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Air Algérie flight

Published on August 11, 2014
Statement to the press by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development (excerpts)
Paris, July 28, 2014

Ladies and gentlemen,

This morning, all flags on our country’s public buildings were flown at half mast. They will be like that for three days, in accordance with the President’s decision, in tribute to the victims of the Air Algérie flight AH5017 air disaster.

The decision was announced on Saturday afternoon, here at the Quai d’Orsay, to loved-ones (there were over 150) of the 54 French people killed in the disaster. (…)

Firstly, the investigation: it is progressing, under the authority of the country in charge of it under the international conventions, i.e. Mali, and in close coordination with Algeria.

Our priority was to secure the site and establish a logistical base at the actual scene of the disaster, and not a great distance away. This has now been done.

As we speak to you now, 170 French soldiers are being deployed at the disaster site. There will be 200 of them this evening, accompanied by Malian forces and troops from the United Nations force in Mali.

The experts in charge of the investigation and identifying the victims arrived at the scene on Saturday, during the day. As regards French experts, there are 22: staff from the BEA (1), Gendarmerie des transports aériens [Air Transport Gendarmerie] and national disaster victim identification unit. This international team also has three Malian experts, 10 experts from Spain (where the plane and crew were from) and around 15 Algerian experts. They will be joined by American experts, since the United States built the plane.

This morning, at 6.45 a.m., the aircraft’s two black boxes arrived at Paris Charles-de-Gaulle aerodrome from Bamako. These black boxes were handed to our ambassador in Mali yesterday, in accordance with the decision by Timbuktu’s state prosecutor and with the permission of the Malian Chairman of the investigation committee. Analysis of the flight recorders can now begin in the BEA’s laboratories, in coordination with the authorities concerned, beginning with Algeria and Mali.

The French, Algerian and Malian experts have also started recovering the victims’ remains at the site. This is being done, as you know, in extremely tough conditions because the remains were “pulverized”, the heat is oppressive with, moreover, rain and the extremely difficult situation regarding communications and transport. However, it’s an absolute priority. (…)

Everything possible will be done so that the victims’ bodies can be identified, but this, I repeat, will be a long, meticulous and extremely complex job.

As regards the causes of the disaster, it is too early to provide any certainties. Every hypothesis will be examined as part of the investigation. What we do know for certain is that the weather was bad that night, the plane’s crew had asked to divert, then turn back, prior to contact being lost, and the [crash] site is relatively small, covering around 300 metres, and strewn with small pieces of debris. (…)

In the next few hours, a coordinator, M. Pierre-Jean Vandoorne, will be officially appointed by the Prime Minister to provide the [victims’] families with all aspects of assistance. This experienced diplomat – he already has wide experience of this type of mission (he performed a similar function for the families of the victims of the Air France Rio-Paris flight) – will be supported by a senior civil aviation official, M. Aubas. (…)

So, ladies and gentlemen, the black boxes are now being examined by the BEA, the site has been secured, the investigators are at work, the recovery of the bodies is under way, the international authorities are involved, the coordination team has been chosen and the various commitments made are being fully respected. (…)./.

(1) Bureau d’enquêtes et d’analyses – French authority responsible for safety investigations into civil aviation incidents.

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