Tripoli – An A330-220 Airbus operated by the Libyan airline Afriqiyah crashed this morning (Wednesday) at Tripoli airport. Preliminary reports indicate that the aircraft crashed short of the runway threshold during approach. Initial reports indicated that 94 passengers and 11 crew members were among the dead.
The plane was arriving from Johannesburg, South Africa at around 06:00 (04:00 GMT) Passengers were thought to include 61 Dutch, 22 Libyans, an unknown number of South Africans and several Britons due to transfer on to a London flight.
South African authorities were still trying to verify the passenger list before providing further information on how many South Africans were aboard. Although agencies have reported that 61 Dutch people were killed in the crash, later television coverage showed a small boy, believed to be Dutch, to be the only known survivor.
There was no immediate cause suggested for the crash, which is not believed to be linked to volcanic ash from Iceland, which has closed some airports in north Africa in the last 24 hours. Some local reports said visibility on landing was poor.
An airline expert, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "There are questions about the Libyan authorities' ability to oversee the airline industry. The weather conditions were not bad but there are suggestions that the visibility was poor as the plane came in to land. The real issue at Tripoli [airport], especially in poor visibility, is that it's not equipped with navigational aids – it does have ILS [instrument landing system]." Source: www.guardian.co.uk - Direct Link to Video
News from Johannesburg
International relations department spokesperson Nomfanelo Kota said they were struggling to get the passenger list as it was with Libyan authorities, and until they had done their own checks, they didn't want to rush into saying how many South Africans were on board.
Kota also told News24 that it was unlikely that the department would get the complete list on Wednesday of South Africans on the flight.
"Our ambassador in Tripoli did confirm that there were South Africans," Kota said.
The department had established an emergency operations room, which, said Kota, had been busy since news of the crash broke.
The number to use is 012-351-1000 and callers must request the consular section.
Kota said the emergency operations room is in 24-hour operation.
South Africa's ambassador to Libya had also set up an operations centre with other SA Development Community ambassadors, to act as a reception centre for South Africans who wanted to travel to the North African country to identify the bodies of their loved ones.
The airline said it would transport relatives to Tripoli without charge, where they would also be given free accommodation.
Libyan immigration authorities would grant a visa on arrival, and there would be no need for translation to Arabic of their passports.
The Libyan airline number to call is +218-91-371-9588. The airline asked journalists not to use that number so it could stay open for relatives.
The Airports Company of SA said it had set up a crisis centre for the airline at OR Tambo International Airport.
In addition to the international relations number, relatives could also call Tripoli +219-213-341-181 or London +44-203-355-2737.
The airport's helpdesk would direct relatives to the private facility.
Meanwhile, President Jacob Zuma and Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele were among the first to send condolences to the families of those involved in the crash.
"Our thoughts are with those who lost loved ones in this tragedy," said Zuma.
Ndebele said: "Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this time of bereavement." - SAPA
Regularly updated articles relating to the Libya plane crash can be viewed at www.news24.com
The AFRIQIYAH AIRWAYS website is also releasing statements as more news becomes available.