By CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA, Associated Press
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A Mozambique Airlines plane carrying 33 people crashed in a remote border area in Namibia, killing all on board, officials said Saturday.
The plane crashed in a Namibian national park near the border with Angola and there were no survivors, Namibian police and Mozambican authorities said. An investigation of the cause was underway, and teams of experts headed to the scene.
The Brazilian-made Embraer 190 aircraft was carrying 27 passengers, including 10 Mozambicans, nine Angolans, five Portuguese, and one citizen each from France, Brazil and China, said the airline. Six crew members, including two pilots, three flight attendants and a maintenance technician, were on board.
Mozambique's transport minister, Gabriel Muthisse, confirmed the deaths of the 33 people on the plane.
Flight TM470 from Maputo, the Mozambican capital, did not land as scheduled in Luanda, the Angolan capital, on Friday afternoon, and the airline initially said the plane might have landed in Rundu, in northern Namibia. It said it coordinated with aviation authorities in Namibia, Botswana and Angola to locate the missing plane, and that it was setting up support centers for families of the victims at the airports in Maputo and Luanda.
A Namibian police helicopter joined officers on the ground in the search, the Namibia Press Agency reported. The area is vast and there are no roads, making it difficult to locate the plane, said police official Willy Bampton, according to the agency.
The search was conducted in the Bwabwata National Park in northeastern Namibia. Several thousand people as well as elephants, buffalo and other wildlife live in the park, which covers 6,100 square kilometers (2,360 square miles).
In a statement, Embraer said the plane that crashed was delivered to Mozambique Airlines in November 2012 and said it would assist investigators trying to determine the cause of the crash.
"To that end, a team of Embraer technicians is preparing to go to the scene of the accident," the company said.
Mozambique Airlines said the aircraft had General Electric engines, and had flown 2905 hours since being acquired a year ago.
Airlines from Mozambique are among carriers banned in the European Union because of safety concerns.
Tony Tyler, director general and CEO of the International Air Transport Association, said earlier this week that none of the 25 African members of the association, which include Mozambique Airlines, had an accident in 2012.
"But the overall safety record for Africa remains a problem that we must fix," Tyler said at a meeting of the African Airlines Association in Kenya. He said African aviation comprises about 3 percent of global airline traffic, and last year it accounted for nearly half of the fatalities on Western-built jets.
Mozambique Airlines also uses U.S.-made Boeing and Canadian-made Bombardier aircraft.
CEO Marlene Mendes Manave said in a statement on the airline's website, posted prior to the crash, that the airline grew 8 percent in the first half of this year, compared to the same period in 2012.