47 are feared dead as rescues lose hopes on survivors
Local authorities Saturday found the wreckage of the jet missed in the Amazonian jungle last Thursday. Rescue operations were hampered by heavy rains after the Air Force reported the TANS Airline flight 222 lost contact. The aircraft, a Fokker carrying 47 passengers, was three minutes from landing at the Northern City of Chachapoyas on its journey from Lima, country's capital.
Three foot patrols set out before dawn. One search helicopter got into the air briefly after the skies cleared around Chachapoyas, a city of 18,000 people located in forested mountains. But within an hour clouds formed and dropped low over the mountains, forcing the helicopter to return.
In declarations to the international press, Police Maj. Medardo Escobedo, chief of the rescue operations, said it would likely take the foot patrols some 8 to 16 hours to reach the area in which the plane have gone down. John Elio, president of an association of Peruvian pilots, said an emergency landing in the Chachapoyas area would have been virtually impossible because of the mountainous terrain. The plane was a Fokker 28 rented from Peru's air force by the state-owned airliner, which was set up 40 years ago to fly to remote jungle towns that private airlines found unprofitable. Witnesses say flying conditions were good Thursday morning but noted that the weather in the jungle could change abruptly.
Passengers included eight children — one of them a baby — and a Belgian couple, Christophe Dubois and Sofia Porfirio. The local press reported that other 5 foreign citizens were in the plane: two Spanish, a Dutch couple and one Cuban citizen.
In the meantime, hospitals in the Amazonian area remained under red alert while awaiting the worst. Families of the missing passengers flew to the area as soon as weather conditions allow it.
This is the ninth air crisis Peruvian authorities face since 1996. The worst of them happened that year, when 123 passengers died when an aircraft of the broken Airline Faucett crashed in Arequipa.
Hernan Etchaleco PRAVDA.Ru Argentina