updated 5/12/2010 7:17:27 PM ET 2010-05-12T23:17:27

The Netherlands went into mourning Wednesday, shocked at the deaths of at least 61 Dutch citizens flying back from spring break vacations in South Africa on a plane that plunged into the Libyan desert near Tripoli.

A young child, the sole survivor, was rushed to a hospital in the Libyan capital for immediate surgery for multiple fractures of both legs, officials said.

Libyan officials and the Dutch tourism board said he was a 10-year-old Dutch boy, but the Foreign Ministry said it could not verify any details until its embassy official visited the hospital and spoke to the child.

Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said "We suppose he's Dutch because he said 'Holland Holland' to the doctor treating him," and the doctor conveyed that information to the Dutch consul.

Dutch flags were lowered and campaigning for the June 9 parliamentary election was suspended in respect for the dead. Thursday is already a religious and national holiday, Ascension Day, when most banks, offices and stores are closed.

Hundreds of people phoned emergency numbers at the Foreign Ministry and the tourism board to ask about family, friends, or to find out whether anyone from their town was on the flight.

Video of the survivor, filmed by Libyan TV, was repeatedly shown on the main Dutch TV channel, along with scenes of the wreckage-strewn field near Tripoli airport marked by the nearly upright tail of the Afriqiyah Airways Airbus.

The video showed a dark-haired child lying in a hospital bed with a bandaged head and an oxygen mask. The child had intravenous lines into one arm and appeared to be conscious.

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 is doing their best to assist in this tragedy," he said.

Among the 104 people on board were Dutch vacationers on two package tours to South Africa from Dutch travel agencies, one group of 38 people that left from Duesseldorf, Germany, and the other of 24 from Brussels, Belgium. The Dutch foreign minister could not confirm that figure of 62 Dutch nationals on board.

Thirteen hours after the crash, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende voiced frustration at the scanty information arriving from Libya, including the lack of a final passenger list.

"We still don't have the exact information that we need," he said in a TV interview. "Things are still being figured out β€” and we're in that phase."

Image: Locator map of plane crash in Tripoli, Libya
A six-man forensic team from the Dutch national police agency KLPD was en route to Tripoli, the foreign minister said. Afriqiyah Airways offered free tickets to Tripoli for victims' families, but the Dutch government advised against traveling to Libya, saying family members would be more helpful identifying the remains when they were returned.

The KLPD said it would likely be at least a week before all remains can be identified and returned to the Netherlands.

Many tour companies had shifted their package departures from Amsterdam after Schiphol Airport raised its taxes about half a year ago, said Ad Vonk of the Royal Dutch Tourism Bureau.

South Africa is a popular destination for Dutch travelers, especially during the two-week school spring break, and Afriqiyah Airways offered among the cheapest fares to Johannesburg.

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

Support centers for families were opened at airports in Brussels and Duesseldorf, the tourism board said. The board was making preparations to help repatriate the victims.

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.

The Dutch are no strangers to air tragedy. In 1977, a KLM and PanAm jet collided while taxiing on the Spanish island of Tenerife. Of the 583 dead, 267 were on the KLM plane.

Last year, a Turkish Airlines Boeing 737 crashed short of the runway outside Amsterdam. Only nine of its 135 passengers died, including the three pilots.

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