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Page last updated at 12:14 GMT, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 13:14 UK

Miracle of surviving Sudan inferno

The Sudan Airways plane on fire at Khartoum airport, 10 June 2008

By Amber Henshaw
BBC News, Khartoum

Looking at the wreckage of the Sudan Airways passenger jet, it is difficult to believe that anyone made it out alive.

The entire front half of the aircraft - twisted and blackened by the fire - was practically shorn off.

The flames engulfed the plane just minutes after it landed at Khartoum's city centre airport on Tuesday night.

According to the latest figures, there were 214 on board - 29 of whom have died, while 14 are missing.

I've been travelling a lot, I know when a landing is rough. This landing was very rough
Survivor Awad Mohamed Idris

At its most ferocious, the fire appeared to be consuming the fuselage and cockpit area.

Sirens could be heard across the Sudanese capital as emergency services rushed to the scene.

Television pictures showed emergency escape chutes at the side of the blazing aircraft and ambulances on the tarmac.

Civil Aviation Authority officials say that 171 passengers on board the Sudan Airways flight 109 managed to survive the accident.

Officials say that some passengers who escaped the wreckage left the scene.

They are now trying to track those people down to get a clearer idea of the death toll.

Funeral tent

Tragic stories are already starting to emerge.

Rescue workers at the air crash scene, Khartoum airport
The rescue effort went on through the night

Staff at Sudan Airways spent Wednesday morning erecting a funeral tent outside their headquarters to mourn the death of one of their flight attendants, a mother of two in her thirties.

One passenger told Reuters news agency that the plane had tried to land at Khartoum airport "but then the captain told us we couldn't land because of bad weather".

He said the plane then flew to the Red Sea city of Port Sudan before returning to Khartoum an hour later.

"When [the pilot] tried to land there was a crash," the passenger told Sudan television.

Child search

Another survivor, al-Haj Bashir, said the landing in Khartoum was "not normal" and that there was "an explosion in the right wing" two or three minutes after the plane landed.

"I've been travelling a lot, I know when a landing is rough," survivor Awad Mohamed Idris, a retired Sudan Airways employee, told AFP news agency.

"This landing was very rough."

The wreckage of the Sudan Airways plane at Khartoum airport
The front of the plant was practically shorn off

"When it came to a stop, fire was burning the right side of the plane and was beginning to burn the inside of the plane," he said.

After landing, the cabin filled with smoke and Mr Idris said he jumped on to an escape chute.

"After I left the plane I was still coughing."

He managed to find his relatives in the arrivals hall.

But another man, who gave his name as Aman, said he still was looking for the one-year-old child of a couple who had both been hospitalised.

The exact cause of the accident remains unclear but an investigation is under way to try to find out what happened amid contradictory reports.

There was bad weather in Khartoum at the time the plane landed - a sand storm, known as a haboob, was followed by heavy rain.

The Sudan Airways plane had been travelling from Jordan via Syria when it received reports of bad weather in Khartoum.

Officials initially blamed the poor weather conditions for the accident.

The Civil Aviation Authority says the plane landed on the runway and was taxi-ing into a parking bay when a fire started in one of the engines.

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SEE ALSO
Dozens die in Sudan jet inferno
10 Jun 08 |  Africa
Air disasters timeline
30 Nov 07 |  Special Reports
Timeline: Sudan
04 Jun 08 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Sudan
04 Jun 08 |  Country profiles


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