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Rescue Teams Search for Missing Plane in Sloppy, Mountainous Jungle

The search for a missing commuter plane and its 22 passengers continued Tuesday, through the rain-soaked jungles and mountains of Kampot province where witnesses said it may have crashed.

Prime Minister Hun Sen offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to a crash site and urged the US and Korean embassies to redirect their satellites to help the search. He called on mountain villagers to help in the search but said there was "little hope" anyone had survived.

RCAF Commander-in-Chief Gen. Ke Kim Yan told journalists in Kampot that the Cambodian government was deploying four helicopters and about 1,000 troops to search for the crash site. Rain was slowing down efforts, he said.

The search was focused on the mountainous "100 Boa Constrictors" region of Kampot province, known locally for its high number of serpents and rumored man-eating tigers.

Aviation officials said the plane disappeared from radar in heavy rain five minutes before landing in the coastal town of Sihanoukville Monday morning.

The Russian AN-24 prop plane went missing en route from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville, where a new international airport opened in January. The flight was operated by Phnom Penh-based carrier Progress Multitrade, or PMT, which has a slipshod safety record and is banned for use by UN personnel, the Cambodia Daily reported.

On board were five Cambodian crew and a tour group of 13 South Koreans, as well as three Czechs and a Russian, aviation officials said.

Family members of the missing South Koreans were expected to arrive in Phnom Penh Tuesday evening, an embassy official said.