SALONIKA, Greece (Reuters and AP) – Greek rescue teams clawed through rugged mountains covered with snow and low clouds on Thursday searching in frightful conditions for a missing Ukrainian airliner with at least 70 people aboard. Officials said there was growing concern that the plane would not be found before nightfall because of the foul weather.
‘Weather conditions in the area are adverse with a cloud cover as low as 800 feet hiding mountain tops and snow in the area with visibility about 100-150 metres,’ Athanasios Tzoganis, Greece’s defense chief of staff, told reporters. ‘This is why we haven’t had any results yet,’ he said. The Russian-built Yakovlev 42 plane, flown by Ukraine’s Aerosweet Airlines, disappeared from radar screens late on Wednesday evening as it prepared to land in Salonika airport after a flight from Kyiv via Odessa. Authorities said they were now focusing their search on a mountainous region some 50 km (30 miles) southwest of Salonika, north of the celebrated Mount Olympus of ancient Greek legend.
More than 1,000 military personnel were involved in the search, aided by locals including farmers on tractors. Villagers in one remote area fired rifles in the air hoping to attract attention from possible survivors. The airline said the plane was carrying 62 passengers, including 40 Greeks, and eight crew when it disappeared. There were two infants and four children among the passengers, it said.