Iranian rescue teams were forced to suspend their hunt for a missing passenger plane for a second night yesterday as severe weather and hazardous mountain conditions thwarted search efforts.
Aseman Airlines flight EP3704 disappeared on Sunday morning in the Zagros mountains with 66 people on board.
Officials said 60 helicopter sorties had flown yesterday to no avail. “The exact spot of the plane crash was not found, and given the darkness, heavy snowfall and fog in some regions, the aerial search operation was stopped and will be resumed tomorrow,” Esmaeil Najjar, head of Iran’s Crisis Management Organisation, told the ISNA news agency.
More than 120 mountaineers are deployed, he said, and “will stay in safe places in the mountainous area before resuming search operations tomorrow”.
The search has been focused on the 14,465-foot Dena mountain, which is popular with Iranians training for climbs in the Himalayas.
The ATR-72 twin-engine plane, in service since 1993, flew early Sunday from Mehrabad airport towards the city of Yasuj, some 500 kilometres to the south.
The plane’s emergency locator transmitter was reportedly not functioning, helping to explain the difficulty in finding the wreckage.
Families of the passengers had travelled to the area and were giving DNA sample kits for later identification of victims, the IRNA news agency reported. A team of crash investigators from French air safety agency BEA was set to arrive in Iran later. Both Russia and France have provided satellite images but nothing has yet been found in them, the Civil Aviation Organisation told IRIB.
An ATR-72 crashed in similar icy conditions in Indiana in the United States in 1994, leading some operators to avoid cold weather conditions.
“It is a very safe aircraft but...operators decided not to use it in cold mountain areas in the US,” said Iranian aviation expert Babak Taghvaee.
“Even newer versions of this aircraft are not good for such cold places and it would be better not to use it for this route and especially with such bad weather and visibility,” he said.
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