Navy ships and fishing boats navigated high waves in bad weather Friday to retrieve bodies and debris from the waters off Myanmar’s coast where a military plane carrying 122 people, including 15 children, crashed two days earlier. Waves were 2.5 meters (more than 8 feet) high in the Andaman Sea, but eight navy ships and 20 local fishing boats were searching, the military commander in chief’s office said. The fishermen were using their nets to search in the water and the navy ships were using sonar.
The plane took off Wednesday afternoon from Myeik, also known as Mergui, and was heading for Yangon when contact was lost southwest of Dawei, formerly known as Tavoy. During Thursday’s search, monsoon downpours drenched rescue workers and the people gathered on the beach at San Hlan village in Laung Lone township, which was a landing point for recovery operations. The larger boats and ships were fetching the bodies then moving them to smaller boats to haul them into shallow water at the beach, where soldiers put the body bags on stretchers and carried them to waiting trucks. The heavy rain and rough seas that delayed those efforts was continuing Friday.
The bodies of 31 people — 21 women, eight children and two men — had been recovered as of Thursday night, as well as luggage and airplane parts, according to a military Facebook page. The bodies were being taken to a military hospital in Dawei where some victims’ relatives visited. One of them, Ma Mon, said her 32-year-old daughter Zin Wai Aung had been married to a military officer, but had gone on the flight without him.
“She went on the plane with her 3-month-old son. Both of them died,” she said. “That was my beautiful grandson.” Many of the passengers were relatives of military personnel. Booking civilians on military planes is a common way to offset transportation costs for military personnel stationed in Myanmar’s remote south. The four-engine Chinese-made Y-8 turboprop aircraft had been received in March last year and since had logged 809 flying hours. The pilot and co-pilot both had more than 3,100 hours of flying experience and the plane was carrying about 2.4 tons of cargo, according to the military Facebook page that was the main source of official information about the crash.