Page last updated at 19:10 GMT, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 20:10 UK

Probe into Sudan's plane inferno


Plane on fire at Khartoum airport

The authorities in Sudan have begun an investigation into the cause of a fire on an Airbus A310 airliner that killed at least 29 people on Tuesday night.

Most of the 214 on board escaped when the Sudan Airways plane burst into flames after landing in bad weather at Khartoum airport, officials say.

Fourteen passengers are still missing - officials say they may have left the scene immediately after the crash.

Witnesses say more bodies were removed from the charred plane on Wednesday.

The plane landed in bad weather and witnesses say an engine then exploded.

The fire quickly spread to the cockpit and forward fuselage as the passengers and crew made desperate efforts to escape down emergency slides.

All this has strengthened my faith
Survivor Hassan Jakuma

TV footage showed the wreckage at Khartoum airport consumed by flames as emergency crews tried to fight the fire in the darkness.

The BBC's Amber Henshaw in Sudan's capital, Khartoum, says the airport had to be shut again on Wednesday after another explosion in the wreckage.

The Civil Aviation Authority said a spark from cutting equipment ignited some fuel. Local doctors say they treated eight people with minor injuries.

The Sudan Airways flight had flown from Jordan's capital, Amman, via Damascus and most of the passengers were Sudanese.

One of the survivors, Hassan Jakuma, said his experience had strengthened his Muslim faith.

"I went [to Amman] for medical treatment, and then this accident happened. What does that tell you?" he asked.

"It tells you that nothing can kill you, not illness, not an accident, not a burning plane, nothing can kill you until it is your time to go.

Conflicting reports

Sudanese officials say the plane had tried to land at Khartoum earlier on Tuesday, but was unable to do so because of a sandstorm and heavy rain.

A rescue worker at Khartoum airport carrying a fold up stretcher
The rescuers worked into the night at the wreckage

The plane was diverted to the Red Sea city of Port Sudan.

It later returned to Khartoum, landing at approximately 2000 (1700 GMT), our correspondent says.

There are then conflicting reports about what exactly happened.

A spokesman for Sudan Airways said poor weather had led to the accident.

"We put the cause of the crash down to the bad weather conditions, and the plane sliding off the runway," Jamal Osman said.

"Thankfully, there was a fast response to the accident and to removing as many passengers as possible."

The Civil Aviation Authority says the plane was taxi-ing to its parking bay when a fire started in one of the engines.

Some eyewitnesses say they had a bad landing and that the pilots had to brake hard.

There was an explosion in one of the engines and the plane caught fire
Yusuf Ibrahim
Khartoum airport's director

Experts believe this could have caused the cylinders to blow, sparking an explosion.

The director of Khartoum's airport, Yusuf Ibrahim, told Sudanese national television that the plane had landed "safely" and the pilots were in contact with the control tower about which gate to dock at when the fire occurred.

"There was an explosion in one of the engines and the plane caught fire," Mr Ibrahim said.

Abbas al-Fadini, a member of Sudan's parliament who was on the plane, told al-Jazeera television that the fire started in the right engine before spreading throughout the plane.

He said crew members had guided people towards the plane's exits.

Witnesses said they had seen some passengers escaping via emergency chutes after they deployed.

"There was this huge explosion," one eye-witness told the BBC. "More than half the plane was engulfed in a ghastly fire. It was a horrendous sight."

"I saw a big fireball and then fast flames," said another.

Sudan Airways operates a fleet of Airbus A300 and A310 jets.

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Dozens die in Sudan jet inferno
10 Jun 08 |  Africa
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30 Nov 07 |  Special Reports
Timeline: Sudan
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Country profile: Sudan
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