Angry Comorans protests target airline


PARIS – ANGRY Comorans delayed a Paris flight to Sanaa and shut down travel agents in Marseille on Wednesday in fury at the crash of an airliner that left 152 feared dead, saying the tragedy could have been avoided.

France’s large Comoran community was plunged into mourning by the Yemenia A310 crash off the Indian Ocean archipelago, with a 13-year-old girl plucked from the ocean so far the only survivor.

But grief turned to anger as questions mounted over the carrier’s safety record, and why the 19-year-old jet – banned from French airspace because of ‘irregularities’ – was allowed to carry passengers who originated in Paris onwards from Sanaa.

The doomed Yemenia flight left Paris, made a stopover in Marseille and headed to Sanaa, where its passengers were switched to the older A310 jet to continue to Djibouti and Moroni.

Comorans in France say they warned French authorities repeatedly that flights to their home islands were not safe, setting up a protest group, ‘SOS Voyage aux Comores,’ last year to demand action.

‘We warned the Comoran and French authorities it was a disaster waiting to happen, but no one listened to us,’ Soilhi Mze, a Comoran community leader in the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, told AFP Tuesday.

In the Mediterranean port of Marseille, home to the world’s largest Comoran community of 80,000 people, around 100 protestors forced two travel agents selling Yemenia tickets to shut down on Wednesday.

‘We are going to close down all agencies that sell Yemenia tickets until the investigation is carried out,’ said Mohamed Moussa, a local radio presenter.

One protestor, Arafa Mbae, accused French authorities, health officials and Yemenia of failing the families of the victims, who include 66 French nationals and many French-Comorans.

‘We want Yemenia to put us in decent planes to transport people straight to the Comoros for the mourning period,’ said the 37-year-old. ‘There is zero support for the families, nothing is being done.’