January 26, 2010 08:02
Rescuers are searching the waters off Lebanon for the 90 passengers and crew of an Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed shortly after take off Monday. Several bodies have already been pulled from the sea, but no survivors have been found.
Lebanese officials have called for a day of mourning for those killed when the plane went down in stormy weather in the early hours of Monday. Officials say there is no indication of terrorism or foul play. Lebanese President Michel Suleiman said that, as of now, an act of sabotage is unlikely.
The Boeing 737-800 had just taken off from Beirut and was headed to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, when it went down in the Mediterranean a few kilometers off Lebanon's coast. Witnesses report seeing the plane on fire before it crashed.
Authorities say more than 50 Lebanese passengers boarded the plane as well as more than 20 Ethiopians, in addition to the crew members. French officials say the wife of France's ambassador to Lebanon was among the people from other countries on board.
Suleiman says preparations are being made for relatives of those on board to receive information about the search efforts.
Several nations, including Britain and the United States, are involved in the search. Speaking in Addis Ababa, Ethiopian Airlines chief executive Girma Wake explained part of the efforts during a news conference. "The whole ministry of transport, Lebanese defense force, the Lebanese navy, United Nations military that is based in Lebanon are all cooperating in the rescue effort," Wake said.
Debris from the plane has already washed up on the coast.
Ethiopian Airlines CEO Wake says the carrier has never suffered a crash because of maintenance or pilot error. He noted the last crash was in 1996 during a hijacking, while the only other crash, in 1988, was when birds hit an engine. The airline's safety record has allowed it to recently expand its presence in international travel.
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