Search teams rescued a child from the sea, officials said, but there was no word on other survivors.
The Yemenia, or Yemen Airways, plane was the second Airbus to crash into the ocean recently. An Air France Airbus A330-200 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on May 31, killing all 228 people on board, as it flew from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. While French authorities said the Yemeni carrier had been under surveillance and that problems had been reported with the jet, Yemenia officials insisted the jet was in good working order when it took off from the Yemeni capital of San’a.
The Yemeni Airbus 310 was flying the last leg of a journey that was taking passengers from Paris and Marseille to Comoros via Yemen.
Most of the passengers were from Comoros, returning from Paris. Those on board included 66 French nationals, 54 Comorans, one Palestinian and one Canadian; the flight’s crew was made up of two Moroccan women, two Ethiopian women, one Indonesian woman and six Yemenis, according to Yemeni officials.
The rescued child was 5 years old. According to Yemeni Civil Aviation Deputy Chief Mohammed Abdul Qader, the flight’s passengers had also included at least three infants.
Three bodies from the flight were retrieved along with debris from the plane, the Associated Press reported, citing Comoros immigrations officer Rachida Abdullah.
Qader said it was too early to speculate on the cause, noting that the flight-data recorder had not yet been found. "The weather was very bad ... the wind was very strong," he said, adding that windy conditions were hampering rescue efforts. Qader said the wind was at speeds of 61 kilometers per hour as the plane was landing.
Comoros is an archipelago of three main islands situated about 2,900 kilometers south of Yemen, between Africa's southeastern coast and the island of Madagascar.
Gen. Bruno de Bourdoncle de Saint-Salvy, the senior commander for French forces in the southern Indian Ocean, said the Airbus 310 crashed in deep waters about 14.5 kilometers north of the Comoran coast and 34 kilometers from the Moroni airport.
French aviation inspectors found a "number of faults" during a 2007 inspection of the plane that went down, French Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau said on Tuesday.
In Brussels, EU Transport Commissioner Antonio Tajani said the airline had previously met EU safety checks and was not on the bloc’s blacklist. He said a full investigation was now being initiated amid questions about why passengers were put on another jet in San’a. An Airbus statement said the plane that crashed was placed into service 19 years ago and had accumulated 51,900 flight hours. Yemenia had operated it since 1999. The A310-300 is a twin-engine, wide-body jet that can seat up to 220 passengers. There are 214 A310s in service worldwide under 41 operators.