Benin plane crash toll hits 113
BENIN: The official death toll from a Christmas Day plane crash in the tiny west African state of Benin rose to 113 on Friday as a foreign ministry team arrived from Lebanon to collect its surviving nationals.
Twenty-two people survived the crash that occurred upon take off Thursday afternoon, Benin’s transport minister Hamed Akobi said, after four victims succumbed to injuries in hospital.
The Boeing 727 operated by Lebanese-owned Union Transport Africaines (UTA) was crowded with Lebanese families heading for holiday visits in Beirut. Of its 156 passengers and seven crew, “99 percent were Lebanese,” said Antoine Chaghoury, the brother of Lebanon’s honorary consul to Benin. Foreign Minister Jean Obeid led a delegation that left overnight from Beirut for the Benin capital Cotonou to organize the repatriation of Lebanese survivors. Teams of medics and divers were to have joined him aboard the Middle East Airlines (MEA) flight.
It was not immediately known how many survivors were Lebanese. The plane’s captain, a Libyan national, was among the living. Recovery efforts in the Gulf of Guinea that continued overnight were still ongoing Friday morning, though hopes were dim that any more survivors would be rescued.
Several dozen firefighters were combing the waves lapping up onto the beach just 500 meters away from the runway. —Agencies