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Rescuers Locate Afghan Plane Crash Area

Afghan and NATO rescuers on Tuesday located the area where an Afghan passenger plane crashed with 43 people on board, including three Britons and an American, an official said in Salang.  More than 24 hours
PTI May 18, 2010 17:13 IST
PTI

Afghan and NATO rescuers on Tuesday located the area where an Afghan passenger plane crashed with 43 people on board, including three Britons and an American, an official said in Salang.
 
More than 24 hours after the plane lost radio contact over the treacherous Hindu Kush mountains, the prospect of finding survivors appeared slim as anguished relatives gathered at the foot of the mountain-pass near Salang.

The ageing Pamir Airways Antonov 24 turboprop plane was en route from the northern province of Kunduz to Kabul when it came down in bad weather, although officials said it was too early to rule on the cause of the crash.

"We have managed to locate the crash area," Yalda Natiq, head of communications at the transport ministry, told AFP.

"It is in northern Salang but due to fog, bad weather and poor visibility the reconnaissance plane and helicopters now cannot pinpoint the wreckage," she added. The area is one of harsh mountain terrain.

Asked whether signals from the plane's black box had been picked up, Natiq said: "The systems show where the crash area is and helicopters are flying over the area to locate the wreckage now."

On the ground, Afghan police and locals familiar with the area are climbing the mountain again for the second day to search for the wreckage.

President Hamid Karzai expressed grief over the crash.

"Cloud, fog, lightning and rain does not allow the search in some areas," he told reporters.

"We hope to be able to find the victims of this incident and hand them over to their families," he said.

Rescuers were forced to suspend the search operation in the snow-capped mountains overnight, owing to bad weather. Freezing temperatures would make conditions extremely difficult for any survivors.

A highway task force, responsible for clearing snow from the Salang mountain pass -- the main road from Kabul to northern Afghanistan -- reported hearing a blast at around the time the plane went missing, police said.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), fighting against the Taliban, dispatched a plane and two helicopters to the area, but also acknowledged that poor weather conditions hampered the search.

According to the passenger manifest of the plane seen by AFP, six of those on board were foreigners and the rest Afghans. The British embassy confirmed that three Britons were on the plane, and the US State Department that there was one American. (AFP)