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Rescue efforts over Kenya Airways crash site

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, Jan. 31 -- Rescuers crossed the frigid waters of the Gulf of Guinea Monday searching for survivors of the crash of a Kenya Airways jetliner in which as many as 170 have died.

A spokesman for Kenya Airways said at least eight people survived when the A-310 Airbus crashed shortly after taking off from Abidjan airport.

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There were 179 passengers and crew on board Kenya Airways Flights KQ431 when it went down Sunday night and some on the scene have reported the sighting of the bodies of many victims.

The British Broadcasting Corp. reported that by dawn some 49 bodies had been recovered.

Helicopters and small boats searched for survivors at the site some 1,000 meters off the coast and about one mile from the airport. One man said he was in the water for two hours before being rescued. Another survivor, a French national, was able to swim to shore and reportedly had only minor injuries.

Hundreds of people gathered on the beach near the crash site to watch the rescue operations while medical personnel waited on shore to attend to any survivors.

The company spokesman said the crash is the first major accident for Kenya Airways. The company was trying to put together a manifest before contracting families of victims. A majority of passengers were thought to be Nigerians.

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Officials said Flight KQ431 was en route form Nairobi, Kenya, to Lagos, Nigeria when it was diverted to Abidjan because of bad weather. The plane has just left Abidjan to complete its route when it crashed.

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