Sudanese air crash toll may be lower than expected: Reports (Second Lead)

June 12th, 2008 - 12:34 am ICT by IANS  

Khartoum/Nairobi, June 11 (DPA) The number of people killed in the plane crash in Khartoum may be lower than initially believed, with new reports Wednesday suggesting only dozens may have died. Local media reports initially said that over 100 had died when an airliner carrying 203 passengers and 11 crew burst into flames upon landing in Khartoum airport late Tuesday evening, but government and police officials later indicated that somewhere around 30 people were confirmed dead.

Sudan’s Civil Aviation Authority said that 103 passengers and all the crew members had escaped the plane, but added it believed that many other survivors had gone home straight after the crash and were as yet unaccounted for.

The cause of the crash is as yet unclear.

Sudanese television pictures showed firefighters desperately battling to contain flames bursting from the cabin of the aircraft.

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 cabin.

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

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

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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