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Monday, September 14, 1998 Published at 16:24 GMT 17:24 UK

World: Americas

Hidden treasures of Swissair plane

Teams continue to search for wreckage off the Nova Scotia coast

Swissair says their plane that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off Nova Scotia 12 days ago, killing all 229 people on board, was carrying a painting by Picasso and large amounts of money, watches and diamonds.

A spokesman for the airline said the "Le Peintre" (The Painter) - a Picasso picture estimated to be worth around $1.5 - was destroyed when the ill-fated MD-11 jet plunged into the sea.

[ image: Tributes: Area near crash is dotted with makeshift memorials]
Tributes: Area near crash is dotted with makeshift memorials
He said Swissair, part of SAirGroup, was still trying to determine the identity of the painting's owner.

The spokesman said other valuables in the cargo hold included nearly 50 kilos of banknotes, secured in a safe container, and more than five kilos of jewels and diamonds.

However, he did not reveal what currency the banknotes were in or how much the other valuables were worth.

Unlike those used for standard freight, the valuables container has reinforced walls and an aluminium door with a special lock and metal seal, Swissair said.

"Containers of this kind are not shockproof and fireproof," the statement said. "It should be assumed that the valuables container did not remain undamaged in the crash."

The announcement came as a United States navy salvage ship prepared to begin lifting parts of the wreckage of the MD-Eleven jet from the bed of the ocean.

Investigators have already recovered the plane's voice and flight data recorders.

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