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Chris Yates of Jane's Transport talks to BBC News
"Abidjan Airport is as equipped as any airport in Africa"
 real 28k

Monday, 31 January, 2000, 02:38 GMT
Kenyan plane crashes into sea




A Kenya Airways passenger plane carrying 179 people has crashed into the sea shortly after taking off from Abidjan airport in Ivory Coast.

At least seven people were reported to have been rescued from the water but many bodies were said to have been seen close to where the plane went down.

Flight KQ431 - bound for the Nigerian capital, Lagos - took off from Abidjan at 2108 GMT on Sunday and crashed into the sea almost immediately, airport officials said.

It is not yet clear what caused the A-310 Airbus to crash.

Passengers

Most of those on board were reported to be Nigerians.

An Airbus A-310 The crashed Kenya Airways plane was an Airbus A-310
"All of us at Kenya Airways extend our deepest sympathy to the families of the passengers and crew involved in the accident," said airline spokesman Koome Mwambia.

"We are trying to establish the names of the passengers. The next level is to begin contacting their families."

He said it was the first major accident involving a Kenya Airways plane.

Search

Correspondents said that some eye witnesses said they saw flames coming from the engine, while others said they heard noises before the crash.

Two helicopters with searchlights scoured the sea about 1,000 metres off the beach. Small boats joined the search.

Hundreds of people, including relatives, police and medical personnel, had crammed onto the beach near the crash site.

"We have found nothing yet," one Ivorian military official told Reuters news agency.

'Deep waters'

Ivory Coast Transport Minister General Abdoulaye Coulibaly said the search would prove difficult.

"In this area, there is a bottomless hole. It is very deep," Mr Coulibaly said. "It is also night, and the clouds are low."

An air traffic controller said the plane "did not manage to climb".

"It turned. We then tried to contact the plane but it did not respond," the official said.

Local authorities have requested assistance from a French military base nearby.

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