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Plane crashes in Suriname, 19 feared dead

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PARAMARIBO, Suriname, April 3 (Reuters) - A plane crashed in a remote gold-mining area of Suriname on Thursday and all 19 people on board were feared dead, the head of the small South American country's aviation authority said.

The plane was a twin-engine, 18-seater Antonov run by local airline Blue Wing Airlines in the former Dutch colony that lies on the eastern shoulder of South America.

John Veira, Suriname's aviation chief, told local radio there were 17 passengers and two crew on board and that it was unlikely any survived the crash in the sparsely populated south of the country in the area of Benzdorp.

"There is nothing to rescue, everything has gone up in flames," a gold miner in the area told local radio station Radio Apintie in a telephone interview.

Typically flights in the area ferry passengers working in the gold-mining industry.

The six-year-old airline is based in the capital Paramaribo and has 10 aircraft, according to a company profile on its Web site www.bluewingairlines.com.

Concerns over the airline's safety standards had prompted restrictions on the carrier flying into neighboring French Guiana. But they were lifted last year.

The last serious plane crash in Suriname was in 2001, when 10 people died in an accident in a remote central region on a flight run by another local company.

Suriname has a population of around 500,000 and its economy is based mainly on mining. (Reporting by Ank Kuipers; Writing by Saul Hudson; Editing by Brian Ellsworth and Xavier Briand)

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