5 May 2007
A Boeing 737-800 passenger airline with 114 people on board belonging to the Kenya Airways has reportedly crashed in an area about 100kms South West of Cameroon’s capital Yaounde (possibly in South Province). The aircraft disappeared from radar shortly after take off en route to Nairobi (Kenya) from Douala (Cameroon). The KQ 507 fight that originated from Abidjan (Cote d’Ivoire) stopped at Douala International airport to pick more passengers.
It took off from Douala at 00:05 local time Saturday (01:05 GMT) and contact with the craft was lost shortly afterwards. Preliminary reports (attributed to Radio Cameroon) are indicating that the area of the crash is roughly about 150-200 kilometers from the departure point in Douala. It is suspected that bad weather might have played a role in the demise of the aircraft. Meteorologists report that there were thunderstorms around the area at the time of the flight.
Kenya Airways makes daily flights out of Cameroon using Nairobi as a hob for Passengers heading to Southern Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe. It has been one of Africa’s reliable Airlines. The Cameroon route has become one the airline’s lucrative routes as a result of the vacuum created by the collapse of Cameroon Airlines.
Worried Cameroonians and others with relatives on board were making frantic calls to the Crisis Management Center set up by the Kenya Airways. It was reported that there were at least 35Cameroonians on board in addition to nationals from 24 other nations including, Britain 5, Kenya 9, China 6, India 15, South Africa 7, Nigeria 6 Niger Rep. 3, DRC, CAR and Equatorial Guinea 2 each. One passenger each came from Ghana, Sweden, Togo, Mali, Switzerland, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Congo Brazaville, Tanzania, Comoros and the US.
By Midday Cameroon time (more than 12 hours after the disappearance of the aircraft), no word had been received about the fate of those on board the fateful flight. The Associated Press has reported that one of its journalists, Nairobi based Anthony Mitchell was on board. Authorities of Kenya Airways were still pleading with the press to be patient, saying they were waiting for details from the Cameroon Aviation authorities. Titus Naikuni, Kenya Airways CEO said; “we have no details on the where about of the plane.” At least two helicopters were combing the suspected crash area in search of the wreckage of the missing plane.
There were emotional scenes at Douala International airport as women whose relatives were on board were wailing hysterically. Their plight was made worse by the fact that news about the fate of the passengers was hard to come by. At least three executives of Cameroon’s leading mobile telephone company (MTN) were reported to be on board.
The area of the presumed crash is located in the equatorial rain forest zone of Cameroon and it certainly will be difficult to easily attain the crash site in time to rescue survivors if any. It was reported that bad weather was hampering the search efforts.
Cameroon’s Aviation Authority has her own technical problems. Recently she had to turn to neighboring Congo to help in searching a small craft that was reported to be missing in Cameroon’s airspace after taking off from Nigeria.
According to Kenya Airways, the plane that has crashed is a relatively new aircraft (six months old) and was piloted by competent personnel.
Njei Moses Timah