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Cables hamper Burma Spitfires hunt

A team hunting for dozens of Second World War-era Spitfires believed to be buried at Burma's main international airport said its search would take longer than expected after a survey discovered bundles of electric cables in the way.

Soe Thein, a retired Burmese geology professor who is helping hunt for the rare Spitfires, said the team found crates that could contain the planes at Rangoon airport.

He said cables and water pipes were found above them and there is no blueprint for their precise locations. He said that will make unearthing them more time-consuming. There was no word on when crates would finally be unearthed.

The Spitfire won fame for helping Britain beat back waves of enemy bombers during the war.

A news conference originally scheduled for Sunday was cancelled, apparently because of the snag.

"We haven't stopped and we cannot stop. It is just a delay in our work," Soe Thein said.

About 20,000 Spitfires were built, although the dawn of the jet age quickly made the propeller-driven, single-seat planes obsolete.

As many as 140 of the planes - three to four times the number of airworthy models known to exist - are believed to have been buried in near-pristine condition in Burma by American engineers as the war drew to a close. Of those, 36 are thought to have been buried on the grounds of Mingaladon airport, around 100 yards from the runway.

More planes are said to be buried in Myitkyina in northern Kachin state, where another of the group's teams is digging. Searchers also hit a snag there earlier this month when they found a buried crate unexpectedly full of muddy water, which they said would take weeks to pump out.

British aviation enthusiast David Cundall is leading the search for the planes. The go-ahead for excavations came in October when Burma's government signed an agreement with Mr Cundall and his local partner.

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