Work Begins to Remove Stuck Plane From Mud

Salvage operations were under way Tuesday evening to pull a Siem Reap Airways plane out of the mud and reopen Siem Reap In­ternational Airport, which has been closed since Sunday afternoon.

Financial damage to the city of Siem Reap, which relies heavily on Angkor Wat tourists, was im­possible to assess, but the gov­ern­­ment’s Apsara Authority was losing $10,000 per day in temple ticket sales, said one official.

The government was losing $15,000 to $20,000 per day in airport departure taxes alone, ac­cording to a financial analyst. Ho­tels, restaurants and guest houses are all affected by the closing of the airport, which serves about 20 flights per day.

Equipment to pull the ATR 72 turbo-prop from the side of the runway arrived late Tuesday afternoon.

The plane could “hopefully” be hauled back onto solid ground by late Tuesday night, said Santi Laonikakro, country man­ager for Bangkok Airways, the parent company of Siem Reap Airways.

Lighting and other equipment had already been made available for a nighttime operation, said Philippe Rose, commercial director for Societe Concessionnaire de l’Aeroport, which oversees the airport.

The company had earlier an­nounced that the airport would be closed until Thursday morning, but Rose said it would reopen as soon as the plane is re­moved.

Stranded passengers were ferried Tuesday morning from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh by military helicopter.

Meanwhile, Cambo­dia’s national airline lost its last plane on Tuesday. Malaysian Air­line Sys­tem reclaimed from Royal Air Cambodge its last Boeing 737-400.

The Wall Street Journal Europe reported Tuesday that Malaysian Airline System terminated its joint venture with RAC after a “major cost-cutting plan” earlier this month. Officials of Malaysian Helicopter Services, which managed and operated RAC, declined comment Tuesday.

Cabinet Chief and acting chairman of RAC Sok An has declined to elaborate on the shutdown.


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