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Kenya Airways Plane Crashes in Cameroon
Emotional scenes at Douala International Airport as relatives await news
Njei Moses Timah (njemotim)     Print Article 
Published 2007-05-06 04:16 (KST)   
A Boeing 737-800 passenger airline with 114 people on board belonging to the Kenya Airways has crashed in an area about 100 kilometers southwest of Cameroon's capital Yaounde (possibly in South Province). The aircraft disappeared from radar shortly after take off en route to Nairobi (Kenya) from Douala (Cameroon). Flight KQ 507 originated from Abidjan (Cote d'Ivoire) and stopped at Douala International Airport to pick more passengers.

It took off from Douala at 12:05 a.m. local time Saturday and contact with the craft was lost shortly afterward. Preliminary reports (attributed to Radio Cameroon) are indicating that the area of the crash is roughly about 150-200 kilometers from the departure point in Douala. It is suspected that bad weather might have played a role in the demise of the aircraft. Meteorologists report that there were thunderstorms in the area at the time of the flight.

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Kenya Airways makes daily flights out of Cameroon using Nairobi as a hub for passengers heading to Southern Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe. It has been one of Africa's most reliable airlines. The Cameroon route has become one of Kenya Airways' more lucrative ones in the vacuum created by the collapse of Cameroon Airlines.

Worried Cameroonians and others with relatives on board were making frantic calls to the Crisis Management Center set up by Kenya Airways. It was reported that there were at least 35 Cameroonians on board in addition to nationals from 24 other nations, including Britain (5), Kenya (9), China (6), India (15), South Africa (7), Nigeria (6) Niger (3,) Democratic Republic of the Congo (2), Central African Republic (2) and Equatorial Guinea (2). One passenger each came from Ghana, Sweden, Togo, Mali, Switzerland, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Comoros and the United States.

By noon Cameroon time, more than 12 hours after the disappearance of the aircraft, no word had been received about the fate of those on board the fateful flight. The Associated Press has reported that one of its journalists, Nairobi-based Anthony Mitchell, was on board. Authorities of Kenya Airways were still pleading with the press to be patient, saying they were waiting for details from the Cameroon Aviation authorities.

Titus Naikuni, Kenya Airways CEO said, "We have no details on the whereabouts of the plane."

At least two helicopters were combing the suspected crash area in search of the wreckage.

There were emotional scenes at Douala International Airport as women whose relatives were on board were wailing hysterically. Their plight was made worse by the fact that news about the fate of the passengers was hard to come by. At least three executives of Cameroon's leading mobile telephone company (MTN) were reported to be on board.

The area of the presumed crash is located in the equatorial rainforest zone of Cameroon and it certainly will be difficult to easily attain the crash site in time to rescue any survivors. It was reported that bad weather was hampering the search efforts.

According to Kenya Airways, the plane was relatively new -- just six months old -- and piloted by competent personnel.

Cameroon's Aviation Authority has its own technical problems. Recently it had to turn to neighboring Congo to help in the search for a small craft that was reported to be missing in Cameroon's airspace after taking off from Nigeria.
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Njei Moses Timah

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