An Ethiopian Airlines plane carrying 90 people caught fire and crashed into the sea minutes after taking off from Beirut early today, setting off a frantic search as passenger seats, baby sandals and other debris washed ashore. At least 34 bodies were recovered. The cause of the crash was not immediately known. Lebanon has seen stormy weather since Sunday night, with crackling thunder, lightning and rain. "We saw fire falling down from the sky into the sea," said Khaled Naser, a gas station attendant who saw the plane go down around 2:30 a.m., crashing into the frigid waters of the Mediterranean that had reached just 64 degrees by this afternoon. Lebanese President Michel Suleiman said terrorism was not suspected in the crash of Flight 409, which was headed for the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. "Sabotage is ruled out as of now," he said. Weeping relatives streamed into Beirut's airport to wait for news on their loved ones. One woman dropped to her knees in tears; another cried out, "Where is my son?" Andree Qusayfi said his 35-year-old brother, Ziad, was traveling to Ethiopia for his job at a computer company, but was planning to return to Lebanon for good soon. "We begged him to postpone his flight because of the storm," Qusayfi said, his eyes red from crying. "But he insisted on going because he had work appointments." Zeinab Seklawi said her 24-year-old son Yasser called her as he was boarding. "I told him, 'God be with you,' and I went to sleep," Seklawi said. "Please find my son. I know he's alive and wouldn't leave me."
Death toll rises in plane crash
Ethiopian jet catches fire in Lebanon
Published: Monday, January 25th, 2010
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