(Transcript from SBS World News Radio)
Investigators believe severe storms may have played a part in a plane crash over Mali that killed all of the more than 100 people on board.
They say the pilot signalled bad weather was in the area before the jet dropped off the radar.
Greg Navarro reports.
(Click on the audio tab above to hear the full report)
In Lebanon, relatives huddled around a picture of their five year-old niece and feared the worst after hearing an Air Algerie flight was missing – the plane the little girl was on.
Their fears were confirmed hours later when General Gilbert Diendiere of the Burkina Faso Army, made an announcement about a discovery in Mali near the Algerian border.
(Translated) “We sent a scouting team to the location indicated by locals but unfortunately we do not have any more details but I can guarantee we have found the plane.”
The plane, carrying 116 passengers and crew, took off from Burkina Faso bound for Algeria.
About 50 minutes into the flight the pilot requested to change course because of severe storms.
General Diendiere said a short time later the jet, carrying mostly French passengers, dropped off the radar.
French fighter jets were scrambled to find any sign of the plane.
(Translated) “One thing is certain. There was a thunderstorm, and I think that may have been the cause of the accident, because the plane did indeed deviate from its route. The pilot said he was trying to avoid the thunderstorm, so we’re thinking that may be the cause of the accident.”
Hours later, the wreckage of a plane was found in the desert in Mali, near the city of Gao.
That area has been fought over by rival groups in recent years, including al Qaeda, but there’s no suggestion they had anything to do with the crash.
French President Francois Hollande says the families of those on board deserve to know what happened.
(Translated) “I will stay here in Paris for as long as necessary. I have decided to postpone the trip I was going to make to Reunion, Mayotte and Comoros. Everyone will understand. This is a moment of seriousness and pain.”
Especially for those left to grieve and to wait to bring their loves ones home.