Philippine plane crash searched for victims, clues

Philippine investigators Sunday combed through the smouldering wreckage of a Manila slum, hunting for more victims of a light plane crash as well as clues over the accident that left at least 13 dead. The cargo plane plunged into the shanty town on Saturday, exploding on impact and causing a fire that gutted a 2,000-square-metre (half-acre) section of the slum that stands on either side of an open sewer. The pilot, co-pilot, and a third person on board were killed, and the other fatalities were residents who died in the inferno that destroyed dozens of simple dwellings. Five other people were reported missing, according to residents, while at least 20 were injured. Emergency crews said they were carefully sifting through the rubble in hopes of finding bodies beneath. "DNA testing will be done today on those who had been recovered to identify them. They were burnt beyond recognition," Philippine National Red Cross secretary general Gwendolyn Pang told AFP. Pang said that the injured had serious burns and were being treated at a hospital, including seven children who had been playing near the site where the plane crashed. Among those in critical condition was 11-year-old Rodelyn Molino, who doctors said had sustained serious burns across half of her body. "She was at a safe area when she saw a friend asking for help. She braved the crash site, but unfortunately couldn't save her, and she herself was injured," Pang said. About 200 families made homeless by the blaze were transferred to a basketball court which was converted into an evacuation site, and will likely spend Christmas, social workers said. Yellow tape cordoned off the crash site, the once tightly packed area now reduced to heaps of smashed cinder blocks and twisted sheets of corrugated metal roofing. Traumatised residents sat at a distance, watching in silence as emergency crews worked through the debris. Florencio Bernabe, the mayor of Paranaque district where the accident occurred, said that at least 50 shanty dwellings burned down and called for compensation for the families of the victims. "We've already found out the owner of the aircraft, and they need to be accountable," Bernabe told reporters. The four-seater plane had just taken off Manila's domestic airport Saturday when it radioed the control tower for permission to return and land, but instead crashed into the slum. It was to have picked up cargo from the nearby island of Mindoro and was believed to be carrying a full tank of fuel when it went down. The blaze also engulfed a nearby elementary school, but it was empty at the time of the weekend crash -- avoiding what would have been much bigger casualties. Civil accident investigation chief Amado Soliman said the plane's engine had been recovered, along with other material that could yield clues as to what caused it to crash. He said experts would also examine the last conversation between the cockpit and the control tower to determine what transpired moments before the crash. The accident has trained the spotlight on the country's problems in dealing with unfettered urban development and the lack of enforcement of zoning laws. More than 2.5 million people - or about a quarter of Manila's population -- now live in slums, many of which have sprung up near open canals, sewers and just across the fence from the capital's main airport. Deadly fires are common with many of the shanty towns constructed of light materials that easily catch fire. by Jason Gutierrez (c) 2011 AFP

Source: AFP
Date: Dec 11, 2011