5 Canadian citizens and 6 permanent residents among Air Algerie dead: group

The Canadian Press
July 25, 2014 12:21 PM

People attend a vigil in memory of the victims of Algeria flight AH5017 at a park in Longueuil, Que., Friday, July 25, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

MONTREAL - At least 11 people with ties to Quebec are among the victims of the Air Algerie flight that crashed in Mali, an association representing Burkina Faso's Montreal community said Friday.

Five of the victims were Canadian citizens and six others were permanent residents, Mahamadi Savadogo said in an interview.

Some had established themselves in Canada while others were just getting ready to begin their lives in the country.

One other passenger aboard the downed flight was coming to visit family in Quebec.

The website for the Ouagadougou Airport in Burkina Faso noted that a dozen people on the downed flight listed Montreal as their final destination.

Savadogo of the Association des Burkinabes du grand Montreal said the group gathered the information on the 11 from relatives and members of the Burkina Faso community.

The Canadian losses were among the 118 people on board who died Thursday.

French officials speaking to media on Friday raised the number of dead from 116, which Air Algerie and private Spanish airline Swiftair, which was operating Flight 5017, had originally reported.

Terrorism hasn't been ruled out as a cause, although officials say bad weather is the most likely reason for the catastrophe.

The plane was travelling from Burkina Faso to Algeria's capital and disappeared from radar over northern Mali during what was described as an intense rainstorm.

The MD-83 vanished less than an hour after takeoff from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso.

On Friday, officials confirmed there were no survivors. The remnants of the plane were found about 50 kilometres from the Burkina Faso border, near the Malian village of Boulikessi.

Among the dead were five members of a family that lived in Longueuil, a suburb just south of Montreal.

Canadian citizens Winmalo Somda, his wife Angelique Kpoda and their two children, Nathanael and Arielle, were killed.

Also killed was Wilfried Somda, Winmalo's younger brother, who was a permanent resident. The Somdas were travelling with a friend — Canadian citizen Isabelle Prevost of Sherbrooke, Que.

At the home that Wilfried Somda shared with his wife, Rita Sanhouidi, a steady stream of mourners came to pay their respects and stand with Wilfried's widow, who is the late stages of a pregnancy with the couple's second child.

The door to their upstairs duplex remained open throughout the day as a steady stream of people came by.

Sanhouidi was resting and declined, through another person, to be interviewed when The Canadian Press paid a visit.

The living room was packed with people who wanted to lend their support.

Earlier on Friday, she told CTV Montreal she must stay strong for her daughter and her unborn child.

The Somda family had returned to Burkina Faso where their parents celebrated a 50th wedding anniversary and Prevost had accompanied the family.

"It's just too hard, if we try to understand what happened, we'll go crazy," Sanhouidi said. "So we must have courage, accept it and live for those who are still there — a child who is there and the baby on the way."

Outside, one member of the community said that while not everyone knew the Somda family, what ties them together is their Burkinabe heritage.

Luc Keita said it is important for everyone to be present and to show solidarity in such a tragic time.

"It's a small community, we all try to help each other when we can," Keita said.

A commemoration ceremony was to be held Friday evening at a waterfront park in Longueuil. The community organization is also raising money for those devastated by the tragedy.

Savadogo told The Canadian Press the other permanent residents who died included the spouse and two children of a technologist who worked at a community health centre in western Quebec.

Mamadou Zoungrana's wife, Salimata, and their sons Brice and Arsene, were set to arrive to start their new lives in Canada.

Savadogo said the two others were a mother and son who were about to come to Quebec.

Kadidia Koanda and her teenage son Aboubacar were set to join Bassirou Yameogo in Jonquiere, Que. Yameogo confirmed their deaths in a Facebook posting on Friday.

All of those victims had received their status in Canada and were getting ready to start their new lives.

One other passenger was also Canada-bound. Moise Sandwidi's mother was coming to pay a visit to her son in Quebec City, the local Burkinabe association in the provincial capital said in a Facebook message expressing condolences.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard offered his condolences Friday and assured victims' families that support would be made available to them.

On Friday, French President Francois Hollande confirmed there were no survivors and that a black box had been found at the scene.

Of the victims, 54 were French citizens.

More than 200 troops are guarding the site before French accident and criminal investigators arrive Saturday in the area, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.

Burkina Faso soldiers were reportedly the first to reach the site. The country's prime minister, Luc Adolphe Tiao, reviewed videos of the wreckage site and said identifying the victims will be challenging.

"It will be difficult to reconstitute the bodies of the victims," Tiao said at a news conference. "The human remains are so scattered."

— With files from Sidhartha Banerjee and Melanie Marquis of The Canadian Press in Montreal


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