The following was received from a DXpedition team planning to go to Annobon Island (3C0). The DXpedition was scheduled to fly to the island via this specific plane, the only one serving that destination ? but no more. There are many striking DX stories in this naked world ? this is just one of them. Thankfully the DXpedition team was not on board. QRX for more details as this one develops.|
EQUATORIAL GUINEA: Up to 80 feared dead as plane crashes with no survivors
[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
Equatorial Guinea is a new oil producing nation in the Gulf of Guinea
MALABO, 18 Jul 2005 (IRIN) - An aging transport plane belonging to the local airline Ecuatair crashed in the mountains of Bioko island on Saturday shortly after takeoff on a domestic flight to the African mainland part of Equatorial Guinea, eyewitnesses said.
Family members of those on board the plane, which often flew heavily overloaded, said there were no survivors among the passengers or crew.
The Ukrainian-built Antonov 32 was built to carry up to 45 passengers, but family members of the crash victims told IRIN there could have been up to 80 people on board the twin-engined turbo-prop aircraft.
President Teodoro Obiang Nguema said in a radio address to the nation on Sunday there were 60 people aboard the plane when it crashed on a routine flight from Malabo, the island capital of this former Spanish colony, to Bata, the main town on the African mainland.
Bodies were scattered in trees and others burned beyond recognition, according to Red Cross rescue workers who arrived on the scene on Sunday.
Their arrival was delay by dense rainforest around the crash site.
One relative of a passenger on the plane said panicked families tried to enter Malabo hospital on Sunday to identify their loved ones, but soldiers blocked the entrance in an apparent attempt to avoid disorder.
Body parts from the crash site were arriving at the hospital in sacks, the relative said.
According to eyewitnesses, the plane plunged to the ground spewing thick black smoke from one of its engines.
Most airline companies in Equatorial Guinea have been barred from operating elsewhere in the region for failing to meet international safety standards and many international organisations have warned their employees not to take domestic flights.
But locals wanting swift and affordable travel between Malabo and the mainland of this oil producing Central African country have few choices.
The plane that crashed on Saturday had been full of youngsters - students returning home for vacation - according to local radio reports.
President Obiang, who seized power in a 1979 coup after deposing and killing his uncle, announced three days of national mourning and called for an inquiry into the crash.
He said, families could try to recuperate the bodies of their loved ones for burial after a requiem mass for the dead had been held on Monday.
Equatorial Guinea began producing offshore oil in the mid-1990s and is now Africa's third largest oil exporter after Nigeria and Angola.
But very little of the oil wealth has filtered down to the country's half million inhabitants, most of whom still live in crushing poverty.
Obiang and his family, which has dominated government since independence from Spain in 1969, have meanwhile grown fabulously rich. The government spent US $55 million last year on buying a brand new Boeing 737 presidential jet.