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Wreckage of plane found in Papua New Guinea

THE wreckage of a chartered plane that crashed while carrying 13 people to a tourist region of Papua New Guinea was sighted today by a rescue helicopter, an official said.

Papua New Guinea Civil Aviation Authority head Joseph Kintau said the plane was located in "extremely difficult" terrain in a heavily forested region of the mountains and it was not clear whether there were survivors.

The plane, carrying 11 passengers and two crew, vanished yesterday morning in bad weather on approach to an airport nestled in the rugged Kokoda region. Nine Australians, one Japanese and three Papua New Guineans were on board.

A radio signal had been received and search and rescue officials were attempting to access the site Wednesday, Kintau told The AP. He said he had no other details.

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said the wreckage was located at an altitude of 5,500 feet (1,676 meters) and weather conditions were deteriorating again, making searchers' attempts to reach the aircraft by helicopter and on foot very difficult.

"Given the crash site has been located, we have very, very grave concerns about the safety and welfare of the nine Australians, the three Papua New Guineans and the one Japanese citizen on board the plane," Smith told parliament.

Earlier, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called the missing plane "every family's worst nightmare" and said Australia would deploy "all possible assets" to help find the aircraft.

The twin-engine plane left the capital of Port Moresby en route to an airport near the country's Kokoda Track, a mountainous 60-mile (100-kilometer) trail. The plane's crew radioed air traffic controllers as it was approaching the airstrip, but the aircraft never landed, said Allen Tyson, a spokesman for Airlines PNG.

On board the plane were eight Australian tourists and an Australian tour guide planning to walk the trail as part of a trek organized by the adventure tour company No Roads Expeditions, the company said in a statement. Another guide from Papua New Guinea was also on board, the company said.


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