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15 Indians among Kenyan crash victims

world Updated: May 06, 2007 21:16 IST
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A Kenya Airways passenger plane with 114 people on board, including 15 Indians, crashed early on Saturday after taking off from Douala airport in Cameroon on a flight to Nairobi, officials said.

A Kenya Airways official said rescue teams were trying to find the site of the crash, and there was no immediate word on any casualties. “We are trying to get to the area of the crash, but the weather is really bad. We are getting help from the army,” the official told AFP in Cameroon.

In Delhi, officials of the Ministry of External Affairs told the Hindustan Times that they were trying to get confirmation about the number of Indians killed and details about them from the Indian High Commission in Kenya. The ministry is in touch with PS Randhawa, the High Commissioner in Nairobi, who is awaiting word from the local authorities.

India does not have a mission in Cameroon. The High Commission in Nigeria concurrently looks after Cameroon. The High Commissioner to Nigeria, HHS Vishwanathan, told HT over the phone that he was awaiting details from the airline.

In Nairobi, the chief executive officer for Kenya Airways, Titus Naikuni, told a news conference that search efforts centred on a forest region around the town of Lolodorf, 100 kilometres southwest of Yaounde. Locals reported they heard a loud explosion nearby, Cameroon state radio and TV said.

Naikuni said that air traffic controllers picked up a distress signal some time after the plane took off from Douala during a violent storm. The signal was issued automatically — “from a machine, not a pilot”.

Kenya’s transport minister, Ali Chirau Makwere, said it was too early to determine what caused the crash. “We need to get information from the technical experts as to whether it was occasioned by the weather or pilot error or mechanical fault,” he said.

Naikuni revised down an initial figure of 115 on board to 114, comprising nine Kenyan crew members and 105 passengers. Including the crew, there were 82 Africans of various nationalities, 15 Indians, six Chinese, five Britons, one Swiss, one Swede and one US citizen.

The Indian foreign ministry gave an international helpline number that could be contacted for more details. The number: 0027112071100.