July 16, 2005

Plane crashes in Eq. Guinea, 55 feared dead

MALABO (Reuters) - A Russian-made plane carrying 55 people
crashed shortly after takeoff in Equatorial Guinea on Saturday
and those on board were all feared dead, government officials

The Antonov plane, owned by local company Equatair, was on
an internal flight between the capital Malabo on Bioko island
and the city of Bata on the mainland.

"The plane crashed near Baney, 17 kilometers (10 miles)
from Malabo," Ricardo Mangue Obama, a deputy prime minister in
charge of the government task force investigating the crash,
told Reuters by telephone.

"We don't know the cause of the accident. We can't confirm
any death toll but clearly it was a serious accident and we
have no information on any survivors so far," he said.

Mangue Obama said the 55 on board included six members of
the crew. Local media reports said as many as 80 people could
have been on the plane but there was no confirmation of that.

The transport minister told state television the airline
had made the manifest available to authorities and that
military aircraft searching for the plane had located it near
Baney. A team of investigators would be dispatched to the site
on Sunday.

The plane left Malabo around 1000 GMT on Saturday but
disappeared off the radar screen shortly afterwards.

Throughout the day, relatives of the passengers waited at
the airport to know about the fate of their loved ones at the
airport, but official information was scant and only in the
evening authorities confirmed that the plane had crashed.