Officials in Namibia are reporting that a Mozambique Airlines plane, Flight TM470, with 33 people on board, has crashed in a remote area near the Angola border, killing all passengers and crew. The plane had been reported missing on November 29.
According to the Namibian deputy police commissioner, Bollen Sankwana, the plane crashed in a national park, close to the Angola border. Sankwana said that an investigation into the cause of the crash was ongoing.
On board the plane were 27 passengers and six crew members. According to the airline the passengers included 10 people from Mozambique, nine from Angola, five Portuguese people and three other passengers from Brazil, China and France respectively.
Reportedly the flight from Maputo, capital of Mozambique, did not arrive as scheduled in Luanda, capital of Angola, on Friday. Initially the airline said it was thought that the plane might have landed in Rundu, northern Namibia.
The airline coordinated an inquiry with aviation officials in Angola, Botswana and Namibia to try and find the missing plane.
Willie Bampton, Kavango Regional Police Crime Coordinator, was told by officials in Botswana that they had seen smoke in the air and had heard explosions on Friday afternoon around the area of the Bwabwata National Park.
A ground search was launched together with a Namibian police helicopter to search the area. Apparently there are no roads, and the Bwabwata National Park in Namibia is a vast area, which reports said made it difficult to locate the missing plane from Mozambique.
The area covers around 2,360 square miles and is home to elephants and other wildlife, as well as several thousand Namibians. Rain had recently fallen in the area, impending their search even further.
On finding the wreckage, it was found that no passenger or crew member had survived the crash. However, one voice recorder and an emergency location transmitter were recovered. According to Captain Ericksson Nengola of the Namibia Ministry of Transport, they are still, however, searching for the two black boxes from the plane.
Nengola said that Namibian authorities, together with experts from the USA, Brazil, Angola, Mozambique and Botswana will be investigating the crash.
He said that so far they do not know what caused the crash, but it is the worst ever accident since Namibia’s independence in 1990. He couldn’t say how long the investigation would take and speculated that it might take months.
It seems that airlines from Mozambique have a bad name, and are among several carriers banned in the European Union due to safety concerns. Tony Tyler, of the International Air Transport Association said this week that African aviation represents around 3 percent of global airline traffic, but during 2012 accounted for almost half of the fatalities from plane crashes.
Marlene Mendes Manave, CEO of Mozambique Airlines had said in a statement on the airline’s website that the company had grown 8 percent in the first half of 2013, as compared to 2012. The airline uses Boeing, Bombardier and Embraer aircraft.
The media in Namibia is reporting that a popular radio personality from Mozambique, Sakyna Cassamo, was among the victims of the crash and fans are leaving messages of condolence on her Facebook page.
Mozambique’s government declared a period of national mourning to honor the 33 victims of the crash of the missing plane in Namibia, which is the worst aviation disaster in that country since 1986.
By Anne Sewell