The scene of the Air Crash and some reaction

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (Reuters) - A Kenyan airliner crashed offIvory Coast Sunday night (January 30, 2000) scattering corpses andwreckage in the sea, but rescuers and Kenya Airways said early onMonday that at least eight people survived. The Airbus 310, flightKQ431, was carrying 179 passengers and crew.The crash was KenyaAirways first and the first major airliner crash of the year. ``Itbroke up on impact. It broke into 100 pieces,'' medical worker AlainThonar, who is attached to a private emergency service that workswith the airport, told Reuters early on Monday, January 31.

"It's sad all those bodies floating everywhere,'' Gerard Frere,the owner of a fishing boat that took part in the rescue, said. KenyaAirways said that 169 passengers and 10 crew were on board. It toospoke of at least eight survivors. ``We are also getting reports ofbodies washing up on the shore,'' Technical Director Steve Clark tolda Nairobi news conference. Thonar traveled by helicopter to the crashsite, about 3,000 meters from the shore. ``We were seeing bodiesfloating,'' he said. The sea was calm but there was no moon. Somewitnesses reported hearing bangs as the plane went down. ``There werethree loud explosions,'' Thonar said, quoting witnesses from thebeach. Other witnesses spoke of seeing lights at the surface beforethe plane sank. ``There is wreckage and corpses scattered over a widearea,'' one source in contact with the rescue boats told Reuters. Tworescue helicopters with searchlights criss-crossed the scene.Rescuers quoted one survivor, a Nigerian, as saying that the planehad gone done three minutes after takeoff. Thonar said that the planesent the control tower a radio message, saying that it was going downone minute after takeoff.

Rescue boats brought in at least seven survivors, at least one ofthem badly injured, and six corpses. ``They're due to go out again,''the source in contact with the rescuers said. An ambulanceman saidone survivor swam ashore. Rescue sources said kerosene on the corpsesand the lack of a moon compounded the problems of trying to pull inbodies. ''We're having trouble pulling them in, it's awful.'' onerescuer said from the scene. The nationality of the dead and all butone of the survivors was not immediately clear. An Abidjan airportofficial said most of the passengers were Nigerians. ``The identityof those on board is one of the most difficult and sensitive matterswe face after an incident like this,'' a senior official in Abidjanfor the Dutch carrier KLM, which owns 26 percent of Kenya Airways,told Reuters, reading from a statement. ``The search is still goingon.'' Rescuers searched for more than three hours after the crash,before they found the first sign of wreckage.

Hundreds of onlookers gathered on the beach. Several said thatthey had seen the plane come down. Some said that they had swum outthe wreckage, but that looked less likely, given the distance of thewreckage from the shore. ``I heard the sound of takeoff and then thenoise of the plane hitting the water,'' Andre Desson, a residentliving nearby said. At Lagos airport, KLM officials said that theflight, which began from Kenya's capital Nairobi, had been due toland there before Abidjan but had overflown Nigeria because of theharmattan, a dusty seasonal wind from the deserts of northAfrica.

Several dozen would-be passengers for the flight waited at Lagosinternational airport. ``This is terrible. I only thank God that thishappened before I went on board,'' Nigerian trader Ndubuisi Akujurubotold Reuters there. Kenya Airways said Friday that it planned toinvest over $750 million in the next five years, in part, tomodernize its fleet. In a statement, it said that it would graduallyreplace its Airbus 310s with new Boeing B767-300 jets. By AlistairThomson

SPECIAL REPORT:Following the Crashfrom 9.08pm, January 30, 2000

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