May 06, 2007

Rescuers search for crashed Kenya Airways plane

YAOUNDE (Reuters) - Heavy rain and thick forest hampered efforts to find a Kenya Airways passenger plane which crashed on Saturday shortly after takeoff in southern Cameroon with 114 people on board, officials said.

Military and civil aviation helicopters scoured a wide zone in the central African country between Kribi on the Atlantic coast and Ngomedzap, south of the capital Yaounde, but the remote location and poor weather did little to help.

"We’ve even sent boys out on motorcycles along main routes in the region to see whether they can see any trace of the plane crash," Jean-Francois Nzenang, senior administrative officer for the region around Kribi, told Reuters by telephone.

"Some of the area is inaccessible by road and there are no telecommunications signals."

State radio earlier reported the plane -- which was carrying passengers from more than 20 countries -- had crashed near Nieté, north of the border with Equatorial Guinea, after taking off from Cameroon’s second city of Douala.

But after no wreckage was immediately found, the search with radar-equipped helicopters shifted to another area southwest of the capital -- between the towns of Lolodorf and Ebolowa -- where inhabitants said they had heard a loud explosion.

France sent help from a military base in neighbouring Gabon.

"A French Super Puma helicopter attached to the Libreville marine battalion has been sent to Cameroon to help locate the crash site. It is currently in action," the French embassy in Cameroon said in a statement.

Kenya Airways Group Managing Director Titus Naikuni told a news conference in Nairobi that the authorities in Cameroon had picked up a distress signal, automatically generated by a machine, from the area where the plane went missing.


Kenya Airways said the 737-800 airliner, which began its journey in Ivory Coast’s main city Abidjan and stopped over in Cameroon, was carrying 105 passengers and nine crew.

By Tansa Musa

No comments: