90 aboard Ethiopian aircraft

Monday, January 25, 2010

Beirut - Lebanese Transport Minister Ghazi Aridi has confirmed that an Ethiopian Airlines aircraft carrying at least 90 people fell into the Mediterranean Sea shortly after taking off from Beirut early Monday.

The airplane, said to be a Boeing 737 bound for Addis Ababa, crashed into the sea minutes after it left the Beirut International Airport around 2:10am.

"The crash site has been identified three-and-a-half kilometres west of the coastal village of Naameh, near Beirut," said Aridi.

Ethiopian Airlines confirmed 82 passengers and eight crew members had been in the aircraft when it crashed.

Aridi said that among the passengers, 57 were Lebanese nationals and a Briton, Canadian and Russian had dual citizenships. One Iraqi, one Syrian and two French nationals were also on board and the rest were Ethiopians.

Local media reported that Lebanese military had rescued seven passengers. A United Nations Maritime Task Force serving off the Lebanese coast was also taking part in the search-and-rescue operation.

Aridi said an investigation was underway into the crash, although the cause was likely weather-related.