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Sunday, August 30, 1998 Published at 01:11 GMT 02:11 UK

World: Americas

Dozens dead in Ecuador crash

The plane ploughed into a soccer pitch

The BBC's James Reynolds reports on the crash
At least people 77 are reported to have been killed in Ecuador when a Cuban commercial airliner crashed at Quito's international airport.

The plane reportedly crashed seconds after attempting to take off.

It hit a car repair workshop in a street at the end of the runway before ploughing into an adjacent soccer pitch.

[ image:  ]
Most of the 90 people onboard the Cubana airline plane died in the crash.

Several people who were on the ground when the plane hit were also killed. They included a number of children who had been playing soccer.

The Red Cross said the badly burned bodies of 77 people had been recovered from the wreckage

The majority of the passengers were Ecuadorians, but the remainder included Cubans, Chileans, Spaniards, Italians and one Argentine.

The tragedy was compounded for Ecuador by the news that a further 30 people were killed in an unrelated incident when a bus crashed into a ravine. It was said to be packed with people heading for a party in the town of Papallacta.

'I don't know how I survived'

Witnesses of the plane crash said it burst into a ball of fire, creating a huge plume of smoke at the site.

[ image: Fire fighters inspect the wreck]
Fire fighters inspect the wreck
Firefighters, Red Cross and other rescue workers rushed to the scene and are believed to have located 15 survivors.

Hospital officials said 26 people injured in the crash were being treated, but it was not immediately clear if they had been aboard the plane or on the ground.

One Cuban survivor, Hernan Boada, said the plane struggled to gain altitude, rising only a few metres before ploughing into a wall near the end of the runway.

"It felt like the plane was rising and suddenly it crashed into a wall and burst into flames," he told a television interviewer from an ambulance.

[ image: Red Cross workers help a distraught woman from the scene]
Red Cross workers help a distraught woman from the scene
"I saw other people wrapped in flames jump from the plane. I was in seat number 21, a window seat at wing level. The doors would not open, so I jumped through a hole in the plane amid the flames from a height of about two yards.

"I don't know how I survived," he said.

The plane - a Russian Tupolev - was on its way to the Cuban capital Havana via the Ecuadorian port city of Guayaquil.

It was reported to have been delayed taking off because of technical problems.

Airport location questioned

All flights at the airport were suspended following the crash and the area was cordoned off for investigators and rescue crews.

[ image: Jamil Mahuad: pledge on new airport]
Jamil Mahuad: pledge on new airport
The President of Ecuador, Jamil Mahuad, has asked for a full report into the cause of the accident.

The Director of Ecuador's Civil Aviation Department, Oswaldo Dominguez, said Cuba was sending a team of technicians to assist with the investigation.

Mr Mahuad has said he will speed up moves to build a new airport away from the city. The present site had been criticised for being too close to a densely populated area.

The accident was in the same area where 14 years ago, a cargo plane crashed and set homes on fire.

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