Rescuers climb Philippines volcano to reach plane crash site



Philippine rescue teams began climbing an active volcano Tuesday in a “very risky operation” to reach the wreckage of a small plane that crashed at the weekend, officials said.

Four people, including two Australians, were on board the Cessna 340 aircraft when it went missing Saturday morning after taking off for Manila from Bicol International Airport in the central province of Albay, several kilometres from Mayon volcano.

Civil aviation investigators on board a recon-naissance flight on Tuesday confirmed that wreckage spotted on the volcano over the weekend was the missing plane.

It is not known if there are any survivors. Ma-nila-based Energy Development Corporation said previously the missing plane belonged to the com-pany. The Australians were technical consultants for the renewable energy company.

Rain, clouds and the risk of an eruption have hampered efforts to reach the crash site.

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said the plane was on the western side of the volcano, about “3,500 to 4,000 feet” (1,070 me-tres to 1,200 metres) above sea level.

A high-resolution camera was used to identify the wreckage, said CAAP spokesman Eric Apolonio.

Attempts to lower rescue teams to the crash site by helicopter were aborted Tuesday due to strong winds and cloud cover, officials said. Instead, search and rescue teams, including vet-eran mountaineers, began making the steep climb on foot. They were expected to camp overnight and reach the crash site Wednesday, said Carlos Baldo, mayor of Camalig municipality, which overlaps the crash site.—AFP