13 February 2000

Kenya: KQ body search to be halted

Nairobi — Salvage efforts in the Kenya Airways flight KQ431 tragedy may halt due to the risk faced by the divers, Transport Minister Musalia Mudavadi said yesterday. The effort is riven with fears that the bodies are either decomposed or washed away by strong currents in the Atlantic Ocean.

Speaking on arrival from Cote d'Ivoire, the Minister said it was becoming increasingly difficult to retrieve the bodies and the fuselage as they were sinking deeper.

He flew back aboard the plane carrying five more bodies retrieved from the crash - Umazala and Nzambazamariya destined for Rwanda, Mrs Omona Modesta for Uganda, Kambale Kowa for Congo and Wagh Ravidra for India.

One more body was retrieved yesterday, bringing to 108 those recovered from the January 30 accident. Still, 61 bodies are unaccounted for. The body of Kenya Navy diver John Karisa, who died while scouring the sea for bodies last week, was recovered on Thursday.

Kenya airways says 92 bodies have been positively identified and 76 have been repatriated.

Of the 20 Kenyans aboard the ill-fated Airbus airliner, 13 have been recovered, 11 repatriated and seven are still missing.

Out of the 12 Kenya Airways staff killed, seven bodies have been recovered, two are still unidentified, five have been repatriated and five are still missing.

The Minister said it was becoming very difficult to sustain salvage efforts in depths of up to 180 metres under the sea.

He said Kenya Airways managing director Richard Nyaga was in Abidjan having consultations with Ivorian authorities this weekend to determine when the salvage efforts would end. Unidentified bodies will be buried at public cemeteries in Cote d'Ivoire.

For family members who still wish to pursue the bodies of their kin, the Ivorian government will open a file for 30 years for those who require forensic determination.

A memorial service to be led by Mr. Nyaga will be held today at the crash site. Flowers will be sprinkled in the ocean as a sign of love for the departed.

The black box will be dispatched to Canada next week for decoding. He said the signals of the Cockpit Voice Recorder had been detected but not yet retrieved.

Mr. Mudavadi was accompanied by the head of the disaster counselling team, Dr S. Mulindi, and Nairobi's Deputy Mayor Joe Aketch.

Office of the President Minister Marsden Madoka, in Nigeria to convey President Moi's condolences, returns tomorrow. Meanwhile, Kenya Airways has announced plans to lease a KLM Boeing 767-300 ER with crew to operate its daily scheduled services between Nairobi and Amsterdam.

The lease compensates for the reduced capacity caused by the loss of the Airbus.

KA and KLM operate two daily joint-venture KQ/KL code-sharing flights between Nairobi and Amsterdam. The partners operate in turns the two daily round-trip flights.

The flight will now be operated, on a temporary basis, only with the leased KLM Boeing. KLM has already operated its daily Amsterdam-Nairobi round-trip flight with Boeing 767.

The flight numbers, arrival and departure times remain unaltered.

Crew facilities and flight handling at Nairobi have been arranged and information updated.

KLM will replace its lost capacity following the lease by adjusting their maintenance and flight schedules.

The move, officials said, was in line with the boards approved plan for fleet renewal and capacity expansion into B767-300 equipment.

As soon as Kenya Airways completes training its crew on the new equipment, the KLM Boeing lease will stop.

The B767-300 will be repainted in Kenya Airways colours by April.

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