TIME Mali

Doomed Air Algérie Flight Asked to Turn Back Before Crash

French military helicopters fly above the crash site of Air Algerie flight AH5017 near the northern Mali town of Gossi
French military helicopters fly above the crash site of Air Algérie Flight 5017 near the northern Mali town of Gossi on July 24, 2014 Souley Mane Ag Anara—Reuters

Air Algérie Flight 5017, which went down in Mali, was the third airliner to suffer a disastrous crash in a week

Shortly before ground controllers lost contact with Air Algérie Flight 5017, the airliner’s crew requested to abandon its journey to Algiers and head back to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, eyeing foul weather on the radar.

The plane crashed in a remote corner of Mali shortly thereafter, killing all 118 passengers and crew members on board.

Its black-box flight recorders arrived in Paris on Monday, Agence France-Presse reports, offering investigators insight into the July 24 tragedy — the third airline disaster in just over a week, coming after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine and the unsuccessful landing of TransAsia Airways Flight 222 in Taiwan.

Authorities had previously known that the Air Algérie plane requested a change of route but not a return to its point of origin.

[AFP]

TIME Algeria

France Confirms No Survivors in Air Algerie Plane Crash

Air Algerie Plane Crash Mali Algiers Algeria Burkina Faso
French soldiers stand by the wreckage of the Air Algerie flight AH5017 which crashed in Mali's Gossi region, west of Gao, on July 24, 2014. AFP/Getty Images

Cause of the crash still unknown, but French officials suspect bad weather to blame

President François Hollande of France confirmed Friday that there were no survivors from Flight AH5017 that crashed carrying 116 people from Burkina Faso to Algiers. The wreckage of the plane was found Thursday in Mali, according to officials.

Both of the plane’s black boxes have been recovered and as yet, the cause of the crash remains unknown.

The Air Algerie commercial plane lost contact with controllers early Thursday an hour after it took off, as it headed into a rainstorm. The wreckage was found near the border of Burkina Faso, a presidential aide for Burkina Faso told the Associated Press.

“They found human remains and the wreckage of the plane totally burnt and scattered,” he said.

France’s Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, told RTL radio that the aircraft most likely crashed because of the storm, though he added that terrorist groups are operational in the area where the plane was found.

Nearly half of the people on the flight were French. The passengers aboard included 51 French, 27 Burkina Faso nationals, eight Lebanese, six Algerians, five Canadians, four Germans, two Luxembourg nationals, one Swiss, one Belgian, one Egyptian, one Ukrainian, one Nigerian, one Cameroonian and one Malian, officials said. “If this catastrophe is confirmed, it would be a major tragedy that hits our entire nation, and many others,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters. French officials do not believe that extremists in Mali have the weaponry necessary to have shot down the plane at cruising altitude.

This is the latest in several major flight disasters in the last week: a Malaysian Airlines flight was shot down last Thursday while flying over a tumultuous section of Ukraine, and a Taiwanese jet crashed during a storm Wednesday killing 48 people. Travelers have become increasingly nervous about flying as U.S. and European airlines have been selectively canceling flights to Israel after a rocket landed near the airport in Tel Aviv. Meanwhile, a Malaysian airline flight carrying 239 people that disappeared in March has yet to be found.

[AP]

TIME Disasters

No, Fidel Castro’s Niece Wasn’t on the Algerian Plane

Mariela Castro, director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education and daughter of Cuba's President Raul Castro, gives a press conference in Havana, Cuba on May 5, 2014.
Mariela Castro, director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education and daughter of Cuba's President Raul Castro, gives a press conference in Havana, Cuba on May 5, 2014. Franklin Reyes—AP

"I’m alive and kicking"

Multiple news outlets reported Thursday that Cuban President Raul Castro’s daughter—Fidel Castro’s niece—was on the Air Algérie flight that disappeared earlier in the day, citing information from the airport in Burkina Faso. Mariela Castro, a sexologist and gay rights activist, is the director of Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education.

But she wasn’t on the flight.

“I’m at a meeting, happy and healthy,” she told the television network TeleSUR. “I’m alive and kicking.”

The Facebook post which appeared to have first reported the news was later deleted.

 

 

TIME Algeria

Air Algérie Flight Disappears Over Mali With Over 110 Aboard

France's Foreign Minister said Flight AH5017 "probably crashed"

+ READ ARTICLE

Air Algérie said Thursday it lost contact during the night with an Algiers-bound flight from Burkina Faso carrying more than 110 people.

The Algerian national airliner said in a statement to the Algerian news agency APS that the flight, AH5017, took off from Ouagadougou at 1:17 a.m. GMT and was supposed to land in Algiers at 5:11. But the airline lost contact with the plane about 50 minutes into the flight, though the exact timing remains unclear amid differing reports.

Heather Jones for TIME

French President François Hollande, who cancelled his planned trip to the French island Réunion, said in a televised address that 51 French citizens were on the flight ahead of a connection in Algiers. In his statement, which followed an emergency meeting with top ministers, he said that “everything suggests that this plane crashed.”

He said that France, which has spearheaded an international military intervention in Mali against Islamic extremists in the north of the country, will deploy “all the military means that we have on location in Mali” to find the plane.

The French President said that at 1:48 a.m. the crew signaled that it was changing its route because of particularly difficult weather conditions. A Twitter account that appears to belong to the Algerian airline said in a tweet that the plane would have crashed in the region of Tilemsi about 70 km (43 miles) from the city of Gao in northern Mali.

The airline told APS early Thursday that the plane was carrying 119 passengers and 7 crewmembers of Spanish nationality, though officials have provided slightly varying numbers. In a separate statement, Swiftair, the Spanish private airline company that owns the plane, said that the plane was carrying 116 people, including 110 passengers and 6 crewmembers. Swiftair said the plane was an MD-83 operated by Air Algeria.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that 51 French citizens were on the flight. The Twitter account that appears to belong to the Algerian airline said in a tweet that there were also passengers from at least 13 other countries, and an Air Algérie representative told reporters in Burkino Faso that all of the passengers on the plane were in transit, according to Reuters.

The plane disappeared in rough weather over Mali. Data from weather satellites show that there may have been storms in the plane’s flightpath:

 

TIME Africa

Mali Acts To Stem Spread Of Ebola

The government in Bamako has begun using thermal imaging to check for travelers with high fevers, and warned against non-essential travel for its citizens as ebola spreads in West Africa

Mali is on high alert against the spread of the ebola virus in western Africa, reports the BBC.

Three new suspected cases of the disease were found on Friday near where Mali borders Guinea, where 86 people have already died as a result of the illness. New government precautions include using thermal imaging cameras to screen people for potential signs of fever, as well as restricting the movements of people trying to enter the capital city of Bamako from the border region. The government in Mali has also advised citizens against travel to any suspected ebola-affected areas within the country.

The ebola virus is spread by close contact with other carriers and leads to a high fever causing muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting and even organ failure. There is no known cure.

The current outbreak was first discovered in Guinea’s southeastern region of Nzerekore, but was not officially confirmed as ebola for six weeks. It has since spread to the country’s capital, Conakry. Although normally found in places like Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, it has also reached Liberia where it has killed six people. Sierra Leone has similarly reported some cases, and Senegal has closed its border with Guinea.

[BBC]

TIME France

So Much for Freedom Fries: America’s New BFF Is France

First Lady Michelle Obama, French President Francois Hollande and President Barack Obama pose in front of the Grand Staircase for an official photo before a State Dinner at the White House February 11, 2014 in Washington.
First Lady Michelle Obama, French President Francois Hollande and President Barack Obama pose in front of the Grand Staircase for an official photo before a State Dinner at the White House February 11, 2014 in Washington. Brendan Smialowski—AFP/Getty Images

What freedom fries? France and the U.S. have rarely looked closer as the Francois Hollande and the Obamas cozied up at an official State Dinner to toast the French president's arrival in Washington

This was only the seventh time President Obama had treated a visiting foreign leader to a full-on State Dinner and mon dieu but it was a flashy affair. French President François Hollande got the full works on Tuesday night: a menu of American Osetra caviar, dry-aged rib eye beef, Hawaiian chocolate-malted ganache and 300 guests summoned to the White House in his honor, including luminaries such as Bradley Cooper, Mindy Kaling, JJ Abrams, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Stephen Colbert.

You could see the logic. Louis-Dreyfus is half-French, Colbert’s name sounds French, and the wines, though American, were produced using French methods. The choice of Mary J. Blige as the evening’s headline act is a little harder to explain, but Daft Punk, France’s most successful band du jour, may have had trouble navigating White House security in their helmets. No matter: with both Obama and Hollande delivering effusive toasts to their very cordial entente, it was clear that the evening had successfully conveyed a message that suited both men: the U.S. and France heart each other. “We Americans have grown to love all things French — the films, the food, the wine. Especially the wine. But most of all, we love our French friends because we’ve stood together for our freedom for more than 200 years,” said Obama.

His warm words cloaked a dig at America’s erstwhile favorite chum, at least in the eyes of British mass-market newspaper, the Daily Mail. “OBAMA SNUBS BRITAIN AND COSIES UP THE FRENCH,” it declared in a headline above a piece describing Hollande’s first day in the U.S., a pleasant whirl of activity including a trip with Obama to Monticello, historic home of American founding father and supporter of the French Revolution Thomas Jefferson. Britons set great store by their Special Relationship™ with the U.S. and are apt to react like an official First Lady learning of a possible rival to her affections if America gets too close to another European country.

And in this case, they may be right to worry. Since France, not Britain, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the U.S. in joining potential air strikes against the Syrian regime and sent troops to Mali and the Central African Republic with U.S. support, there has been a distinct shift in transatlantic relations. Gone are the days when the U.S. dismissed the French as cheese-eating surrender monkeys for their refusal to get involved in the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Hollande looks like Obama’s most reliable ally, especially as the French leader has signalled his magnanimity on the issue that could have thrown cold water on the burgeoning bromance: the NSA’s spying on French citizens. As Hollande told TIME in an exclusive Jan. 24 interview, he intends to forgive if not to forget, looking instead for “a new cooperation in the field of intelligence.”

So intoxicating were the love vibes in the White House that even the French press corps, usually a buttoned-up bunch, got into the mood, snapping selfies as Hollande and Obama chatted oblivious to all but each other, in the background:

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