- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 9, 2003

LIMA, Peru, Jan. 9 (UPI) — The Peruvian air force is searching for a plane carrying 42 passengers and four crew members that disappeared over the country's Amazon Thursday, officials said.

A Tans Airline's Fokker F-28 jet was last heard from after establishing radio contact with the control tower in Chachapoyas, a city some 400 miles north of Lima where it was preparing to land.

A report on the Web site of Peru's RPP radio indicated the plane went down in an area near Chachapoyas called Lonya Chico.

RPP cited Enrique Torres, the mayor of Chachapoyas, as saying firefighters and rescue officials were heading toward that area.

Torres also told the radio station he didn't think weather could have been a factor in any crash.

Chachapoyas — relatively remote — is often used as a base for tourists exploring the numerous surrounding archaeological sites. There was no immediate confirmation of the nationalities of those on board.

Earlier reports in the Peruvian media indicated that there were a total of 42 people aboard.

"The Folker plane was declared in emergency at 8:43 a.m., the time of the last contact with the airport of Chachapoyas," said Tan Airline spokesman Jorge Belevan.

The jet had taken off from the coastal city of Chiclayo, about 400 miles northwest of Lima, and the duration of the flight was only to be 30 minutes.

"The plane had sufficient fuel. I'm not ruling out that the plane could have landed in an alternative airport. The climatic conditions of the jungle are unforeseeable," Belevan said.

According to airport officials, the jet took off with no problems from Chiclayo, and weather conditions were favorable along the route.

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