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Philippine interior minister missing after plane crash

Other News Materials 18 August 2012 20:16 (UTC +04:00)
The search for the Philippines' interior minister and two pilots, missing after their plane crashed at sea while attempting to make an emergency landing in the Philippines, was set to continue overnight, officials said Saturday.
Philippine interior minister missing after plane crash

The search for the Philippines' interior minister and two pilots, missing after their plane crashed at sea while attempting to make an emergency landing in the Philippines, was set to continue overnight, officials said Saturday.

An aide of Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo was rescued after the crash off Masbate City, 390 kilometres south-east of Manila, at 4:20 pm (0820 GMT), said Colonel Generoso Bolina, a local military spokesman, dpa reported.

Search and rescue operations were immediately launched but were hampered by nightfall and strong water currents.

But coast guard divers, fishermen and Red Cross volunteers vowed to search overnight for Robredo, 54, a key ally of President Benigno Aquino III.

"We are not stopping search and rescue operations overnight," said coast guard spokesman Lieutenant Commander Algier Ricafrente.

The Piper Seneca twin-engine plane crashed in the sea about 500 metres from the airport of Masbate City, according to a police report.

"The plane's body apparently broke into pieces and we haven't found the secretary or the pilots," said Masbate deputy mayor Allan Cos. "The rescuers are doing their best but it's very dark in the area now."

Robredo, who was accompanied by his aide Jhun Abrasado, was on his way to nearby Naga City for the weekend when the plane encountered engine trouble, Bolina said.

"The plane requested an emergency landing but they didn't make it," he said.

Aquino and other cabinet officials were scheduled to travel to Masbate City on Sunday, said Lieutenant Colonel Julian Pacatan, an army commander said.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda urged Filipinos to join a vigil for Robredo's safety at a church in Manila.

"We ask the Filipino people to join the president and the cabinet in prayer for his successful rescue."

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