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Updated: Fri, 25 Jul 2014 12:02:35 GMT | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

Air Algerie Flight AH5017 crash: No survivors, French president says



French President Francois Hollande delivers a speech following a meeting with government members at the Elysee Palace in Paris July 24, 2014, after Air Algerie flight AH5017 crashed on Thursday en route from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso to Algiers. French Foreign Affairs Minister said on Thursday that the Air Algerie flight with more than 100 people on board which disappeared over Mali was still missing, but had probably crashed and added that French Mirage warplanes were scouring the area for the aircraft, which had 51 French nationals on board. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier (© FRANCE - Tags: POLITICS DISASTER TRANSPORT)

French President Francois Hollande delivers a speech following a meeting with government members at the Elysee Palace in Paris July 24, 2014, after Air Algerie flight AH5017 crashed on Thursday en route from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso to Algiers. French Foreign Affairs Minister said on Thursday that the Air Algerie flight with more than 100 people on board which disappeared over Mali was still missing, but had probably crashed and added that French Mirage warplanes were scouring the area for the aircraft, which had 51 French nationals on board. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier (FRANCE - Tags: POLITICS DISASTER TRANSPORT) - RTR400DX Benoit Tessier/Reuters

French President Francois Hollande said Friday that all 116 people on board were killed when an Air Algerie plane crashed in northern Mali yesterday.

"There are, alas, no survivors," Hollande said. "I share the pain of families living through this terrible ordeal."

Almost half of the victims are French citizens.

French officials have dispatched a military unit to secure the crash site in restive northern Mali, where one of the black boxes from the MD-83 aircraft, owned by Spanish company Swiftair and leased by Algeria's flagship carrier​, has already been found amid the rubble.

Video of the crash site taken by Burkina Faso soldiers, who were the first to reach the scene, showed the blackened wreckage of the plane as well as a large crater in the ground where it crashed.

It appears no major plane parts stayed intact after the impact. Most of the plane's metal was left in small, twisted lumps. 

Gen. Gilbert Diendere, a close aide to Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore and head of the crisis committee set up to investigate the disaster, said of the footage: "People expected to see an airplane sitting somewhere, and unfortunately it was debris scattered over 500 metres, which made the search of the area very, very difficult."

Burkina Faso Prime Minister Luc Adolphe Tiao reviewed videos of the wreckage site and said identifying the victims will be challenging.

"It will be difficult to reconstitute the bodies of the victims," Tiao said at a news conference. "The human remains are so scattered."

French troops en route to crash site

France's interior minister said bad weather likely caused the crash, though the government hasn’t ruled out an act of terrorism. Air Algerie Flight AH5017’s Spanish crew had requested permission to change course due to bad weather before the jet disappeared from radar less than an hour after it left Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou, for Algiers.

A French Reaper drone based in Niger spotted the wreckage in the Gossi region near the border with Burkina Faso. The recovered black box is set to travel to the northern Mali city of Gao.

Two helicopter teams also overflew, noting that the wreckage was in a concentrated area, French Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier told France-Info radio on Friday. A column of soldiers in some 30 vehicles were dispatched to the site, he said.

Quick discovery of the wreckage is "decisive" in piecing together what happened, the transport minister said, describing the aircraft as "disintegrated" and debris "in an apparently small area."

Hollande has said that France will spare no efforts to uncover the cause of the crash — the third major plane disaster around the world within a week.

"There are hypotheses, notably weather-related, but we don't rule out anything because we want to know what happened," Hollande said.

"What we know is that the debris is concentrated in a limited space, but it is too soon to draw conclusions," he added.

French officials said terrorist groups hostile to Western interests do operate in the area, but it's unlikely they downed the plane.

5 Canadian victims

CBC News confirmed Thursday that four of the five Canadians on board the jet were from the same family: Winmalo Somda, his wife Angelica and their two children, from Quebec, were killed. 

Isabelle Prévost, of Sherbrooke, was travelling with the Somda family when the plane went down over northern Mali. 

Her partner, Danny Frappier, said Thursday that Prévost was on vacation and originally supposed to be travelling with the couple's three children, aged five, seven and nine.

Frappier said he tried to get more information from official sources but that details were not yet clear.

"We're hoping there's part of her body that can be repatriated, some kind of proof that she was really there, that she's really dead, I don't know," he said Thursday. 

The couple has three children, aged 5, 7 and 9.

MamadouZoungrana, who resides in Gatineau, Que., said he believes his wife and two young boys aged six and 13, were on board the flight. They are not Canadian citizens, but Zoungrana said they were on the plane as part of their trip to join him in Canada after two years apart. 

He said he hoped that they would eventually be granted citizenship after settling with him.

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