Airlines ground Boeing jet after plane crashes in Ethiopia
Wreckage is piled at the crash scene of an
Ethiopian Airlines flight crash near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, south of Addis
Ababa, Ethiopia, Monday, March 11. (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene)
Elias Meseret and Yidnek Kirubel
Hejere, Ethiopia (AP) — Airlines
in Ethiopia, China, Indonesia and elsewhere grounded the Boeing 737 Max 8
jetliner Monday after the second devastating crash of one of the planes in
five months. But Boeing said it had no reason to pull the popular aircraft
from the skies.
As the East African country mourned the
157 victims of the Ethiopian Airlines plane that went down in clear weather
shortly after takeoff Sunday, investigators found the jetliner's two flight
recorders at the crash site outside the capital of Addis Ababa.
An airline official, however, said one
of the recorders was partially damaged and "we will see what we can retrieve
from it." The official spoke on condition of anonymity for lack of
authorization to speak to the media.
A witness to the crash told The
Associated Press that smoke was coming from the back of the plane before it
hit the ground.
"Before falling down, the plane rotated
two times in the air, and it had some smoke coming from the back then, it
hit the ground and exploded," Tamrat Abera said. "When the villagers and I
arrived at the site, there was nothing except some burning and flesh."
Ethiopian authorities are leading the
investigation into the crash, assisted by the U.S., Kenya and others.
The crash was similar to that of a Lion
Air jet of the same model in Indonesian seas last year, killing 189 people.
The crash was likely to renew questions about the 737 Max 8, the newest
version of Boeing's single-aisle airliner, which was first introduced in
1967 and has become the world's most common passenger jet.
Safety experts cautioned against
drawing too many comparisons between the two crashes until more is known.
Besides the groundings by airlines in Ethiopia, China and Indonesia,
Aeromexico, Caribbean carrier Cayman Airways, Comair in South Africa and
Royal Air Maroc in Morocco temporarily grounded their Max 8s.
Ethiopian Airlines decided to ground
its remaining four 737 Max 8s until further notice as "an extra safety
precaution," spokesman Asrat Begashaw said. The carrier had been using five
of the planes and awaiting delivery of 25 more.
But Chicago-based Boeing said it did
not intend to issue any new recommendations about the aircraft to its
customers. It plans to send a technical team to the crash site to help
investigators and issued a statement saying it was "deeply saddened to learn
of the passing of the passengers and crew" on the jetliner.
Among the airlines still using the
plane are Southwest, American and Air Canada.
In Washington, Transportation Secretary
Elaine L. Chao said passenger safety was the first priority for the
"I want travelers to be assured and
that we are taking this seriously and monitoring latest developments," she
It's unusual for authorities to take
the step of grounding planes, and it's up to each country to set standards
on which planes can fly and how those planes are maintained, said Todd
Curtis, an aviation safety analyst who directs the Airsafe.com Foundation.
"If there is a suspicion ... that
there's not only something inherently wrong with 737 Max 8 aircraft, but
there are no procedures in place to cure the problem, then yes, they should
either ground the plane, or there are several levels of things they could
do," Curtis said.
People from 35 countries died in the
crash six minutes after takeoff from Ethiopia's capital for Nairobi.
Ethiopian Airlines said the senior pilot issued a distress call and was told
to return but all contact was lost shortly afterward. The plane plowed into
the ground at Hejere near Bishoftu, scattering debris.
"I heard this big noise," resident
Tsegaye Reta told the AP. "The villagers said that it was a plane crash, and
we rushed to the site. There was a huge smoke that we couldn't even see the
plane. The parts of the plane were falling apart."
Kenya lost 32 people, more than any
country. Relatives of 25 of the victims had been contacted, Transport
Minister James Macharia said, and taking care of their welfare was of utmost
"Some of them, as you know, they are
very distressed," he said. "They are in shock like we are. They are
In Addis Ababa, members of an
association of Ethiopian airline pilots wept uncontrollably for their dead
colleagues. Framed photos of seven crew members sat in chairs at the front
of a crowded room.
The flight's main pilot, Yared Getachew,
issued a distress call shortly after takeoff and was told to return, but all
contact was lost.
Canada, Ethiopia, the U.S., China,
Italy, France, Britain, Egypt, Germany, India and Slovakia all lost four or
At least 21 staff members from the
United Nations were killed in the crash, said U.N. Secretary-General Antonio
Guterres, who led a moment of silence at a meeting where he said "a global
tragedy has hit close to home."
Both Addis Ababa and Nairobi are major
hubs for humanitarian workers, and some had been on their way to a large
U.N. environmental conference set to begin Monday in Nairobi. The U.N. flag
at the event flew at half-staff.
The crash shattered more than two years
of relative calm in Africa, where travel had long been chaotic. It also was
a serious blow to Ethiopian Airlines, which has expanded to become the
continent's largest and best-managed carrier and turned Addis Ababa into the
gateway to Africa.
The state-owned carrier has a good
reputation and the company's CEO told reporters no problems were seen before
Sunday's fight. But investigators also will look into the plane's
maintenance, which may have been an issue in the Lion Air crash.
The plane was delivered to Ethiopian
Airlines in November. The jet's last maintenance was on Feb. 4, and it had
flown just 1,200 hours.
China's Civil Aviation Administration
said that it ordered airlines to ground all 737 Max 8 aircraft as of 6 p.m.
(1000 GMT) Monday, in line with the principle of "zero tolerance for
It said it would issue further notices
after consulting with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing.
China Southern Airlines is one of
Boeing's biggest customers for the aircraft.
Comair, the operator of British Airways
and Kulula flights in South Africa, said it has grounded its Boeing 737 Max
8 while it consults with Boeing, other operators and technical experts. The
statement did not say how many planes are affected. Wrenelle Stander,
executive director of Comair's airline division, said that Comair "remains
confident in the inherent safety of the aircraft."
An official with Royal Air Maroc said
the carrier in Morocco has halted the commercial use of its sole operational
model, pending tests and examinations. The official, who spoke on condition
of anonymity in line with departmental rules, said the plane was scheduled
to fly on Monday from Casablanca to London but was replaced.
The 737 is the best-selling airliner in
history, and the Max, the newest version of it with more fuel-efficient
engines, is a central part of Boeing's strategy to compete with European
"Safety is our No. 1 priority and we
are taking every measure to fully understand all aspects of this accident,
working closely with the investigating team and all regulatory authorities
involved," Boeing said in a statement.
Boeing's stock fell 7 percent to
$391.80 in afternoon trading.
Indonesian woman freed 2 years after killing of Kim Jong Nam
Indonesian Siti Aisyah smiles during a press
conference upon returning home from Malaysia at Halim Perdanakusumah Airport
in Jakarta, Indonesia, Monday, March 11. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)
Shah Alam, Malaysia (AP) — One
of two women accused of killing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's half
brother by smearing VX nerve agent on his face was freed after two years of
detention Monday when Malaysian prosecutors unexpectedly dropped the murder
charge against her.
Indonesian Siti Aisyah and her
Vietnamese co-defendant, Doan Thi Huong, have said they thought they were
taking part in a prank for a TV show.
Prosecutors did not give any reason for
the remarkable retreat in their case against Aisyah in the killing of Kim
Jong Nam at a busy Kuala Lumpur airport terminal.
Indonesia's government had lobbied
repeatedly for her release. Vietnam has pushed less hard on behalf of Huong,
and recently hosted leader Kim Jong Un for an official visit and a summit
with President Donald Trump.
Aisyah cried and hugged Huong before
leaving the courtroom and being ushered away in an Indonesian Embassy car.
She told reporters that she had only learned Monday morning that she would
She flew back to Jakarta, Indonesia's
capital, later Monday and thanked the president and other officials for
"I feel happy, very happy that I cannot
express in words," she told reporters at Jakarta's airport. "After this I
just want to gather with my family."
Huong, who remains on trial, was
"I am in shock. My mind is blank," she
told reporters after Aisyah left.
The two women had been the only
suspects in custody after four North Korean suspects fled the country the
morning of Feb. 13, 2017, when Kim Jong Nam was killed.
The trial is to resume Thursday, and
prosecutors are expected to reply to a request by Huong's lawyers for the
government to withdraw the murder charge against her as well.
The High Court judge discharged Aisyah
without an acquittal on Monday after prosecutors applied to drop the murder
charge against her.
Prosecutor Iskandar Ahmad said that
means Aisyah can be charged again if there is fresh evidence, but there are
no such plans now.
Aisyah's release comes just a month
before Indonesia's general election and is seen as a boost to President Joko
Widodo, who is seeking re-election.
Aisyah, surrounded by government
officials and a mob of reporters at Jakarta's arport, struggled for words as
journalists shouted questions. After a prompt from Indonesia's law and human
rights minister, she thanked the president and Cabinet ministers.
Indonesia's government said its
continued high-level lobbying had resulted in Aisyah's release. Its foreign
ministry said in a statement that she was "deceived and did not realize at
all that she was being manipulated by North Korean intelligence."
It said Aisyah, a migrant worker, never
had any intention of killing Kim.
The ministry said that over the past
two years, Aisyah's plight was raised in "every bilateral Indonesia-Malaysia
meeting," including at the presidential level, the vice presidential level
and in regular meetings of the foreign minister and other ministers with
their Malaysian counterparts.
Huong's lawyer, Hisyam Teh Poh Teik,
said after Monday's court session that Huong felt Aisyah's discharge was
unfair to her because the judge last year had found sufficient evidence to
continue the murder trial against both of them.
"She is entitled to the same kind of
consideration as Aisyah," he said. "We are making representation to the
attorney general for Doan to be taken equally ... there must be justice."
A High Court judge last August had
found there was enough evidence to infer that Aisyah, Huong and the four
missing North Koreans engaged in a "well-planned conspiracy" to kill Kim
Jong Nam. The defense phase of the trial had been scheduled to start in
January but was delayed until Monday.
Lawyers for the women have previously
said that they were pawns in a political assassination with clear links to
the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and that the prosecution failed to
show the women had any intention to kill. Intent to kill is crucial to a
murder charge under Malaysian law.
Malaysian officials have never
officially accused North Korea and have made it clear they don't want the
Kim was the eldest son in the current
generation of North Korea's ruling family. He had been living abroad for
years but could have been seen as a threat to Kim Jong Un's rule.
UK, EU announce change to Brexit deal ahead of key vote
British Prime Minister Theresa May, left, poses
for the media with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in
Strasbourg, France, Monday, March 11. (Vincent Kessler/Pool Photo via AP)
Raf Casert and Jill Lawless
Strasbourg, France (AP) — Britain and the
European Union emerged from last-minute talks late Monday to announce they
had finally removed the biggest roadblock to their Brexit divorce deal, only
hours before the U.K. Parliament was due to decide the fate of Prime
Minister Theresa May's hard-won plan to leave the EU.
On the eve of Tuesday's vote in London, May flew to
Strasbourg, France, to seek revisions, guarantees or other changes from
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that would persuade
reluctant British legislators to back her withdrawal agreement with the EU,
which they resoundingly rejected in January.
At a joint news conference, May and Juncker claimed to
May said new documents to be added to the deal provided
"legally binding changes" to the part relating to the Irish border. The
legal 585-page withdrawal agreement itself though was left intact.
"In politics, sometimes you get a second chance. It is
what you do with this second chance that counts. Because there will be no
third chance," Juncker warned the legislators who will vote late Tuesday.
"Let's be crystal clear about the choice: it is this
deal or Brexit might not happen at all," he said.
May said the changes should overcome lawmakers' qualms
about a mechanism in the deal designed to keep an open border between
Britain's Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland. The mechanism, known as
the backstop, is a safeguard that would keep the U.K. in a customs union
with the EU until a permanent new trading relationship is in place.
Brexit-supporters in Britain fear the backstop could be
used to bind the country to EU regulations indefinitely.
May said the new wording "will guarantee that the EU
cannot act with the intent of applying the backstop indefinitely."
"Now is the time to come together to back this improved
Brexit deal and deliver on the instruction of the British people," she said.
But the changes appear to fall well short of Brexiteers'
demands for a unilateral British exit mechanism from the backstop.
Pro-Brexit U.K. lawmakers said they would read the fine
print and wait for the judgment of Britain's attorney general before
deciding how to vote on Tuesday.
Announcing the breakthrough in Britain's House of
Commons, Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington said lawmakers faced "a
fundamental choice ... to vote for the improved deal or to plunge this
country into a political crisis."
And Juncker warned Britain "there will be no new
negotiations" if lawmakers rejected the deal again.
Britain is due to pull out of the EU in less than three
weeks, on March 29, but the government has not been able to win
parliamentary approval for its agreement with the bloc on withdrawal terms
and future relations. The impasse has raised fears of a chaotic "no-deal"
Brexit that could mean major disruption for businesses and people in Britain
and the 27 remaining EU countries.
"This is a government in chaos, with a country in chaos
because of this mess," Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said.
May has staked her political reputation on securing an
exit deal with the EU and is under mounting pressure to quit if it is
defeated again. She survived a bid to oust her through a no-confidence vote
in December. As a result, she cannot be forced from office for a year.
The EU is frustrated at what it sees as the inability
of Britain's weak and divided government to lay out a clear vision for
Brexit. It is irritated, too, that Britain is seeking changes to an
agreement that May herself helped negotiate and approve.
May has been working frantically to save her deal,
speaking by phone to eight EU national leaders since Friday, including
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
If Parliament throws out May's deal again on Tuesday,
lawmakers will vote over the following two days on whether to leave the EU
without an agreement — an idea likely to be rejected — or to ask the EU to
delay Brexit beyond the scheduled March 29 departure date.
Conservative lawmaker Nicky Morgan said May's position
will become "less and less tenable" if she suffers more defeats in
Parliament this week.
"It would be very difficult for the prime minister to
stay in office for very much longer," Morgan told the BBC.
Alan Wager, a Brexit expert at the U.K. in a Changing
Europe think tank, said Parliament this week could decisively rule out both
May's deal and a no-deal departure.
That, in turn, would make such options as a new Brexit
referendum or a "softer" withdrawal from the EU lot more likely, he said.
"Finally, the House of Commons is going to have to make
a final judgment on what it wants in terms of Brexit," he said.
Chaos spreads in Venezuela after days without power
People collect water falling from a leaking
pipeline along the banks of the Guaire River during rolling blackouts, which
affects access to running water in people's homes, offices and stores, in
Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, March 11. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
Fabiola Sanchez and Scott Smith
Caracas, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelans on
Monday converged on a polluted river in Caracas to fill water bottles
and held scattered protests in several cities as growing chaos took hold
in a country whose people have had little power, water and
communications for days.
A 3-year-old girl with a brain tumor languished in
a Caracas hospital, awaiting treatment after doctors started surgery but
then suspended the operation when nationwide power outages first hit on
Thursday, said the girl's fearful mother, who only gave her first name,
"The doctors told me that there are no miracles,"
said Yalimar, who hopes her daughter can be transferred Tuesday to one
of the few hospitals in Venezuela that would be able to finish the
The girl's story highlighted an unfolding horror in
Venezuela, where years of hardship got abruptly worse after the power
grid collapsed. On Monday, schools and businesses were closed, long
lines of cars waited at the few gasoline stations with electricity and
hospitals cared for many patients without power. Generators have
alleviated conditions for some of the critically ill.
Late Monday, President Nicolas Maduro said on
national television that progress had been made in restoring power in
Venezuela. He also said two people who were allegedly trying to sabotage
power facilities were captured and were providing information to
authorities, though he gave no details.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido and his chief ally,
the United States, say Maduro's claims that the U.S. sabotaged the power
grid with a "cyberattack" are an attempt to divert attention from the
government's own failings.
There have been acts of kindness during Venezuela's
crisis: People whose food would rot in fridges without power donated it
to a restaurant, which cooked it for distribution to charitable
foundations and hospitals.
The blackouts have also hit the oil industry. The
country hasn't shipped $358 million in oil since the power failures
started, and "the whole system is grinding to a halt," said Russ Dallen,
a Miami-based partner at the brokerage firm Caracas Capital Markets.
Two large tankers are sitting empty at the Jose
offshore oil-loading dock, and at least 19 other ships are waiting their
turns there, Dallen said.
Engineers have restored power in some parts of
Venezuela, but it often goes out again. There have been a few protests
in Caracas and reports of similar anti-government anger elsewhere.
Guaido tweeted about reports of looting in some cities, but details were
difficult to confirm.
Security forces in the city of Maracaibo dispersed
"criminals" trying to take advantage of the power cuts, Mayor Willy
Casanova told local media.
However, numerous videos posted on social media
that purported to be from Maracaibo showed crowds roaming the streets
and people running from looted, damaged buildings with no police in
In Caracas, some people reported more sightings of
"colectivos," a term for armed groups allegedly operating on behalf of
the state to intimidate opponents. While Maduro and other government
officials said they were working to provide basic necessities, the mood
in Caracas was desperate.
Marian Morales, a nurse working for a Catholic
youth group, and several colleagues handed out diapers and food from
their car, parked near a hospital. Police and men in civilian clothing
ordered them to leave, saying they didn't have permission.
Morales said the needy are cautious about
approaching to collect the handouts because of the presence of security
The opposition-controlled National Assembly debated
the power cuts and declared that the situation was an emergency, a
largely symbolic move aimed at pressuring Maduro.
Early Monday, an explosion rocked a power station
in the Baruta area of Caracas. Residents gathered to look at the
charred, smoldering equipment.
Guaido said three of four electricity transformers
servicing the area were knocked out. He has blamed the blackouts on
alleged government corruption and mismanagement.
Winston Cabas, the head of Venezuela's electrical
engineers union, which opposes the government, disputed government
allegations that the dam was sabotaged. He blamed a lack of maintenance
as well as the departure of skilled workers from the troubled country
over the years.
"The system is vulnerable, fragile and unstable,"
Spain's airline pilots union asked for Spanish
airline Air Europa to stop flying to Venezuela after one of its crews
was attacked at gunpoint in Caracas. The Sepla union said two pilots and
eight more crew members of a flight from Madrid were assaulted on
Saturday while going from the airport to their hotel in the Venezuelan
capital. None of the crew members was injured.
Air Europa responded by ordering the crews of
flights to Venezuela to not spend the night in the country, according to
The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump,
meanwhile, imposed sanctions on a Moscow-based bank jointly owned by
Russian and Venezuelan state-owned companies, for allegedly trying to
circumvent U.S. sanctions on the South American country. The U.S. said
it is targeting Evrofinance Mosnarbank for supporting Petroleos de
Venezuela S.A., an entity previously targeted by sanctions in January.
Evrofinance said it is carrying out its activities
normally despite the announcement and pledged to "meet its obligations
to the clients and partners in full."
The U.S. and more than 50 governments recognize
Guaido as interim president and say Maduro wasn't legitimately
re-elected last year because opposition candidates weren't permitted to
run. Maduro says he is the target of a U.S. coup plot.
Also Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
criticized Cuba and Russia for continuing to support Maduro and
described Cuba as the "true imperialist power" in Venezuela. Cuba has
made the same accusation against the U.S., alleging that it is after