Search party finds military plane wreckage, bodies in Andaman Sea

By HLA HLA HTAY & ATHENS ZAW ZAW | AFP

YANGON — Myanmar’s military said Thursday it has found the wreckage of a plane in the Andaman Sea that went missing with around 120 people on board, along with several bodies.

A navy search ship scouring the waves found the bodies of a man, woman and child, as well as pieces of luggage, safety jackets and a tyre presumed to be from the aircraft’s wheel.

“We have found the plane and some dead bodies this morning about 8:25am,” a spokesman from the military’s information team told AFP.

The commander in chief’s office confirmed wreckage had been found off the coast of Launglon on Thursday morning.

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Nine navy ships and three air force planes had been dispatched in a desperate search for the aircraft, which disappeared on Wednesday afternoon as it flew from Myeik to Yangon.

There was conflicting information on the number of people on board, but in the latest update the military said the plane was carrying a total of 122 people.

More than half of the passengers were from military families, including 15 children, along with 35 soldiers and 14 crew members, the army chief’s office said in a statement.

Some were travelling for medical check-ups or to attend school in Yangon.

Search and rescue efforts continued Thursday morning as relatives of the passengers braced for the worst.

Wai Lin Aung said his mother had been on the plane after visiting his sister, who is married to a soldier based in Myeik.

“The whole family is very sad and we are waiting for news,” he told AFP.

It is monsoon season in Myanmar but there were no reports of stormy weather in the area at the time.

The commander-in-chief’s office said the plane lost contact with air traffic control at 1:35pm on Wednesday, about half an hour after takeoff.

The military named the captain of the Shaanxi Y8 four-engine turboprop as Lieutenant Colonel Nyein Chan, who it said had more than 3,000 hours of flying experience.

The plane was bought in March 2016 and had a total of 809 flying hours.

The debris was found in the Andaman Sea, north of the last known location of Malaysia Airlines flight 370.

The plane went missing in March 2014 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board, but no wreckage has ever been found.

Myanmar’s military fleet has a chequered recent history of plane crashes.

A five-strong crew died when an air force plane burst into flames soon after taking off from Nay Pyi Taw in February last year.

Three army officers were also killed in June when their Mi-2 helicopter crashed into a hillside and burst into flames in south-central Bago.

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