Fears held for four UN staff after plane disappears in Bolivia

Mariela Cinthia Moreno Torreblanco, one of the UN staff member killed in the plane crash

6 May 2011 – Grave fears are held for four United Nations staff in Bolivia whose plane disappeared during a flight to monitor coca production northeast of the capital, La Paz, yesterday.

Bolivian authorities resumed the search today for the plane, which was carrying four staff from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and two military pilots, when it was reported missing yesterday afternoon in the Los Yungas region.

The plane took off from La Paz about 9:30 a.m. for what was supposed to be a routine flight as part of the UN’s agency coca leaf monitoring project. But it did not return as expected at 2:30 p.m.

“Obviously we are very concerned about the four staff and their situation,” said Alun Jones, a spokesperson for UNODC, who added that the Vienna-based agency was in close contact with authorities about search and rescue efforts.

Robert Brockmann, the head of the UN Information Centre (UNIC) in La Paz, said that search efforts would resume at first light tomorrow.

“It’s extremely difficult terrain because it’s very mountainous, and the mountains are very steep and densely forested,” he said.

The missing UN staff – two men and two women – are all Bolivian nationals, and their families are being kept informed of all developments, Mr. Brockmann said.

UNODC operates in more than 150 countries around the world through a network of field offices. The agency tackles drug trafficking, corruption, money laundering and organized crime, among other issues.


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