Bodies and debris have been found in the water after a Myanmar military plane vanished over the Andaman Sea with 122 soldiers, family members and crew on board.
Rescuers pulled 29 bodies of adults and eight children found by a navy ship 35km from the southern coastal town of Launglon.
A plane wheel that was believed to be from the plane, two life jackets and some bags with clothes was also found. Many bodies had fragmented into pieces and no victim wearing a life jacket has yet been recovered, Reuters reports.
The Chinese-made Y-8-200F military transport plane had been flying from southern Myanmar to Yangon when contact was lost on Wednesday afternoon. There were fears it may have crashed into the ocean, since its route would have taken it over the Andaman Sea.
General Myat Min Oo earlier said the aircraft was carrying 122 passengers, 108 of these made up of soldiers and family members and 14 crew members when it went missing. It is not unusual for such flights to carry civilians to offset transportation costs for military families stationed in the somewhat remote south.
“The military plane went missing and lost contact after it took off from Myeik, and now the military has started a sea and air search with naval ships and military aircraft and is preparing for rescue operations,” he said.
The commander’s office initially said six navy ships and three military aircraft were searching for the plane late on Wednesday. By Thursday morning, it had deployed nine naval ships, five army aircraft and three helicopters, assisted by civilian boats.
Some patches of oil were spotted some 16 nautical miles (18 miles) from Dawel. The cause of the incident has yet to be confirmed. The military said the plane was operated by ‘seasoned pilot’ Lieutenant Colonel Nyein Chan with 3,162 flying hours, two co-pilots and a flight engineer.
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-additional reporting by Reuters