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The BBC's Mark Doyle in Ivory Coast
"Around seventy bodies have been recovered so far"
 real 28k

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, 14:42 GMT
Search for Kenya plane survivors

A survivor calls out a prayer as he is brought ashore from a rescue boat A survivor calls out a prayer as he is brought ashore from a rescue boat


A big search operation has been going on in the ocean off Ivory Coast following the crash late on Sunday of a Kenya Airways plane with 179 people on board.

Rescuers have already retrieved more than 70 bodies from the sea.

However, latest reports say at least nine people survived the crash, including one man who swam 2km (1.3 miles) to the shore.



The aircraft started its initial climb with no problem and then suddenly descended
Kenya Airways spokesman
By dawn, it was not clear if anyone else was still alive in the cold water of the Atlantic.

Flight KQ431 had been en route from Nairobi to Lagos, but could not make its scheduled landing, because of bad weather.

The plane was diverted to Abidjan, where it picked up more passengers before heading back to Lagos on its way back to Nairobi.

It took off from Abidjan at 2108 GMT on Sunday and crashed into the sea almost immediately, airport officials said.

The pilot of the plane had not reported any problems before the crash.

Relatives' anguish

Kenya Airways says that family and friends of the people involved in the crash of the passenger jet are being counselled at a hotel in Nairobi.

The airline's technical director, Steve Clarke, said trained counsellors were there to befriend relatives and to "be a shoulder to cry on".

In Lagos, relatives and friends who were waiting to meet the flight from Abidjan have expressed anger that no definite passenger list had been made available to them.

Many of them had waited at the airport throughout the night, and had first heard of the crash through international media.

Cause unclear

A total of 169 passengers and 10 crew were on board the flight. The majority are believed to have been Nigerians.


A woman passenger is rushed to hospital A woman passenger is rushed to hospital
It is not yet clear what caused the A-310 Airbus to crash.

"Just after take-off the plane started having problems," said Samuel Ogbada Adje, a Nigerian survivor. "It wasn't quite balanced and the next thing we knew we were in the water."

He swam out of the wreckage, but said he had to wait two hours before being rescued.

"If they had come sooner, a lot of us would have been saved," he said.

Sudden descent

Mr Clarke said the Airbus had no technical problems of any significance and there was nothing of note on its service record.

"The aircraft started its initial climb with no problem and then suddenly descended," he said.


Airbus A-310
Update of Airbus Industrie's first aircraft
Used by airlines since 1983
Wide-bodied, twin-engine model
Seats: 220
He said the plane had been new when the airline purchased it in October 1986, and it was being flown by a very experienced pilot with "many, many hours" in command.

Airline spokesman Koome Mwambia said it was the first major accident involving a Kenya Airways plane.

"All of us at Kenya Airways extend our deepest sympathy to the families of the passengers and crew involved in the accident.

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

The unidentified Frenchman who managed to swim ashore was guided by arc lamps set up on the beach.

"He was a good swimmer. That's how he managed to survive," said Dr Tanoh Koutoua, who patched up the man's cuts and bruises.

Search

Two helicopters with searchlights scoured the sea off the beach. Small boats joined the search.



Hundreds of people, including relatives, police and medical personnel, gathered on the beach near the crash site, about one mile east of the airport.

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.

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

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See also:
31 Jan 00 |  Africa
Survivor's swim to safety
31 Jan 00 |  Africa
Airbuses "99% safe"
31 Jan 00 |  Africa
Airline's sound safety record
31 Jan 00 |  Africa
Air crash relatives' anger

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