- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 6, 2007

DOUALA, Cameroon - The wreckage of a Kenya Airways jetliner missing for nearly two days was found yesterday in a dense mangrove forest outside Cameroon’s commercial capital, aviation officials said. There was no information on survivors.

The chief executive of Kenya Airways said he had no news about the plane’s condition or about the 114 persons who were onboard.

“We have no confirmed information about survivors or any possible casualties,” Titus Naikuni told a press conference in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.

The wreckage was found about 12 miles southeast of Douala, along its flight path. But it was not clear whether it was returning to the airport.

It had been difficult to spot because it was hidden by a thick canopy of trees, Mr. Naikuni said.

Rescue vehicles including ambulances and fire trucks sped toward the scene of the crash, sirens blaring.

“We are actively looking for survivors,” said Thomas Sobakam, chief of meteorology for the Douala airport.

Mr. Naikuni said that because of the swamp, vehicles could not drive all the way to the crash site and rescue workers would have to complete the trip on foot in the dark.

Family members gathered at the Nairobi and Douala airports, many weeping.

“Oh my last born, my last born, where am I going to go?” Kezzia Musimbi Kadurenge, the mother of a missing crew member, said in Kenya. “I’m finished.”

The Nairobi-bound Boeing 737-800 had departed from Douala airport early Saturday, an hour late because of rain, with 105 passengers and nine crew members onboard. The plane issued a distress call, but then lost contact with the radio tower between 11 and 13 minutes after takeoff, officials said.

It was not clear whether the plane had deviated at any point from its flight path, and officials did not explain why the plane had traveled so short a distance in the elapsed time.

The search initially focused on the thickly forested mountains near the town of Lolodorf, about 90 miles southeast of coastal Douala. Officials had been led to think the plane had crashed in the vast, hard-to-access forest because of an incorrect satellite signal, possibly emitted from the plane, Mr. Sobakam said.

Heavy rains hampered the search-and-rescue effort in the fog-shrouded forest. At the same time, aviation authorities sent out a ground crew to investigate claims by fishermen living in the swampy mangroves near the Douala airport. Several reported hearing a loud sound at the time of the suspected crash.

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