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Sunday, 26 December, 1999, 20:22 GMT
No survivors in Venezuela plane crash

Relatives Relatives of the crash victims console each other


All 22 people on board a Cuban passenger plane died when it ploughed into a hillside in Venezuela on Saturday.

The head of Venezuela's Civil Defence, Angel Rangel, said the plane had been carrying 10 passengers - four Cubans, four Venezuelans and two Dutch citizens - as well as 12 crew members.

He said the cause of the crash was still being investigated. Locals said they saw fire and heard an explosion.

The plane went down near the town of Bejuma, a mountainous area 120km (75 miles) west of the capital, Caracas.

Plane destroyed

"The airplane was left totally destroyed," said Francisco Yanes, director of Valencia airport.

Among the victims of the crash was a nine-year-old girl on her way to visit her parents after they lost their home in recent floods and mudslides which killed tens of thousands of people.

The Russian-made YAK-42 aircraft, belonging to Cuba's state-owned airline Cubana de Aviacon, had been on its way from Havana to Valencia.

The regularly-scheduled flight had been controlled from Venezuela's main Libertador air force base, which lost radio contact with the plane at 0048 GMT, officials said.

Route switch

Caracas's Simon Bolivar international airport has been closed to commercial flights since the floods.

Many international flights have been rerouted to Valencia, and authorities say the airport has been overwhelmed with air traffic.

The number of daily flights has jumped from 25 to 60, and passenger numbers from 800 to 5,000.

Saturday's disaster comes five days after another Cuban plane crashed after landing at Guatemala City, killing 26 people.

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