SAN HLAN, Myanmar: Heavy rains and churning seas hampered search efforts for victims of a military plane crash off Myanmar’s southern coast on Friday, as hopes faded of finding survivors after 31 bodies were pulled from the water.
Most of the dead retrieved from the Andaman Sea so far have been women and children after a fraught search by navy ships, planes and helicopters hampered by sweeping rains.
The Chinese-made Shaanxi Y8 aircraft disappeared on Wednesday afternoon with 122 people on board around half an hour after it took off from the southern city of Myeik on its way to the commercial hub of Yangon.
Fishing boats helped navy vessels and military aircraft as they continued to hunt for the wreckage on Friday, despite tides reaching over 2.5 meters, the military said in a statement.
“We are having difficulty because of the strong winds and tide,” Major Aung Win, police chief of Launglon township, told Agence France-Presse.
By morning, swelling waters had covered San Hlan beach, where hundreds of people had gathered on Thursday to watch the first bodies being brought to the shore wrapped in white plastic bags.
Fisherman Min Oo said he had helped carry the bodies in his boat from navy ships which could not get close to the beach.
“I felt sorry when I saw the bags,” he said. “I have a family as well.”
More than half of the passengers on board the aircraft were from military families, including 15 children, according to the army. The remainder were soldiers and flight crew.
The bodies have been taken to a military hospital in Dawei, near to where a funeral for some of the victims is due to be held this afternoon overseen by Buddhist monks.
There has been no official explanation for the cause of the crash, one of several deadly incidents involving Myanmar military aircraft in recent years.