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26 May 2024

Plane with 46 passengers on board missing in Venezuela

By Agencies

A commercial airliner with 46 people on board was reported missing on Thursday over the mountains of western Venezuela, officials said.

The twin-engine plane owned by Venezuelan airline Santa Barbara failed to contact control towers in two cities as expected after it took off from Merida en route to Simon Bolivar International Airport outside of Caracas, said General Antonio Rivero, Venezuela's emergency management director.

Rivero said authorities in Merida state "have information regarding the possible discovery of the plane" in a mountainous region of Merida, which borders neighboring Colombia. But he said officials have no information on what condition the plane could be in.

The French-made ATR 42-300 carrying 43 passengers and three crew members took off from Merida's airport at 4.59pm local time (9.29pm GMT) and was declared missing 30 minutes later, officials said. The duration of the flight was to have been an hour and 45 minutes.

Noel Marquez, director of Venezuela's emergency management agency in Merida, said rescue teams were on their way to the mountains, which reach almost 5,000 metres above sea level.

"We are going to wait for the teams to reach the area to confirm if the plane is effectively in the zone and in what conditions it was found," Marquez said.

The area where it disappeared lies about 650 kilometres south west of Caracas.

Santa Barbara is a small Venezuelan airline that covers domestic routes. (AP)