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Plane Carrying Brazil's Chapecoense Soccer Team Crashes Leaving at Least 71 Dead

11/29/2016 - 13h10

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FROM SÃO PAULO

Colombian authorities informed on Tuesday (the 29th) that at least 71 people were killed in the crash of a plane in the city of La Unión, close to Medellin, in Colombia.

Among the victims were members of the Chapecoense team delegation and accompanying Brazilian journalists.

The team was to have competed this Wednesday (the 30th) in the first match of the South American Cup finals against Atlético Nacional.

The information was initially released by General José Acevedo Ossa, a member of the local police who were responsible for the rescue operation and was subsequently confirmed by the Mayor or Medellin, Federico Guitiérrez Zuluaga.

Colombian authorities, however, haven't yet been able to localize all of the bodies and therefore the number of victims is subject to change.

The flight from airline Lamina was in route from Bolivia and was carrying 9 crew members and 68 passengers.

At least 22 journalists from Fox TV, Globo, RBS and several radio stations were on the flight. Colombian authorities informed that there were six survivors - one whose name hasn't been released.

Among the survivors are: journalist Rafael Hensel from Oeste Capital Radio, players Alan Luciano Ruschel, Jacson Ragnar Follmann, Marcos Danilo Padilha and crew member Ximena Suárez. All were taken to area hospitals, some in critical condition.

According to official sources, the accident happened as the plane was approaching Medellin in the Northwest of Colombia. Around 10pm (local time) the airplane contacted the Civil Aviation control tower to inform that it was experiencing an emergency due to electrical failures between the cities of Ceja and Unión.

According to the José María Córdova Airport in the city of Rionegro where the airplane was supposed to land, the accident happened in Cerro Gordo, in the department (county) of Antioquia.

Current access to the locale, which is about 50 kilometers from Medellin, is only possible by land due to the poor meteorological conditions in the area.

Colombian Civil Aviation authorities confirmed in a communication that they have set up a center at the José María Córdova Airport to manage the situation.

The Mayor of Rionegro asked the population to avoid the area of the accident and to leave access routes free to facilitate the rescue of the victims.

Civil Aviation Director Alfredo Bocanegra said in an interview on "Telemedellín", a local channel, that he had requested all who were involved in the rescue effort to continue their searches.

"In the next few hours we need super-human efforts. If for only one life, it's worth it", he said, regarding the rescue process.

The Vice President of Chapecoense, Ivan Tozzo, said that due to the divergence in news reports arriving from different media sources, he would wait for an official pronouncement from Colombian authorities before releasing any official communication regarding the accident. His message was published on the Team's Facebook page.

The Condá Arena, home of Chapecoense, started receiving fans first thing in the morning on Tuesday (the 29th) after news of the plane's accident in Colombia late in the previous night.

President Michel Temer said that the Government would make "all resources" available to assist relatives and to provide necessary assistance related to the Chapecoense Team's plane crash.

The President declared a state of official mourning for three days.

In a written communication, Temer said that the Air Force and Itamaraty had already been called in to provide assistance.

"At this sad time when the tragedy is affecting dozens of Brazilian families, I wish to express my solidarity", he declared.

Translated by LLOYD HARDER

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