Official toll in Sudanese air crash hits 30 (Third Lead)

June 11th, 2008 - 10:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Khartoum/Nairobi, June 11 (DPA) Thirty people have been confirmed dead and 61 are missing after a plane carrying 203 passengers and 11 crew burst into flames upon landing in Khartoum Tuesday night, latest official figures said Wednesday. Some 123 people have been confirmed as having survived. However, Sudan’s Civil Aviation Authority said it believed many other survivors had gone home straight after the crash and that it was attempting to contact these people.

The cause of the crash is as yet unclear. Passengers who escaped the burning aircraft told al-Jazeera television that the aircraft’s right engine caught fire after the plane touched down and that the flames quickly spread through the aircraft.

Sudanese television showed firefighters desperately battling to contain flames bursting from the fuselage of the Airbus 310, which had its emergency chutes down.

Some reports blamed the weather conditions, while others said the plane had landed safely and was taxiing when the engine caught fire.

The Sudan Tribune said that a tyre burst upon landing, causing the plane to veer off the runway.

A sandstorm and heavy rain hit the airport before the plane landed and visibility was still poor, Sudan TV said. Haboobs, heavy sandstorms common in the Sahara, often disrupt air traffic in Sudan.

The Sudan Airways flight earlier had to divert from Khartoum due to bad weather and was making its second attempt at a landing when the accident happened, the Civil Aviation Authority said.

The flight was coming from Amman via Damascus, and the Sudan Tribune said the plane was packed with Sudanese returning from medical treatment in Amman.

The elderly and young children were among those who perished in the plane as they were unable to move, the paper said.

Deputy director of Khartoum Airport Mohammed al-Hassan Taha said that flights had resumed Wednesday. All traffic was suspended in the aftermath of the disaster.

Sudan’s aviation record is less than impressive.

A crash in May killed 24 people, among them South Sudan’s defence minister and other government officials.

In July 2003, a Sudan Airways internal flight from Port Sudan to Khartoum went down, claiming the lives of 115 people, although a two-year-old boy miraculously became the sole survivor.

Some 53 people died at Khartoum airport 12 years ago when a plane attempted an emergency landing during a sandstorm.

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