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Plane carrying 104 is missing in Philippines

A Philippine plane carrying 104 passengers and crew members disappeared moments after its pilot radioed Monday to say he was beginning his descent into a southern Philippine city.

The Cebu Pacific Air DC-9 plane was declared missing after failing to land in Cagayan de Oro, 500 miles south of Manila.Hindered by bad weather, officials called off the search late Monday.

Air force helicopters scoured its route - which went over a mountainous area with peaks ranging up to 8,000 feet, but aviation official Bong Meneses said no plane was found in the most probable area.

The pilot had given no indication of trouble in his routine communication with air traffic control. Meneses said weather at the airport was clear when the plan disappeared "but we're not sure how it was in the mountains."

The 110-seat plane was carrying 99 passengers and five crewmen, according to the airline's general manager, Diego Garrido. Some of those aboard were foreigners, but their nationalities were not immediately known, he said.

Air force spokesman Col. Jose Mendoza said six helicopters and two light planes searched for the missing aircraft. Aviation officials checked all airports and cities nearby to see if it had made an emergency landing, but they found nothing.

The plane took off from Manila about 9 a.m. Monday, then landed at the central city of Tacloban. It left there at 10:20 a.m., heading for Cagayan de Oro, a city 500 miles from Manila on the southern island of Mindanao.

The last contact the pilot had was with the Cagayan de Oro airport tower at 10:48 a.m., officials said. In the message, the pilot said he was at an altitude of 11,500 feet and starting to descend, Garrido said.