Ethiopian airline crash kills at least 50
Darkness hampers rescue efforts
November 23, 1996
Web posted at: 6:10 p.m. EST
MORONI, Comoros Islands (CNN) -- At least 50 people died and
more than 100 were missing after a hijacked Ethiopian
airliner crashed Saturday off the Comoros Islands in the
The plane, an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 767, was carrying 175
passengers and crew when it was hijacked between Addis Ababa,
Ethiopia, and Nairobi, the Kenyan capital. Flight 961 also
had been scheduled to travel to three other cities.
|Resident hotel manager Bruce Thomson|
(275K/24 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
|Hotel employee Nathalie Bere|
(300K/27 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
It crashed near a beach north of Moroni, capital of the
Indian Ocean archipelago, and broke into two or three pieces,
apparently while attempting an emergency landing.
"They ran out of fuel as the pilot was still negotiating with
the hijackers at the time the plane hit the sea," Bruce
Thompson, manager of the Resident Hotel on the Comoros
Islands, told CNN.
Reports varied on the number of survivors. Ethiopian
Airlines planned to issue a passenger list on Sunday, a
Airline officials said the pilot and one crew member were
among those who survived.
The Italian news agency ANSA reported that three Italians
were among the survivors, including two employees of the
Italian embassy in Addis Ababa. Eight Israelis also were
reported to be on the plane. And, there were several
Americans. The United States was sending a team to provide
assistance to Comoro officials, the State Department said.
Hotel becomes morgue
Thirty bodies of crash victims were laid out under blankets
in the conference room of a hotel near the site of the crash.
State radio appealed to all doctors to report to the two main
hospitals on Grande Comore, where the accident occurred.
Thompson said rescue efforts "have come to a standstill,"
because of darkness and rough seas.
The flight was hijacked by 11 Ethiopians after leaving Addis
Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, said Israel radio, which had
monitored conversations between the plane's crew and air
Thompson said two terrorists were on board armed with
explosives, although the plane did not crash as a result of
the explosives, authorities said.
The hijackers demanded to be flown to Australia, and refused
to heed warnings from the pilots that the plane didn't have
enough fuel to make it there.
The plane then headed for the Indian Ocean island of
Mauritius to refuel, but instead went down at midday just off
Mitsamiuti Beach, between Madagascar and Mozambique.
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