Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Girma Wake, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines,
have announced their condolences to the families of victims of Ethiopian Airline crash in Beirut Lebanon.
The plane, a Boeing 737-800 carrying 83 passengers and seven crew members, crashed immediately after take off from Beirut airport in Lebanon around midnight GMT. It was a direct flight to Addis Ababa.
It is believed that the passengers include 54 Lebanese, 23 Ethiopians, one Iraqi, one French woman, one Syrian, one British-Lebanese, one Canadian-Lebanese, a Russian-Lebanese and seven crew members. Marla Sanchez Pietton, wife of France’s ambassador to Lebanon, Denis Pietton, was also on board.
Though the total number of causalities have not yet been confirmed, the Ethiopian Prime Minister announced his condolences from the Somali Regional town of Jijiga, where he arrived today to celebrate the National Pastoralist Day. “We are now celebrating this event in a depressing [mood] due to the Ethiopian Airline crash,” he said.
Girma Wake, CEO of the airline, gave a press conference a few hours
ago, during which he told journalists that the rescue effort is has been strengthened in collaboration with government of Lebanon as well as UN rescuers based there.
The government of Ethiopia has also established a committee, led by the Transport and Communication Ministry, to work with the Lebanese government to speed up the rescue operation.
“The Lebanese Government has formed a rescue team lead by the Ministry of Transport. Also taking part in this rescue mission are the Lebanese Defense forces, including the Navy and the UN peace keeping force in the region”, Girma told Journalists.
He also said that a team comprising of 14 people from Ethiopia’s Safety & Emergency Response department, Medical Unit, Flight Operations, Maintenance & Engineering, the Ethiopian Civil Aviation as well as Ethiopia’s Chief Airline Security office has been sent to Beirut to provide additional support.
Meanwhile, Lebanese President Michel Sleiman has rejected any sabotage speculations. “Sabotage is ruled out as of now” he said, “The investigation will uncover the cause”. Although the plane took off in bad weather, the cause of the crash was not immediately known. Lebanese Transport Minister, Ghazi Aridi, confirmed that “the weather undoubtedly was very bad” when the plane took off.
Official reports from the Airline have revealed that the 8 year old aircraft was serviced on Christmas day, December 25, and passed inspection.
A defence ministry official told reporters that the Boeing 737 exploded into four pieces before crashing shortly after takeoff whilst a release by the Lebanese army indicated that the plane was “on fire shortly after takeoff”.
Several bodies have so far been recovered and experts on the ground have expressed doubts over anyone surviving the crash.