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Signs found of jet that crashed in Cameroon with 114 aboard

Signs found of jet that crashed in Cameroon with 114 aboard

Signs have been found of a Kenya-bound flight that crashed in Cameroon with 114 people aboard, an aviation official said yesterday.
Thomas Sobakam, chief of meteorology for the Douala airport from where the flight took off early Saturday, refused to describe the signs, but said they were not pieces of wreckage. He said a state radio report the crash site had been located was premature. He refused further comment, stressing that the search for the plane's body continued.
Michael Okwiri, spokesman for Kenya Airways, said officials in Kenya also received reports that the plane had been found but could not confirm them.
"We have the same information, that the crash site has been located 180 kilometers from Douala," he said. "We have people on the ground and there appears to be conflicting information."
Kenyan government spokesman Alfred Mutua said he heard reports and contacted Cameroonian authorities, but they "refused to verify the reports. They have asked us to give them some time."
The international search for the Kenya Airways plane has been hampered by heavy rain followed by fog, thick forest and the rugged, remote terrain where it was believed to have crashed.
A Kenya Airways official added at a news conference in Nairobi earlier yesterday that the plane stopped emitting signals after an initial distress call, though an automatic device should have kept up emissions for another two days.
"Why the signal is not being heard right now, we're not quite sure," said Kenya Airways CEO Titus Naikuni.
Sobakam had said at least 20 search-and-rescue vehicles left Saturday and spent the night in the bush. They were now positioned at strategic points inside the vast forest and were searching methodically. The effort includes a team of Cameroonian firefighters, as well as several teams led by MTN, a South African cell phone company that had several employees on board the crashed jet, Sobakam said.
Helicopters had resumed combing the tree canopy for signs of the wreckage yesterday, Sobakam said.
Kenyan officials were on the scene,France lent helicopters and the U.S. and Boeing sent experts.
The jet bound for the Kenyan capital went down early Saturday near Lolodorf, said Alex Bayeck, a regional communications officer. There was no word on survivors, Bayeck said by telephone Saturday.
In Kenya yesterday, the mother of a crew member sobbed outside a building where the press has gathered for updates.
"Oh my last born, my last born, where am I going to go?" Kezzia Musimbi Kadurenge said, as a son helped her walk. "I'm finished."
Relatives and colleagues of those aboard were making their way to the remote search area, which has few roads and is dotted by small villages. Some expressed a willingness to search themselves but acknowledged they did not know how to begin in the tough conditions.
Infrastructure is poor in Cameroon's interior, with much of the area being searched only accessible by dirt tracks that turn to impassable mud in the rainy season. The country of 17 million on Africa's western coast has oil reserves and lush farmland but many of its citizens remain poor subsistence farmers.
Residents reported hearing a "large boom" Saturday, Bayeck said, and some said they saw a flash of fire markedly different from lightning.
Boeing spokesman Jim Proulx said the plane that crashed was equipped with an emergency transmitter that sends out an automatic locator signal "in the event of a rapid change in velocity."
Proulx said from Seattle, Washington, that the transmitter would have been activated upon impact, and can also be turned on by the plane's flight crew.
Naikuni had said the plane was almost new. Yesterday, he said Kenya Airways had no plans to ground the other two Boeing 737-800s in its fleet.
"We have checked the history of the aircraft with the manufacturer ... We don't believe at this particular moment that there is anything that would force us to stop operating the other two," Naikuni said.
Naikuni had said the plane took off an hour late because of rain. Douala airport officials confirmed thunderstorms at the time but said that was unlikely to have been the sole cause of the accident.
The Boeing 737-800 was carrying 114 people, Kenyan airline officials said.