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Plane crash in Turkey kills 75

Thursday, January 9, 2003

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- A Turkish Airlines flight split apart in flames as it crashed short of a fog-shrouded runway in southeastern Turkey Wednesday. The Transport Ministry said 75 people were killed and five injured.

The plane came down in the military section of the airport in the overwhelmingly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, leaving a pile of twisted metal and scattered luggage across 800 yards.

Prime Minister Abdullah Gul said the military dismissed sabotage as a cause. Heavy fog has been a problem in the area in recent days and flights from Diyarbakir were canceled earlier this week.

"The reason for the crash is being investigated," Gul said. "Most probably it was bad weather conditions."

Three small children died in the crash, the Anatolia news agency reported. A two-year-old boy who survived the crash and was rushed to a hospital later died, the Anatolia news agency reported.

Turkish Airlines said there were foreigners aboard the plane, but had no immediate information on their nationalities. At around midnight, the 400 soldiers who had been searching for survivors called off their rescue operation.

'Whole plane was burning'

A survivor told of falling from the plane after it split apart on impact and landing in a pile of hay.

"The plane split in two and was burning. Then there was an explosion. ... The whole plane was burning," Aliye Il told Anatolia.

She said the haystack that cushioned her fall then caught fire, forcing her to run for safety. Anatolia did not give the woman's age.

A photo of Il taken by Anatolia showed Il, a middle-aged woman, lying in a hospital bed covered with a thick blanket. A bandage covered her left eye and an intravenous tube was in her arm.

Precise cause not known

While Transport Minister Binali Yildirim said there was heavy fog at the time of the crash at Diyarbakir airport, he said the precise cause would not be known until the plane's flight data and cockpit voice recorders were recovered.

The four-engine British Aerospace RJ 100 jet hit the ground 40 yards short of the runway. The Transport Ministry said 75 people died and five were injured.

As relatives of passengers crowded the airport for news of loved ones, Diyarbakir Governor Ahmet Cemil Serhadli reported the fire caused by the crash had been extinguished.

At Istanbul airport, one unidentified man cried as he told NTV television that he was trying to call a colleague that he had driven to the airport for the flight, but could not reach him on his cellphone.

The five injured were taken to Diyarbakir's central hospital and CNN-Turk television said they were in shock but had no life threatening injuries. There were no reports of injuries among people on the ground.

Hospital morgues in the city were filled with the charred remains of victims and a sports center had to be used to house some of the dead. Relatives visited the sports center trying to see if their loved ones were among the dead.

Last week, several flights to Diyarbakir were canceled because of bad weather.

In November, a Russian small plane carrying 28 people crashed near an airport in the Turkish Mediterranean resort of Antalya after it clipped a power line. No one was killed.

In May 2001, a military transport plane crashed in southeastern Turkey, killing 34 officers and soldiers from Turkey's elite special forces.

A civilian jetliner crashed in eastern Turkey in 1991, killing 55 people after the pilot insisted on landing despite a snowstorm that drastically cut visibility.

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