Tourism board says 61 Dutch dead in Libyan plane crash

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — Sixty-one Dutch citizens were among those killed Wednesday in a plane crash in Libya — more than half the passengers on board — and a child is the only known survivor, officials said.

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — Sixty-one Dutch citizens were among those killed Wednesday in a plane crash in Libya — more than half the passengers on board — and a child is the only known survivor, officials said.

The young child was taken to a hospital in Tripoli and was undergoing surgery for injuries, including broken bones, the Dutch Foreign Ministry said.

Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende had said the lone survivor was a Dutch boy — but the Foreign Ministry later said both the child’s gender and citizenship were unclear.

Video filmed by Libyan TV showed a dark-haired child lying in a hospital bed with a bandage around their head and an oxygen mask over their face. The child had intravenous lines into one arm and appeared to be conscious. A nurse and a doctor were attending.

An unnamed doctor, speaking in Arabic in the video, said the child “has several breaks in both legs and is under intensive care but is stable.”

“The entire medical team are doing their best to assist in this tragedy,” he said.

An embassy official planned to visit the survivor in the hospital later Wednesday, said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Ozlem Canel. She said officials were still trying to verify the child’s identity.

So far, Dutch authorities have no direct information about the survivor and cannot confirm initial reports that it was a Dutch boy, she said.

The Libyans “say and think it is a Dutch child, but that must be determined by our colleague,” she said.

Libyan authorities said 96 bodies had been recovered from the wreckage at the airport outside the Libyan capital of Tripoli.

The Royal Dutch Tourism Board ANWB released the figure of 61 Dutch dead on its website.

“This is a large group of Dutch nationals after all, so it’s a deeply sad message we have this day,” Balkenende said, registering his “shock” at the news.

Many of the Dutch victims were booked through two travel agencies. Johannesburg is a popular tourist destination and the flight came when many Dutch schools were closed for the annual spring break.

An official from Stip Travels based in Amsterdam said her agency had 38 people on board the flight on a round-trip vacation package to South Africa. The official, who asked not to be identified in line with company policy, said those passengers were to disembark in Tripoli and travel on another airline to Duesseldorf, Germany, one of several hub airports for package tours.

Normally, Afriqiyah Airways Flight 711 continues from Tripoli to Gatwick Airport in London.

Annelies Tichelaar, a spokeswoman for the Dutch tourism, said Tripoli was a stop for a flight from Johannesburg to Brussels, with some passengers booked to continue to Duesseldorf.

Families of the victims were gathering in Brussels and Duesseldorf, she said. The tourism board was making preparations to help repatriate the victims.

The Dutch government published telephone numbers for family and friends to call, but a list of passengers was not yet available.

Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said he had been previously unaware of Afriqiyah Airways but “it’s a company that offers cheap trips.”

The Belgian Foreign Ministry said no Belgians were on board the flight, although South African officials said 32 passengers on the crashed flight were headed to Brussels.

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