In a radio message to the nation, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema declared a three-day period of national mourning following Saturday’s crash which, he said, had killed mostly young Equatorial Guineans and women.
The plane, which went down on a domestic flight in thick jungle, “was completely destroyed, burned and there were no survivors,” national radio announced earlier, playing somber music as it reported the news.
Thousands of distraught family and friends besieged Malabo airport and later the hospital after the confirmation of the crash.
“Our people are going through the worst moments of grief, consternation and sadness ever known in their history,” Obiang declared.
“This tragedy affected many families to whom we send our condolences … and our solidarity,” the president continued.
At first the government had said a total of 55 people were on the ageing 48-seater Antonov-24, while the operating company, the private airline Ecuatair, said its records showed there were 35 passengers and 10 crew.
Many of the victims were Malabo college students going on holiday from the island of Bioko where the capital is situated to their homes in the continental part of the country.
The funerals of the 60 victims will take place today and a presidential decree said flags will be flown at half-mast during the mourning period that started last night.
President Obiang called for an inquiry into the causes of the accident to “take eventual measures that would avoid similar events in future.”
It took rescuers until Sunday to reach the crash site in a remote area about 30 kilometers from Malabo, as they had to skirt the 3,007-metre high Mount Basile which overlooks the capital and slog several hours through the jungle.
Bad weather, including nonstop rain, made the operation even more difficult.