Thai divers, workers join search at Lao Airlines crash site

Thai divers, workers join search at Lao Airlines crash site

Fourteen bodies found so far but many believed to be trapped in the wreckage

Thailand yesterday dispatched divers and rescue workers to help Laotian authorities retrieve the bodies of 49 people killed in Wednesday's plane crash near Laos' southern city of Pakse.

The Royal Thai Navy sent a 14-strong team, including nine divers, to help with retrieving the bodies and recovering the plane's wreckage from the Mekong River, according to Navy spokesman Rear Admiral Karn Dee-ubon.

Six rescue foundations from four northeastern provinces - Ubon Ratchathani, Surin, Si Sa Ket and Nakhon Ratchasima - have also sent some 100 rescue workers and equipment, such as ambulances and trucks equipped with spotlights, according to Suttinan Boonmee, caretaker governor of Ubon Ratchathani, which borders Laos.

He said Laotian authorities had sought Thai assistance with an underwater search operation. Laotian authorities yesterday allowed a 65-member rescue team, including divers from Thailand, to help in the search for bodies.

"So far we have found 14 bodies, but we haven't identified them yet," Suttinan told Radio Thailand. Some bodies were found as far as 20 kilometres from the crash site.

Most of the remaining bodies were believed to be trapped inside the aircraft, which divers were having trouble entering because of the turbulent waters and strong currents in the Mekong River, he said.

Public health authorities in Ubon Ratchathani also gave the Laotian authorities 50 coffins and 50 plastic body cases for the crash victims, according to Prasop Sansamak, deputy public health chief of the northeastern province.

Thai police have dispatched a team of officials from the Forensic Science Office to help with identification of the crash victims, Royal Thai Police spokesman Maj-General Piya Uthayo said. The team included three officers of the rank of general who would help with DNA testing and fingerprint examination.

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