UNIFIL participates in search and rescue operation as plane crashes between Cyprus and Lebanon
Press Statement on UNIFIL participation in search and rescue operation for crashed private plane.
The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Maritime Task Force is participating in a search and rescue operation at sea after a private Cessna aircraft with two people on-board travelling between Cyprus and Lebanon crashed at approximately 95 kilometers from the Lebanese coast.
Having received a distress signal from the aircraft yesterday evening, the Lebanese Minister of Interior Nouhad al-Mashnouq called UNIFIL Force Commander Major-General Luciano Portolano asking for assistance with the search and rescue operation through UNIFIL MTF assets at sea.
UNIFIL Maritime Task Force immediately responded to the location with three ships and it has since been engaged in the search and rescue operations in collaboration with the Lebanese Armed Forces –Navy (LAF-Navy). The operation that commenced last evening continued through the night and is still ongoing.
As of 2230 hours UNIFIL Maritime Task Force ships had recovered the wreckage of the plane from the sea. The search and rescue operation is still ongoing in order to find the passengers of the plane.
UNIFIL Force Commander Major-General Portolano said: "This is a tragic incident and our UNIFIL Maritime Task Force peacekeepers are doing their utmost to provide the necessary assistance through our joint efforts with the Lebanese Armed Forces –Navy."
As the ongoing search and rescue operations progress, further updates will be provided in due course.
The first Naval Force to be part of a UN peacekeeping mission, UNIFIL Maritime Task Force has been deployed at the request of the Lebanese Government to assist the Lebanese Navy in preventing the unauthorized entry of arms or related material by sea into Lebanon. In addition, the Maritime Task Force has been working jointly with the Lebanese Armed Forces –Navy (LAF-Navy) to strengthen the latter's capabilities to secure its maritime borders and assume effective security control over Lebanese territorial waters.
UNIFIL Maritime Task Force has also taken part in several humanitarian efforts in the past when called upon. On 18 December 2010 UNIFIL MTF participated in a major search and rescue operation at sea after a Panamanian-flagged livestock carrier sank off the coast of Lebanon. On 11 December 2010, a UNIFIL MTF ship rescued one crew member of a merchant ship that sank in rough waters off the southern Lebanese coast. In 2008, UNIFIL Maritime Task Force ships rescued 14 crew members of a disabled merchant vessel off Lebanon.