NAIROBI, Kenya – Eight bodies that have washed ashore in Tanzania may be from a plane that plunged into the Indian Ocean with 153 people onboard, Yemeni authorities said Tuesday. Only one 12-year-old girl survived the crash.
The Yemeni committee overseeing the investigation of last week's Yemenia 626 crash said in a statement that search and rescue teams in Comoros received a report from Tanzanian authorities informing them that bodies of the victims of the crash and some wreckage were located off the shores of Tanzania, some 370 miles away from Comoros.
The committee did not say how the bodies had been identified, give details about the debris or elaborate further. There have previously been several false reports about the recovery of bodies and of survivors.
Officials say they hope locating the plane's black boxes will assist them to find the remains of the plane and passengers. The search has been narrowed down to an area 1,000 feet in diameter, said Ali Abou Abasse, a senior Comoran police officer coordinating the search and rescue site at the coastal town of Mistamiouli.
Investigators have concluded that the black boxes from the plane are too deep to be reached by divers, a French official said.
A French submarine picked up signals from the plane's two black boxes on Sunday but no one has yet located the boxes, which contain the plane's flight data and cockpit voice recorders.
The French official, speaking from a crisis unit set up at the French embassy in Comoros after the crash, said two teams of investigators from the French navy and the French aviation agency BEA were trying to determine the exact zone where the black boxes can be found.
The teams are using equipment that allows them to pick up signal beacons but cannot pinpoint the direction or distance of the sound, he said, declining to give his name.
The black boxes are believed to be lying between 1,600 to 4,000 feet under the surface of the ocean, French military spokesman Christophe Prazuck said Monday.
France is sending special robots able to operate on the sea floor to the Comoros, expected to arrive this Sunday.
The BEA investigation agency and the French Defense Ministry did not respond to calls from The Associated Press for comment on the embassy report.
Abdul-Khaleq Al-Qadi, chairman of Yemenia's board, said the crash was a "shock and catastrophic news."
He said his airline would reconsider deals to purchase 10 Airbuses in the last five years. He didn't elaborate, or say if his company is already in contact with Airbus.
Before the report from Tanzania, Comoran crisis center spokesman Col. Ismail Mogne-Daho said only a few parts of the plane and no bodies have been found in the weeklong search.
The absence of bodies or debris contrasts strongly with the Air France crash off the coast of Brazil on June 1. Fifty-one bodies and large pieces of debris were recovered from that crash site in the Atlantic Ocean.
Pressure has grown on investigators to recover the Yemenia plane's black boxes after thousands demonstrated at the airline's offices in France over the weekend. French authorities have said the plane had several safety faults when it was inspected in 2007, but the Yemeni Transport minister Khaled al-Wazeer said Tuesday that French authorities apologized for comments made about the possible cause of the crash before investigations were completed.
"We explained to them that from a security standpoint, this plane has roamed European airports in the last two years and there were no problems," he said.