Searchers who hiked the slopes of a Philippine volcano to find the wreckage of a plane that crashed over the weekend confirmed that the two Australian energy consultants and two Philippine crew members on board did not survive, the mayor of a local town said on Wednesday.
More than a dozen army troops and firefighters were dropped off from an air force helicopter in the morning before hiking to the crash site on a gully on Mayon volcano’s slope, civil aviation officials said.
The Cessna 340 went missing after taking off on Saturday.
“There were no survivors,” Camalig Mayor Carlos Baldo told reporters in a cellphone message when asked about the fate of the four people onboard the plane.
The remains of the people from the plane were to be brought down the volcano yesterday, he said.
The two Australians were working as consultants for Energy Development Corp, a large geothermal power company, which owned the plane that was flown by a Philippine pilot with a crew member.
The company deployed teams backed by helicopters and drones to help in the search, which was hampered by heavy rains, gusty wind and thick clouds.
Australian Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles, who was in Manila on Wednesday for talks with Philippine officials, expressed his condolences to the families of the people on board before the deaths were confirmed by Baldo later in the day.
The mayor oversaw the search for the Cessna aircraft by nearly 200 army troops, firefighters and volunteers, including veteran mountaineers.
“Can I just express my condolences to both Australian and Filipino families of those who died in the very tragic plane accident?” Marles asked Philippine Secretary of Defense Carlito Galvez Jr at a news conference in Manila.
He thanked all those who helped in the search, including two soldiers who were shot and killed by suspected communist guerrillas on Monday while buying supplies in a market in Camalig, military officials said.
“It is a moment where the really personal nature of the relationship between our two countries is very manifest and felt very profoundly,” said Marles, who also serves as Australian minister for defense.
Contact with the plane was lost a few minutes after it took off from Albay’s international airport for the one hour flight to the capital, Manila.
The wreckage was spotted in an aerial search on Sunday on the slope of the 2,462m volcano, but an air force helicopter only managed to ferry the search team near the crash site on Wednesday morning after the weather improved, officials said.
Only the tail section of the plane remained intact, with the rest of the wreckage scattered on the barren upper slopes of the volcano, said Eric Apolonio, spokesman of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.
Villagers are normally prohibited from entering a permanent danger zone 6km around the volcano, which last erupted in 2018, displacing tens of thousands of people.
However, the nation’s volcano-monitoring agency allowed the high-risk search-and-rescue effort on Mayon, one of the country’s 24 most active volcanoes, with a warning for the team members to be alert for sudden emissions of volcanic ash and gas or sudden mudflows if rain fell on the slopes.
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