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Monday, 31 January, 2000, 09:42 GMT
Survivor's swim to safety

plane crash A woman survivor is taken to hospital

At least nine people have been saved after a Kenya Airways Airbus smashed into the sea off Ivory Coast, including one man who swam 2km (1.3 miles) to shore.

Eyewitnesses and survivors have told how the plane, with 179 people on board, broke into hundreds of pieces on impact.

He was a good swimmer. That's how he managed to survive
Dr Tanoh Koutua

The survivors, including three Nigerians, one Rwandan, a Gambian, and a Frenchman, were found among chaotic scenes, but many more bodies have been seen floating in the sea off Abidjan, Ivory Coast's main city.

The first survivor to emerge was a French national who swam to shore. He has not been named but is believed to be a veterinarian living in Abidjan.

Dr Tanoh Koutua, who treated the man for cuts and bruises, said: "He was a good swimmer. That's how he managed to survive.''

If they [rescuers] had come sooner a lot of us would have been saved
Survivor, Samuel Ogbada Adje

Another survivor, Nigerian Samuel Ogbada Adje, who was plucked from the water by rescuers, said the plane started having problems as soon as it took off.

He said: "It wasn't quite balanced, and the next thing we knew, we were in the water."

Slow response

Mr Adje managed to swim clear of the wreckage but said the rescue effort had been very slow.

"If they had come a lot sooner, a lot of us would have been saved. We waited two hours for people to rescue us.''

plane crash A man waits to hear news of survivors

Eyewitness Alain Thonar said the plane disintegrated when it hit the sea.

He said: "It broke up on impact. It broke into 100 pieces.''

Another survivor, a badly injured woman, was found by fisherman Gerard Frere.

"We were really lucky to find her, " said Mr Frere. "She was clutching onto debris."

He added the crash site, around three miles off shore, was chaotic.

" We went out here and there, we had no light. We had to improvise.''

Poor weather conditions

At a press conference in Nairobi, Kenya Airways technical director Steve Clarke said the plane took off in Nairobi but could not make a scheduled landing in Lagos, Nigeria, because of bad weather.

The plane landed at Abidjan to pick up passengers and was heading back to Nairobi, via Lagos, when it crashed.

He added: "The aircraft started its initial climb with no problem and then suddenly descended."

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31 Jan 00 |  Africa
Airline's sound safety record
31 Jan 00 |  Africa
Search for Kenya plane survivors
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