KAMPOT, Cambodia – A passenger plane that disappeared in southern Cambodia likely crashed during a storm, and there is little hope of finding survivors among the 22 people who were on board, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Tuesday.
He said he asked for the United States to use its high-tech surveillance satellites to help search for the downed plane, believed to have crashed in a mountainous jungle area.
Some 1,000 soldiers and police were combing rough terrain in Kampot province for the PMT Air plane, a Russian-made An-24 that was flying between two of the country's most popular tourist destinations when it disappeared Monday.
Hun Sen said the plane was flying in a heavy rainstorm and that there was a "high probability it may have crashed into a mountain as it was descending to land" in Sihanoukville, the plane's scheduled destination.
He said he asked U.S. Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli on Monday for the U.S. government "to redirect its satellites to help search" for the plane.
Jeff Daigle, the U.S. Embassy spokesman, said the United States is acting on the Cambodian government's request for "satellite imagery to assist in the search for the missing plane."
"But current weather conditions in the search area are hampering our efforts," Daigle said in an e-mail.
An official at Siem Reap airport said 13 of the passengers were from South Korea — a figure confirmed by officials in Seoul — and three were Czech. The official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the press, said the plane carried a crew of five Cambodians and a Russian co-pilot.
On Tuesday, Khov Khun Huor, Kampot province's deputy governor, said the rescuers have split into two groups in looking for the aircraft. One group was searching near Kamchay Mountain, while a second team focused on the area between Kampot and Sihanoukville, where an explosion was also reportedly heard Monday.