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Last Updated: Saturday, 6 August 2005, 22:20 GMT 23:20 UK
Plane crash off Sicily kills 13
Fuselage and wings of the Tunisian passenger plane which crash-landed off the Sicilian city of Palermo
The plane was headed to the Tunisian island of Djerba
At least 13 people were killed when a Tunisian passenger plane made an emergency landing in the sea off the Italian island of Sicily.

There were 39 passengers and crew on board the plane operated by a subsidiary of Tunisair, Tuninter.

Twenty-three have been rescued, with many of them seriously injured. Three are still missing.

The plane was on its way from the southern Italian town of Bari to the Tunisian resort island of Djerba.

A full search and rescue operation quickly got under way at the crash site some 13km (eight miles) off the Sicilian coast, but rescuers now say no-one is left inside the plane.

The first survivors were landed in the Sicilian town of Palermo from a coastguard vessel just over two hours after the crash.

Two small children are among the dead, rescuers said.

Anxious relatives and friends gathered at Bari airport for news of the rescue operation.

One woman said as she was carried off the coastguard vessel that it was a miracle anyone survived.

Engine problems

Italian divers said they had managed to secure floats around the fuselage to prevent the aircraft from sinking.

Officials at Bari airport said most of the passengers were young Italian tourists. The crew of Flight TUI 1153 is said to be Tunisian.

Earlier on Saturday, the pilot of the plane advised air traffic control that he was trying to make an emergency landing at Palermo airport, but came down in the sea instead.

Chafik Garbi, who survived, reportedly told Italian aviation authorities after the crash that the motors lost power forcing him to make an emergency landing at sea, the AFP news agency reports.

"The plane had engine problems and was trying to land in Palermo and had to land in the sea," a spokeswoman for Italy's air safety agency told the Associated Press news agency earlier.

The aircraft was an ATR-72, a French-made twin-engine turbo-prop aircraft which can carry up to 72 passengers. It had earlier been reported to be an ATR-42.

See the rescue crews bringing survivors back to Italy

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