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Missing Mozambican plane wreck found in Namibia, no survivors

A soldier keeps watch as a helicopter lands in Catandica on October 29, 2013. Namibia police sent a search team to Bwabwata National Park after Botswana officials alerted them of a plane crash in the area. — AFP picWINDHOEK, Nov 30 — Police today found the burned wreckage of a missing Mozambican Airlines plane in a remote area in northeastern Namibia, saying none of the 33 people from several countries aboard had survived the crash.

“My team on the ground have found the wreckage. No survivors. The plane is totally burned,” said Willie Bampton, a regional police coordinator in the Kavango region.

The plane, en route from Mozambique to Angola, went down in remote terrain in the Bwabwata National Park, where Namibia turns into a narrow strip of land sandwiched between Botswana and Angola.

In Maputo, Mozambican Airlines, LAM, had issued a statement revising the passenger list down to 27, rather than the 28 earlier reported, along with the six crew members.

The statement said the 33 included 10 were Mozambicans, nine Angolans, five Portuguese, one French national, one Brazilian and one Chinese.

LAM flight TM470 took off from Maputo at 09H26 GMT yesterday and had been due to land in the capital Luanda at 13H10 GMT, but never arrived.

Last contact with the place came around 1130 GMT when it was over north Namibia.

Namibia police sent a search team to the area after Botswana officials alerted them of a plane crash in the area.

“Botswana officials informed us that they saw smoke in the air and they thought the crash happened in their country, but when they came to the border they realised that it was in Namibia,” Bampton said.

Villagers in the area told police they had heard explosions.

Namibian authorities have not yet said as to the possible cause of the crash and the country’s cabinet was today holding an emergency meeting over the accident.

The search for the plane was hampered both by the rough terrain and torrential rains pounding the area where the plane, a Brazilian-made Embraer 190, went missing yesterday, Bampton told AFP.

“There are no proper roads, you have to go through the bush, slowly and it’s making our job difficult,” he said.

Before confirmation of the crash, people close to those on board gathered at Maputo airport, many frustrated at what they said was the lack of information.

“They told us it was a forced landing. I know it’s a crash,” said Luis Paolo, a friend of one of what were said to be two Portuguese businessmen on board the flight.

The Bwabwata National Park, a 6,100-square-kilometre reserve, is a sparsely-populated area covered by wetlands and dense forests.

The European Union banned the Mozambican airline, known by the acronym LAM, from flying in its airspace in 2011.

“Significant safety deficiencies” led to the blacklisting of all air carriers certified in Mozambique, the EU said at the time.

The concern was about Mozambique’s civil aviation authority, rather than the track record of the various airlines. — AFP