French president Francois Hollande announced Friday that there were no survivors in the crash of an Air Algeria MD-83 aircraft.
The jetliner carrying 116 people (including five Canadians) crashed Thursday in a rainstorm over restive Mali, and its wreckage was found near the border of neighbouring Burkina Faso. It was the third major international aviation disaster in a week.
The plane, owned by Spanish company Swiftair and leased by Algeria's flagship carrier, disappeared from radar screens less than an hour after takeoff, en route from Burkina Faso's capital of Ouagadougou to Algiers.
Speaking after a crisis meeting, Hollande also announced that one of the aircraft's two black boxes has been found in the wreckage, in the Gossi region near the border with Burkina Faso. It is being taken to the northern Mali city of Gao.
A French Reaper drone based in Niger spotted the wreckage, French Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier told France-Info radio on Friday. Two helicopter teams also overflew, noting that the wreckage was in a concentrated area. A column of soldiers in some 30 vehicles were dispatched to the site, he said.
A statement early Friday from the Hollande's office said the aircraft had been clearly identified ``despite its state of disintegration.''
Quick discovery of the wreckage is ``decisive'' in piecing together what happened, the transport minister said, describing the aircraft as ``disintegrated'' and debris ``in an apparently small area.''
``We think the plane went down due to weather conditions, but no hypothesis can be excluded as long as we don't have the results of an investigation,'' French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told
``Terrorist groups are in the zone. ... We know these groups are hostile to Western interests,'' Cazeneuve said.
The pilots had sent a final message to ask Niger air control to change its route because of heavy rain, Burkina Faso Transport Minister Jean Bertin Ouedraogo said Thursday.
French forces intervened in northern Mali in January 2013 to rout Islamist extremists controlling the region. A French soldier was killed earlier this month near the major town of Gao, where French troops remain. Separatist Touaregs also have been fighting each other.
The partner of Isabelle Prevost of Sherbrooke, Que., said late Thursday that he has been told the 35-year old woman was one of the passengers on the flight.
Danny Frappier said he received a call Thursday morning telling him his partner was aboard the flight, which at that point was only reported as missing. He said Prevost was on vacation in Africa and it was the family that was putting her up that first contacted him. Frappier said he tried to get information from official sources but that it came in dribs and drabs.
``The only confirmation I have is that she was on the flight,`` he told The Canadian Press. ``We`ll try to have mas good a night as possible and we`ll see who confirms what.`We're hoping there's part of her body that can be repatriated, some kind of proof that she was really there, that she's really mdead, I don't know.``
The couple has three children, aged 5, 7 and 9.
Radio-Canada earlier quoted Prevost's partner as saying their children were meant to travel with her but that it was decided they should stay with him.
The network also quoted Burkina Faso native Mamadou Zoungrana, who works as a technologist at the Papineau Hospital in Gatineau,Que., as saying that his wife and their two sons, aged six and 13, were on the flight. CBC reported they are not Canadian citizens.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement saying he was saddened at news of the crash.
``Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the passengers and crew who lost their lives in this tragedy,'' he said in the statement, adding that it was confirmed Canadians are among the victims.
Nearly half the 110 passengers aboard the plane were French, and France is deeply shaken by the drama. The president promised to mobilize all French military and civilian means in the region and call on partners to help.
UPDATE: 5 Canadians on missing Air Algerie flight