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Officials:  No Survivors in Venezuelan Plane Crash


Venezuelan authorities say all 46 people on board a passenger plane were killed when the aircraft slammed into an Andean mountain late Thursday.

The plane crashed near the city of Merida, where it departed for the Venezuelan capital, Caracas. Search teams lowered themselves from helicopters to look for remains in the wreckage of the aircraft, which one rescue worker described as "practically pulverized."

Search efforts for victims began after contact with air traffic controllers was lost. Venezuelans, Colombians and an American citizen were among those killed.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez declared that the country is in mourning and called for a full investigation into the cause of the crash.

Pilots need special training to fly from the Merida airport because the city is surrounded by mountains and planes must ascend sharply at takeoff. Flights are only allowed to take off during daylight hours.

Authorities say the weather was good at the time of the plane crash. The aircraft was owned by Santa Barbara Airlines, which serves both domestic and international routes.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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