A passenger plane that disappeared in Cambodia likely crashed during a storm according to prime minister Hun Sen.
He expressed little hope for survivors among the 22 people aboard.
Some 1,000 soldiers and police were combing jungles in southern Cambodia for the PMT Air plane, a Russian-made An-24 that was flying between two of the country’s most popular tourist destinations when it disappeared yesterday.
Hun Sen said the plane was flying in a heavy rainstorm and that there was a “high probability it may have crashed into a mountain as it was descending to land” in Sihanoukville, the plane’s scheduled destination.
Hun Sen said he asked US Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli for the US government “to redirect its satellites to help search” for the plane.
Hun Sen visited Kampot town, about 80 miles south-west of the capital, Phnom Penh, today to discuss rescue efforts with provincial and military officials.
“Although we have very little hope for any survivors, we must continue searching ... to retrieve bodies,” Hun Sen said, offering his condolences to the families of the victims.
The plane disappeared in a mountainous jungle area in Kampot province yesterday morning. It had been flying from Siem Reap – Cambodia’s main tourist hub where the famous Angkor Wat temple complex is located – to Sihanoukville on the coast.
Him Sarun, head of the Secretariat of Civil Aviation, said the aircraft was thought to have crashed between Kamchay and the Bokor mountains in Kampot province.
An official at Siem Reap airport said 13 of the passengers were from South Korea – a figure confirmed by officials in Seoul – and three were Czech. The official said the plane carried a crew of five Cambodians and a Russian co-pilot.
Heavy rains have made the mountainous, jungle terrain slippery and treacherous, and some trails are so water-logged that the search teams have had to abandon their vehicles and continue to search on foot.
Fog and rain also prevented helicopters from helping in the search.
Him Sarun, head of the Secretariat of Civil Aviation, said it was unlikely any survivors would be found.
PMT Air is a small Cambodia airline that began flying from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville in January.