Weather Hampers Crash Search

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Bad weather, thick forest and silence from an emergency transponder are hampering efforts by rescuers to find a Kenya-bound flight that crashed in heavy rain in Cameroon with 114 people on board.

A Kenya Airways official told reporters in Nairobi that signals from the airline's jet ceased after an initial distress call, though an automatic device should have kept up emissions for two days.

"Why the signal is not being heard right now, we're not quite sure," Kenya Airways CEO Titus Naikuni said according to The Associated Press.

Aviation officials would not confirm media reports that wreckage was found and bodies were being retrieved.

A continuing downpour prompted suspension of the search late Saturday and thick fog hindered efforts the following day.
African media reports say Kenya Airways Flight KQ 507 carrying at least 114 crew and passengers from 25 nations crashed near Yaounde after it took off from the country's major international airport in the Douala.

But Titus Naikuni, the company's chief executive officer, refused to describe the incident as a crash. He told reporters that "at the moment, you can't make a clear statement until you see the aircraft itself."

Cameroon straddles central and western Africa, and Kenya is in eastern Africa. And both Douala and Nairobi are, respectively, the most powerful economic cities in Cameroon and Kenya.

Douala, a bustling metropolis on the western Cameroonian coast, at the Gulf of Guinea, has a population of more than 2 million with a seaport and several key industries.

The city handles most of the country's major exports, such as oil, cocoa, and coffee, and it is home to the Eko Market, the country's largest market.

The plane took off from Douala bound for Nairobi, Kenya, and was scheduled to arrive in the Kenyan capital about 6 a.m., the airline said. There were reports of thunderstorms in the area around the time of takeoff overnight.

An airline official said the last message from the aircraft was an automatic distress signal received soon after takeoff from Douala airport. The plane was just six months old, the airline said.

People from 25 different countries were on aboard. They included one American, five Britons, one Swiss, one Swede, six Chinese, and 15 Indians. The remainder were Africans, including at least 35 from Cameroon and at least nine from Kenya, according to airline figures.

The Associated Press said Anthony Mitchell, a Nairobi-based Associated Press correspondent, was believed to be on the flight.

Relatives waiting at Nairobi's airport were distraught as news reports about the missing plane came in. Dozens of family members cried and collapsed in the airport terminal.

One person there said families there had received no information. "I cannot talk now because there is no news," he told AP, declining to give his name. "We have not been given any information."

Cameroon's military sent helicopters from Douala airport to the believed crash site, AP reported.
Celestine Ngoue, general inspector of Cameroon's civil aviation authority, said a search was on for the plane over and in the rough terrain of southern Cameroon.

Security forces are slogging through the densely forested areas, parts of which have some villages and roads, but other parts of which are totally undeveloped. State aircraft are doing flyovers of the equatorial forest, and a helicopter was tracking the craft's route.

Kenyans are sending a delegation to Cameroon, and Naikuni said the United States was helping authorities track the flight location. He said the location is about 100 kilometers, or more than 60 miles, southwest of Yaounde.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said Saturday it was sending a team to assist the government of Cameroon in its investigation.

A Kenya Airways flight crashed on January 30, 2000, when a Nairobi-bound flight took off from Abidjan, Ivory Coast. The airline is considered one of the safest in Africa.


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