Survivors found after hijacked Cuban plane crashes

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The Independent US

Nine people have been found alive and one dead after a small plane hijacked from Cuba crashed into the sea.

Nine people have been found alive and one dead after a small plane hijacked from Cuba crashed into the sea.

Survivors were rescued by a freighter in the Florida Straits, 60 miles southwest of Marquesas Key at the end of the Florida Keys island chain.

It is believed the Anotov amphibious plane, which can land on water, was heading for south Florida with up to 16 passengers and had run out of fuel.

Cuban notified the United States about the hijack before the plane ditched, and coastguards launched an immediate search.

Other ships and helicopters have joined the rescue mission.

"The plane is down, the Cuban authorities have asked for a water search," said Miami International Airport spokeswoman Cynthia Paul.

The coastguard had launched a rescue effort, Petty Officer Robert Suddharth said.

U.S. officials said the plane, which left the communist-ruled island's western province of Pinar del Rio, was an Antonov An-2 with 16 people on board.

"At about 8.45am Havana air traffic control notified Miami air traffic control centre that an aircraft which had departed Pinar del Rio reported being hijacked," said Kathleen Bergen, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority.

Miami police originally said it was heading for a south Florida airport with 14 people on board. Officials said it was low on fuel.

Miami television reports said the plane might have been equipped to land on water.

FAA air traffic control said it had no voice or radar contact with the aircraft before it went down.

An official at Cuba's Civil Aviation Institute in Havana said the aircraft was involved in "agricultural work" in Pinar del Rio when it was hijacked.

In recent years, a number of small aircraft have been hijacked in Cuba and flown to the United States by Cubans seeking asylum.

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