellerin.

ENTIRE FAMILIES ON PLANE

Humanitarians, expatriates, tourists and entire families were among the victims of the crash.

In one particularly tragic case, 10 members of the same French family were on board the plane, the mayors of the towns where some of them lived and relatives told AFP.

The small town of Menet in central France, meanwhile, was left devastated when residents found out a local family-of-four - a couple, their 10-year-old daughter Chloe and their 14-year-old son Elno - had died.

Denise Labbe of the local town hall said Chloe had confided to her teacher that she was scared of taking a plane, which she was doing for the first time.

Relatives of the victims will meet Hollande and Fabius in Paris on Saturday.

Air Algerie flies the four-hour passenger route from Ouagadougou to Algiers four times a week. The Spanish crew had already flown it five times with the same plane, Algeria's transport minister said.

This year has already seen Algeria mourn the loss of another plane when a C-130 military aircraft carrying 78 people crashed in February in the country's mountainous northeast, killing more than 70 on board.

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced a three-day period of national mourning for the latest crash, starting from Friday (25 July).

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