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 Thursday, 9 January, 2003, 07:58 GMT
Scores killed in Turkey plane crash
Wreckage of crashed RJ-100 plane
Sabotage has been ruled out
The Turkish authorities say 75 people were killed when an airliner crashed on landing in thick fog near the south-eastern city of Diyarbakir.

Crash investigators are now reported to be examining one of the plane's flight recorders - black boxes - which was found in the debris.

Turkish Interior Minister Abdulkadir Aksu said only five people survived - including a woman thrown onto a bale of hay - when the Turkish Airlines RJ-100 plane slammed into a field near the city's airport.

Three Britons and an American are reported to be among the dead.

The four-engine aircraft, on Turkish Airlines flight TK 634 from Istanbul, hit the ground 30 metres short of a military runway in the wrong part of Diyarbakir airport, at about 2012 (1712 GMT).

Witnesses say the plane split into two and then burst into flames, spraying debris over a large area.

Click here for photo of an RJ-100 plane

Soldiers from the nearby airbase are helping in what was originally a rescue operation, but has now become a grim exercise in sorting through the dead.

At first I thought there was a war. I didn't think it was a crash

Survivor Celal Tokmak

The BBC correspondent in Turkey, Jonny Dymond, says this is the worst plane crash in Turkey for more than 25 years.

There is no firm indication yet as to what caused the crash, but Prime Minister Abdullah Gul said the military had dismissed the possibility of sabotage, and the crash was probably due to bad weather.

The survivors have been taken to local hospitals, where several - including a young child - are said to be in a serious condition.

Explosion

One survivor, Aliye Il, said she was thrown clear of the plane and landed on a bale of hay near the runway.

Aliye Il, a survivor
A woman survived after landing on a bale of hay

"The plane crashed on landing with a huge noise and caught fire before breaking up," she told Anatolia news agency. "The plane was engulfed in flames - it was horrible."

Another survivor, Celal Tokmak, said: "I heard a loud explosion right before we were to land. I felt like my ear exploded," he said.

"At first I thought there was a war. I didn't think it was a crash," he said.

There has been much speculation in recent weeks that Diyarbakir airport, a large airbase within easy reach of the Iraqi border, could be one of the airfields the United States might ask to use in the event of an attack on Iraq.

Distraught relatives

Turkish police and army officials have been attempting to calm distraught relatives and friends who had gathered at the airport entrance to greet those off the flight.

TURKISH AIR CRASHES
2001 May: Military aircraft crashes in eastern Turkey, killing all 34 on board
1997 Sept: Troop-carrying helicopter hits pylon, killing 10
1997 June: 11 military personnel die as troop-carrier crashes
1994 Dec: Turkish Airlines Boeing-737 crashes in snowstorm in east, killing 57
1976 Sept: Turkish charter crashes into hillside, killing 154
"Police have emptied the terminal building but there are a lot of people yelling and screaming," a local taxi driver told Reuters news agency.

Hospital morgues in the city have been filled with the charred remains of victims and a sports centre has also been used to house some of the dead.

Last week, several flights to Diyarbakir - a largely Kurdish city close to the border with Syria and Iraq - were cancelled due to poor weather.



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  The BBC's Jonny Dymond reports from Ankara
"Sabotage or terrorism were swiftly ruled out by the Turkish authorities"
See also:

08 Jan 03 | In Depth
08 Jan 03 | Science/Nature
Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


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