June 10, 2008 / 7:39 PM / 10 years ago

Sudan plane ablaze, dozens feared dead

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - A Sudan Airways plane carrying 217 people burst into flames after landing at Khartoum airport on Tuesday and local media said dozens were feared killed.

A Sudanese airliner burns at Khartoum airport in this image taken off video footage June 10, 2008. The airliner, which was identified by Sudanese television as an Airbus, was carrying 217 people and had burst into flames after landing at Khartoum airport. REUTERS/Sudan TV

Sudanese television showed film of the aircraft ablaze in the darkness while emergency workers played water hoses on the burning fuselage. The airliner, identified by the broadcaster as a Airbus, was carrying 203 passengers and 14 crew.

Police and airport officials said they were still trying to determine casualty numbers. State television said more than half the passengers had escaped, but gave no other details.

One passenger told the television that the plane had tried to land at Khartoum airport “but then the captain told us we couldn’t land because of bad weather”.

He said they then flew to the Red Sea city of Port Sudan and circled before returning to Khartoum an hour later.

“When (the pilot) tried to land there was a crash,” the passenger said.

At the time of the landing a dust storm in the Sudanese capital was restricting visibility, residents said.

Another passenger said the landing in Khartoum was “not normal” and described “an explosion in the right wing” two or three minutes after the plane landed.

EMERGENCY CHUTES

Television pictures showed emergency escape chutes deployed at the side of the blazing aircraft. Ambulances drove onto the tarmac.

The fire, at its height, appeared to be consuming the fuselage and cockpit area.

At least one bus had ferried passengers away from the plane, an airport engineer told Reuters, and medical sources said some people were taken to hospitals in Khartoum.

At the police hospital in Khartoum a crew member told Sudan television that the crew had managed to “get many people out”.

“The plane was coming from Amman and Syria... it landed safely at Khartoum airport and they talked to the control tower which told them where to taxi. At this moment an explosion happened,” airport director Yusuf Ibrahim told Sudanese television.

“Whether it is a technical reason, we don’t know yet.”

He said a large number of passengers had survived. “We don’t know yet if there are still passengers inside who have died.”

Five years ago a Sudan Airways Boeing 737 crashed shortly after takeoff near Port Sudan, killing 104 passengers and the crew of 11.

(Additional reporting by Diana Abdallah in London)

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