Maputo (Mozambique): A Mozambican Airlines plane that went missing with 34 people on board likely crashed over inhospitable bush in northeastern Namibia, police said early Saturday as they searched for the jet.
Namibian police sent rescuers to the Bwabwata National Park after authorities in neighbouring Botswana informed them of what appeared to be a crash in the area, Willie Bampton, a regional police coordinator in the Kavango region involved in the search, told a news agency.
"Botswana officials informed us that they saw smoke in the air and they thought the crash happened in their country, but when they came to the border they realised that it was in Namibia," he said.
Villagers in the area told police they heard explosions, he said.
He said the LAM carrier plane, carrying 28 passengers and six crew members, did not land in the Rundu region in northern Namibia, as was initially reported.
The search for the plane, which went missing en route from Mozambique to Angola, promised to be difficult because of the harsh terrain, made all the more inaccessible by recent heavy rains, he said.
"There are no proper roads, you have to go through the bush, slowly and its making our job difficult,"
Flight TM470 took off from Maputo at 09H26 GMT and had been due to land in the Angolan capital Luanda at 13H10 GMT, but never arrived.
Last contact with the place came around 1130 GMT when it was over north Namibia.
Company spokesman Norberto Mucopa on Friday could not specify the nationalities of the people on board the Brazilian-made Embraer 190 or if they included government officials.
The Bwabwata National Park lies in northeastern Namibia, where the country turns into a narrow strip of land sandwiched between Botswana and Angola.
The 6,100-square-kilometre (2,355 square mile) reserve is a sparsely-populated area covered by wetlands and dense forests.
The European Union banned the Mozambican airline, known by the acronym LAM, from flying in its airspace in 2011.
"Significant safety deficiencies" led to the blacklisting of all air carriers certified in Mozambique, the EU said at the time.
The concern was about Mozambique`s civil aviation authority, rather than the track record of the various airlines.