French President Francois Hollande has said French soldiers have reached the area where an Air Algerie passenger airplane crashed in northern Mali. The French president said soldiers had recovered one of the plane’s flight recorders, known as black boxes. He said weather may have had a part in the crash. But no possibilities were being ruled out.
France said 51 of the plane’s passengers were French citizens. Rescuers have said there was no sign of survivors among the 116 people on the flight. The plane was traveling from the capital of Burkina Faso to Algiers. It crashed about 150 kilometers from the Malian city of Gao.
Earlier, France’s transportation minister said experts had ruled out the possibility that a missile strike had brought down the plane. A missile is suspected to have caused the crash of a Malaysian airliner that went down recently in eastern Ukraine.
Experts said it also may be unlikely that a bomb caused the crash in Africa. Instead, they said it seems the plane may have crashed as it hit the ground.
Technical problems or pilot error are being considered. Heavy thunderstorms were reported in the area at the time of the crash.
Algeria’s official APS news agency reported that the Air Algerie plane was last seen on radar over the town of Gao in northern Mali on Thursday. That was about 38 minutes after it left Ouagadougou. Air Algerie had paid to use, or chartered, the airplane from Swiftair, a Spanish airline. Swiftair said those on the plane include 24 Burkina Faso nationals, six Spanish crewmembers, and people from at least 13 other countries.
The airplane crashed in an area that was the target of a French military offensive last year to oust Islamist militants.
Crisis centers have been set up at the airports in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou and in Algiers. Burkina Faso’s president Balise Compaore had declared two days of national morning for the 24 Bukinabe who lost their lives.