Rescuers step up search for crashed Afghan plane

RESCUERS today stepped up the search for a plane carrying 43 people, including three Britons and an American, which crashed in the mountains of northern Afghanistan, an official said.

Over 24 hours after the plane lost radio contact over the treacherous Hindu Kush mountains, the prospect of finding survivors appeared difficult as anguished relatives massed at the foot of the mountain-pass near Salang.

The Pamir Airways plane was en route from the northern province of Kunduz to Kabul when it came down on Monday over the mountains during poor weather, although government officials say it is too early to rule on the cause of the crash.”The search operation continues from the air and on the ground,” defence ministry spokesman, General Mohammad Zahir Azimi said.

“We have not found the site of the crash yet,” he said.  Dozens of Afghan police and local residents on Monday began climbing the snow-capped mountains where the plane was believed to have crashed, Abdul Rehman Sayeedkhaili, police chief of Parwan province, said.

Snow, cold weather and the harsh terrain made the search operation difficult, he said, with nightfall forcing a halt to their efforts.

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