Bad weather likely cause of Air Algerie crash
Poor weather was the most likely cause of the crash of an Air Algerie flight over the West African state of Mali with 116 people on board, French officials said on Friday.
Investigators at the scene of the crash in northern Mali concluded the airliner broke apart when it hit the ground, the officials said, suggesting this meant it was unlikely to have been the victim of an attack.
"French soldiers who are on the ground have started the first investigations. Sadly there are no survivors," French President Francois Hollande told reporters.
A column of 100 soldiers and 30 vehicles from the French force stationed in the region arrived early on Friday morning to secure the crash site near the northern Mali town of Gossi and recover bodies, a Defence Ministry official said.
Hollande said one of the black box flight recorders had already been recovered and would be analysed quickly.
"The plane's debris is concentrated in a small area, but it is too early to draw conclusions," Hollande said of the wreckage of the plane carrying 51 French nationals that crashed near the border with Burkina Faso, from where it had taken off.
"The are theories, especially the weather, but I'm not excluding any theory."
Aviation officials lost contact of flight AH5017 at around 0155 GMT on Thursday, less than an hour after taking off for Algeria, following a request by the pilot to change course due to bad weather.
"The aircraft was destroyed at the moment it crashed," Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told RTL radio.
"We think the aircraft crashed for reasons linked to the weather conditions. No theory can be excluded at this point ... but that is indeed the most likely theory," he added.
Separately, Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier said the strong smell of aircraft fuel at the crash site and the fact that the debris was scattered over a relatively small area also suggested the cause of the crash was linked to weather, a technical problem or a cumulation of such factors.
"We exclude - and have done so from the start - any ground strike," Cuvillier told France 2 television.
He added that a column of 100 soldiers from the French force stationed in the region were on their way to secure the crash site near the northern town of Gossi. France deployed troops to Mail last year to halt an al Qaeda-backed insurgency.
Aviation officials lost contact with Flight AH5017 en route from Burkina Faso to Algeria early on Thursday after a request by the pilot to change course due to bad weather.
Burkina Faso authorities said the passenger list included 51 French, 27 Burkinabe, eight Lebanese, six Algerians, five Canadians, four Germans, two from Luxembourg, one Cameroonian, one Belgian, one Egyptian, one Ukranian, one Swiss, one Nigerian and one Malian. Crash site investigators saw no survivors.