May 06, 2007

Fears for Cameroon crash Britons

Hopes are fading for the safety of five Britons who were among 114 people on board an aircraft which is thought to have crashed in Cameroon.

The flight originated in Ivory Coast and was reported missing on Saturday after it failed to arrive in Kenya.

Associated Press (AP) journalist Anthony Mitchell is thought to have been among the British passengers.

The Foreign Office said it knew the identities of the Britons on the flight but would not yet name them.

It is not yet known for certain whether the plane crashed in Cameroon or across the national border in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a Foreign Office spokesman said.

He said: "As soon as we have got the actual location of the aircraft confirmed we can dispatch people to the area."

British consular staff in Yaounde - the capital of Cameroon - the DRC capital Kinshasa, and Abuja, in Nigeria, are waiting to travel to the crash site once it has been located.

Cameroon state radio said the plane came down south of Douala, although Kenya Airways has only confirmed so far that it is missing.

People from at least 23 different nationalities were on board, including five Britons, according to the airline.

The BBC's Karen Allen in Kenya's capital, Nairobi, says the Boeing 737-800 involved in Saturday's incident was just six months old and was part of a new fleet bought by the airline.

Flight KQ 507 originated in Abidjan, in Ivory Coast, and left Douala, in Cameroon, at 0005 local time (0105 GMT) on Saturday. It was due to arrive in Nairobi at 0615 (0315 GMT).

Kenya Airways said the last communication with the missing plane was received by the control tower in Douala, on Cameroon's coast, shortly after take-off.

Mr Mitchell, who was based in Nairobi, Kenya, had been on assignment in the region for the past week and contacted his family before boarding the flight to say he was heading home.

Good safety record

It is understood the journalist is married and lives with his wife, but also has family in London.

He was expelled from Ethiopia in January 2006 after being accused of portraying the country in a bad light in his reports for AP.

The Ethiopian government told the journalist, who reported from the country for more than five years, that he was no longer welcome and gave him 24 hours to leave.

Kathleen Carroll, AP's executive editor, said: "Anthony had contacted his family before boarding the flight to let them know he was headed home. We hope for the best."

Kenya's national carrier has a good safety record.

However, 169 people died when one of its planes crashed into the sea in 2000 after taking off from Abidjan airport in Ivory Coast.


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