AFP - 1 hour 47 minutes ago
TRIPOLI (AFP) - – A Libyan plane arriving from South Africa disintegrated on landing at Tripoli airport Wednesday, killing 103 people but leaving an eight-year-old boy as the sole miracle survivor, officials said.
Sixty-one Dutch citizens were killed in the crash, the Dutch tourism federation ANWB said, while Libyan Transport Minister Mohammed Ali Zidan listed "Libyans, Africans and Europeans" as among the dead.
Zidan told a media conference that an inquiry was under way to determine what caused the Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A330 to break up massively as it was landing, but he ruled out terrorism.
Libyan television showed teams of emergency workers wearing face masks sifting through the wreckage of the plane, which was scattered in a wide arc across the landing area.
"There were 104 people on board -- 93 passengers and 11 crew members," Zidan said, adding that the remains of 96 victims had already been recovered.
There was only one survivor, an eight-year-old Dutch boy who was being treated in hospital, he said.
The Dutch foreign ministry said the boy was undergoing surgery at a Tripoli hospital for broken bones.
"He is being operated on for fractures from the crash," ministry spokeswoman Ozlem Canel told AFP in The Hague.
"We don't know how serious his injuries are. We know he is being operated on for fractures," she said.
Canel said the government could not confirm that the boy was, indeed, Dutch.
"We don't know for absolutely sure that he is a Dutch citizen," she said. "Hopefully when the operation is over and we are able to see the boy, then we will be able to confirm that he is a Dutch citizen."
Last June, a 12-year-old girl was the sole survivor of a Yemeni plane crash off the Comoros.
Witnesses spoke of the Afriqiyah Airways plane inexplicably breaking up as it came down to land in clear weather at around 6:00 am (0400 GMT).
"It exploded on landing and totally disintegrated," one security official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity. Another official said the plane had burst into flames just before landing.
Bongani Sithole, an official of Afriqiyah Airways at Johannesburg airport, said the crash happened "one metre (yard) away from the runway."
Minister Zidan said no terrorism was involved.
"We have definitely ruled out the theory that the crash was the result of an act of terrorism," he said, adding that the two black boxes of the aircraft had been recovered.
The plane was new and had only been acquired by the airline in September.
Afriqiyah Airways listed 93 passengers and 11 crew members on board its flight 8U771 from Johannesburg, which was reportedly due to fly on from Tripoli to London's Gatwick airport.
"Sixty-one Dutch people were killed in the accident," ANWB spokesman Ad Vonk told AFP.
The passengers had been in two separate organised tour groups on their way to Brussels and Dusseldorf, with a stop-over in Tripoli, he added.
A South African aviation official said most of the passengers on the plane were making connections to Europe.
Seven passengers were booked to connect to Gatwick in London, 32 to Brussels, 42 to Dusseldorf in Germany, and one to Charles de Gaulle in Paris, said Nicky Knapp, spokeswoman for Airports Company South Africa.
Britain said it was "urgently" investigating reports that Britons were on board the plane.
Afriqiyah Airways said in a statement on its website that it will offer transportation, assistance and accommodation to relatives of victims of the crash wishing to get to Tripoli.
Wednesday's crash was the deadliest air accident in Libya since December 22, 1992 when a Libyan Arab Airlines plane crashed near Tripoli airport killing 157 people. Related article: Recent deadly plane accidents.
Twenty-two people were killed in an oil company plane crash in January 2000.
In other major accidents, 79 people were killed when a Korean Air crashed in Tripoli in July 1989. And 59 people died in a Balkan Bulgarian Airlines crash near Benghazi in December 1977.
Afriqiyah started operations with five leased planes and signed a contract with Airbus at an exhibition in Paris in 2007 for the purchase of 11 new planes.
It was founded in April 2001 and at first fully owned by the Libyan state. The companys capital was later divided into shares to be managed by the Libya-Africa Investment Portfolio.