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Monday, December 8, 1997 Published at 20:02 GMT


Russia suspends flights after Siberia crash
image: [ Rescue workers are discovering some bodies too badly burnt to identify ]
Rescue workers are discovering some bodies too badly burnt to identify

Russia has suspended all flights by military cargo planes of the type which crashed on the Siberian city of Irkutsk on Saturday.

All of the Russian air force's giant Antonov An-124 transport planes have been grounded for at least two weeks as investigators try to find out how the accident happened.

As night fell on Sunday another body was pulled from the smouldering rubble left after the disaster.

The Russian authorities say the death toll has reached 42 but is expected to rise further with more than 20 people still unaccounted for.

The massive plane's `black box' flight recorders have been recovered and returned to Moscow for examination.

But officials say the three flight recorders had been damaged in the massive fire which followed the impact.

[ image: The Russian prime minister at the crash site]
The Russian prime minister at the crash site
The Russian Prime Minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, grimly toured the accident site on Sunday wrapped up against the bitter cold.

One report circulating in Irkutsk suggests the plane's crew told air traffic controllers just before the crash two of the four engines had failed.

Seconds later the plane smashed into a residential area.

Some of the bodies pulled from the rubble by an army of 1,400 rescuers were charred beyond recognition.

[ image: More than 1,400 people are working at the site]
More than 1,400 people are working at the site
The plane, which was carrying 100 tons of fuel, was transporting two fighter planes to Vietnam.

It came down shortly after take off and sliced the top off the five-storey block of flats and caught fire.

Burning wreckage landed on other buildings, including a school and an orphanage and at least two children died.

[ image: The plane was carrying 100 tons of fuel]
The plane was carrying 100 tons of fuel
Some reports blamed the crash on poor quality fuel and local officials said the death toll could have been far higher if the town's gas supply had not been coincidentally cut off shortly before the crash.

Some survivors, including children received horrific burns and local people say they will now campaign to have flight paths changed, so that military planes are kept clear of residential areas.

On Monday an attempt will be made to move the tail of the aircraft which is still wedged into one of the apartment blocks.

BBC Moscow Correspondent, Rob Parsons: Many casualties on the ground: (Dur 1'03")

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