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Thursday, December 18, 1997 Published at 16:56 GMT


Tajiks mourn dead
image: [ Now the bodies from Monday's crash are coming home ]
Now the bodies from Monday's crash are coming home

There have been scenes of mass mourning in Khujand in North Tajikistan where people turned out in their thousands to receive the bodies of those killed in the Tajik airways flight that crashed in the United Arab Emirates.

Crowds of people, many weeping, gathered to collect their dead as the 85 coffins were flown back to Khujand for burial.

Meanwhile a formal investigation into the crash has begun.

A team of officials from the UAE civil aviation authorities took over the investigation from Sharjah police at the crash site. Officials from Tajik Air, the Tajikistan government and Commonwealth of Independent States' civil aviation officials were due to participate as observers.

The plane crashed near Sharjah. No official explanation has been given. Weather conditions were good and there was no indication from the crew that anything was wrong.

The plane's flight recorder has been found. Some reports have suggested the plane exploded before crashing to the ground.

Concern over safety record

The plane, a Tupolev Tu-154, is one of the most popular of contemporary Russian airliners and resembles the Boeing 727.

Several have been involved in a number of deadly accidents in recent years.

[ image: 1996 Spitsbergen crash killed 141 people.]
1996 Spitsbergen crash killed 141 people.
Some aviation officials have contended that the aircraft, the workhorse of airlines of the former Soviet Union, is an unsafe plane.

A Tu-154 crashed into a mountain on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen in August 1996, killing 141 people.

In December 1995, all 97 aboard a Tu-154 died in a crash in Russia's Far East.

A January 1994 crash in Siberia killed all 125 aboard. Six months later a Chinese-owned Tu-154 crashed in Xian, killing all 160 people aboard.

More than 1,000 Tu-154 have been built and most remain active. Although used successfully by Aeroflot and many former Soviet bloc airlines, it cannot compete commercially with more modern Western equivalents.

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