Philippines plane crash kills 131

A Philippines airliner packed with holidaymakers has crashed and burst into flames on a southern resort island, killing all 131 passengers and crew on board.

It is the country's worst air disaster.

The Air Philippines Boeing 737-200 was preparing to land at Davao airport when it came down in a coconut plantation in the hills of nearby Samal island.

"The wreckage has been located. There were no survivors," Air Transportation Office chief Jacinto Ortega said.

The plane was unable to land on its first approach to the airport at Davao because another plane was on the runway, air traffic controllers said.

The plane crashed as it prepared to make another approach from the opposite direction, they said.

The cause of the crash was not known but one village official said he saw smoke pluming out of the plane while it was still in the air and then he heard a blast before it smashed into a hill.

"It was still in mid-air when I saw it and heard an explosion," village headman Sammy Badilles told reporters.

Philippines President, Joseph Estrada, ordered Transportation Secretary Vicente Rivera to fly to Davao to oversee the recovery of the victims' bodies and to investigate the cause of the accident.

Fair weather

An Air Philippines official said the plane, manufactured 22 years ago, was carrying 124 passengers - including four babies - six crew and one mechanic.

Mr Ortega said the weather was fair, the visibility was good and there were no immediate details of what caused the crash.

The plane, flight number GAP 541, reportedly circled Davao before crashing, said Defence Secretary Orlando Mercado.

Transportation Under-secretary Willy Evangelista said it appeared the landing manoeuvre had been hampered by low-lying clouds.

Maintenance

An airline official said the plane had been given its normal maintenance check before taking off, and no abnormalities were found.

On 7 December a twin-engine plane slammed into the hills in the northern part of the country killing all 17 people aboard.

A year earlier, a Cebu Pacific DC-9 jet crashed near the top of a fog-shrouded mountain in the southern Philippines, killing all 104 people aboard in the country's worst air disaster at that time.

19/04/2000

Bron : BBC World News

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