Death toll in Kyrgyz airline crash lowered to 65 (Lead)

August 25th, 2008 - 8:42 am ICT by IANS  

Bishkek/Moscow, Aug 25 (DPA) At least 65 people are believed dead in the crash of an Itek Air Boeing 737 passenger liner shortly after takeoff from Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek, Kyrgyz authorities said Monday.The ill-fated airliner, bound for Tehran, was completely consumed by fire, according to the Civil Defence Ministry.

Tokon Mamitov, an adviser to Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev, announced the revised death toll, the Russian news agency Itar-Tass reported.

The casualty figure was lowered from a previous estimate of 71 dead that the Kyrgyz Health Ministry issued after the Sunday crash.

Mamitov, who is at the crash site, said that 84 passengers and six crew members were aboard. He confirmed earlier reports that most of the victims were Iranians.

Others on board were from Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Canada, Turkey and China.

Iran’s foreign ministry was to announce details later Monday of Iranians aboard the ill-fated aircraft.

A Kyrgyz youth basketball team was reported on board.

Rescue workers and police had cordoned off the crash cite, where Kyrgyz Prime Minister Igor Chudinov visited Sunday evening. He said that a cabin leak might have been a factor in the disaster, the Interfax news agency reported from Bishkek.

There were unconfirmed reports that the pilot attempted to return for an emergency landing immediately after takeoff.

Chudinov denied Kyrgyz media reports of an explosion on board.

Itek Air is one of more than a dozen Kyrgyz airlines that are banned from flying into the European Union due to safety concerns.

The plane was built in 1979 and underwent servicing work as recently as last month.

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