Search on for 3 missing in Antarctica

2013-01-24 09:00
(File, AFP)

(File, AFP)

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Wellington - A search is under way in Antarctica for a plane carrying three Canadian crew that went missing in bad weather on a flight from the South Pole, New Zealand rescue authorities say.

The Twin Otter aircraft was on its way to the Italian Antarctic base at Terra Nova Bay when its emergency beacon was activated at about 22:00 on Wednesday, the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) said.

It said the beacon was transmitting from the Queen Alexandra Range, which lies in New Zealand's rescue zone, and RCCNZ was coordinating the search with co-operation from US authorities at the McMurdo Antarctic station.

"Weather conditions are extremely challenging," said search and rescue mission coordinator John Ashby.

"There are winds of 90 knots at the site, and conditions are forecast to worsen with snow becoming heavier."

The US National Science Foundation (NSF) said the plane belonged to Kenn Borek Air, a Canadian firm based in Calgary that charters aircraft to the US Antarctic programme.

It said the plane was flying a logistical support mission from the NSF's Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station to Terra Nova when it went missing.

Rescue mission

The RCCNZ said a US Hercules had flown over the area where the plane was believed to be but failed to find any sign of it.

A second Twin Otter was scheduled to set out from McMurdo on Thursday morning, working with a helicopter from New Zealand's Scott Base, which would set up a camp and try to reach the area when weather conditions eased.

RCCNZ spokesman Steve Rendle said there were hopes that the three men, whose names have not been released, were still alive.

"If the beacon is operating, which it is, that's a good sign as a heavy landing can tend to prevent the beacon working, so that's a positive sign at this stage," he told Radio New Zealand.

The plane was equipped with survival equipment, including mountain tents, and supplies sufficient for five days, RCCNZ added.

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