Miracle teen survives Yemeni air crash

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Miracle teen survives Yemeni air crash
She’s told her mum is alive, but …
July 03, 2009 Print Ready Email Article

TEEN Bahia Bakari is a miracle tinged with tears.

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SAVED: Bahia Bakari with French Cooperation Minister Alain Joyandet (right) after she was miraculously rescued from the ocean two hours after the crash. PICTURE: AFP

While the world marvels at her survival in a plane crash that killed everyone else on board, the 13-year-old is about to encounter another survival test – how to live without her mother.

Bahia’s mother was among the 142 passengers and 11 crew who died when a Yemeni Airbus A310 crashed into the Indian Ocean near the island of Comoros on Tuesday.

Bahia, who was thrown from the jet, clung to debris and was rescued two hours after the crash.

Bahia’s father, Mr Kassim Bakari, told AFP that his daughter had been told her mother survived the crash.

He said: ‘When I spoke to her she was asking for her mother. They told her she was in a room next door, so as not to traumatise her. But it’s not true. I don’t know who is going to tell her.’

The timid teen is recovering in a hospital in the Comoros capital, Moroni.

‘She is conscious, she is speaking … but we are not asking her too many question so as not to tire her,’ said Dr Ada Mansour, who treated the girl at the hospital, where she was in the intensive care unit.

An AP reporter saw who saw Bahia described her as conscious with bruises on her face and a gauze bandage on her elbow. Her hair was pulled back and she was covered with a light blanket.

Mr Bakari said his daughter suffered a fractured collarbone and burns to her knee, but has no life-threatening injuries.

Ejected

Bahia was ejected from the plane as it hit the sea, said Mr Bakari. ‘She didn’t feel a thing. She found herself in the water. She could hear people talking, but in the middle of the night she couldn’t see a thing. She managed to hold on to a piece of something.’

The head of the government crisis in the Comoros said the teenager survived astonishing odds.

‘It is truly, truly, miraculous,’ said Mr Ibrahim Abdoulazeb. ‘The young girl can barely swim.’

One rescuer told France’s Europe 1 radio that Bahia was spotted floating in the middle of bodies and plane debris.

‘We tried to throw a life buoy. She could not grab it. I had to jump in the water to get her,’ said the rescuer.

‘She was shaking, shaking. We put four covers on her. We gave her hot, sugary water. We simply asked her name, village.’

French Cooperation Minister Alain Joyandet met the girl in hospital yesterday and heard how she was pulled out of the sea. He said she would be flown back to France by the government.

Mr Joyandet scotched rumours that a second child had been found alive, reported by doctors who said their hospital had been put on alert.

The plane crashed into rough seas in darkness after disappearing from control tower radar screens early Tuesday.

The A310 aborted one landing and was making a second attempt when it crashed, officials said.

French authorities have said the 19-year-old jet had been banned from France’s airspace because of safety concerns.

Comorans in Marseille, home to more Comorans than the tiny Indian Ocean state’s capital, said the tragedy was an accident waiting to happen.

‘We had been sounding the alarm bells, both here and in the Comoros,’ said Mr Moegni Toahiry, 39, as he stood outside his Comoran consulate hoping for news of his cousin and three children who were on the flight.

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