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46 years later, Indian diplomatic bag discovered on Mt Blanc

The mail was found close to where Air India plane crashed in January 1966

AFP | SEPTEMBER 15, 2012, 10:59 AM IST
46 years later, Indian diplomatic bag discovered on Mt Blanc

A bag of Indian diplomatic mail is set to be delivered morethan 46 years late after it was found on Mont Blanc in the French Alps, closeto where an Air India plane crashed in January 1966.

The jute bag, stamped "Diplomatic mail" and"Ministry of External Affairs", was recovered by mountain rescueworker Arnaud Christmann and his neighbour Jules Berger on August 21.

"Some tourists came and told us they had seen somethingshining on the Bossons glacier," so he and his neighbour decided to gohave a look, Christmann told AFP on Wednesday.

"We found pieces of the cabin, a shoe, cables -- it's areal dump up there!"

The two men also came across a plane wheel and, 20 metres(yards) further on, the diplomatic bag that was "sitting as if someone hadjust placed it there."

"We were hoping for diamonds or at least a few goldingots. Instead we got some soaking wet mail and Indian newspapers,"Christmann quipped.

"It's not the sort of thing you find very often in themountains -- the mail's going to arrive 46 years late."

The Kangchenjunga, a Boeing 707 flying from Mumbai (Bombay)to New York, crashed on the southwest face of Mont Blanc, western Europe'shighest mountain, on January 24, 1966 as it descended towards a scheduledstopover in Geneva, Switzerland. All 117 people on board died.

The diplomatic bag was handed over to police in the town ofChamonix at the base of the mountain. The Indian embassy in Paris saidWednesday it had not been informed of the discovery but that officials would belooking into it with a view to recovering the bag.

In September 2008, well-known climber Daniel Rochediscovered Indian newspapers dated January 23, 1966 in the same area.

Roche also came across part of an engine from the MalabarPrincess, another Air India plane which had crashed in a virtually identicallocation in 1950.

The discovery of a diplomatic bag does not spell hope thatany more bodies will be found.

Daniel Roche said the January 24, 1966 crash that killed 117people including the pioneer of India's nuclear programme Homi Jehangir Bhabhathereby fuelling conspiracy theories, was more likely an accident.

"I have recovered six to seven tonnes of debris, jewellery,documents and money since I began climbing Mont Blanc eight years ago on theFrench and Italian sides, said the 60-year-old property consultant based inLyon.

"The human remains include skulls, pieces from thethigh and other body parts, teeth and hair," he told AFP in a telephoneinterview.

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