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1992: El Al jumbo crashes in Amsterdam

AUDIO : Death toll to rise at cargo jet crash site

An Israeli Boeing 747 cargo plane has crashed in the outskirts of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, setting two blocks of flats on fire and killing dozens of people.

The El Al jumbo jet came down shortly after take-off, at 1830 local time, spilling burning fuel over a wide area in the suburb of Bijlmermeer, to the south of the city.

Amsterdam city officials say 50 flats in the nine-storey blocks were hit directly by the falling plane. Nearly 40 bodies have been recovered so far.

The pilot sent an emergency distress signal ten minutes after taking off for Tel Aviv in Israel. He reported two of the plane's four engines had failed.

Burning buildings

It looks as though he had turned back to attempt an emergency landing when the plane came down.

All four crew were killed instantly.

Police fear up to 200 people may have been killed on the ground.

The plane was carrying 114 tons of cargo on a flight from New York to Tel Aviv via Amsterdam, which burst into flames when it hit the ground.

Hundreds of ambulances headed to the scene of the burning buildings. Helicopters helped fly some of the injured to a burns unit at Beverwijk, 25 miles (40km) to the west.

A former soldier who lived nearby said he heard a big bang and ran outside to see the building torn apart.

"People were jumping from the seventh-floor balcony in panic. I saved some, but there were many more still trapped inside their homes. It was hopeless," he said.

Reports from Jerusalem said there were no signs of a terrorist attack on the aircraft.

Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands has sent her sympathies to the victims and their families.

Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin has sent his condolences to his Dutch counterpart, Ruud Lubbers.

In Context
The final number of dead was four on board the plane and 47 on the ground.

The crash was the Netherlands' worst air disaster and the first crash in El Al's 44-year history.

The crash investigation revealed metal fatigue had probably damaged the engine mountings which had subsequently torn away.

In 1998 it was revealed the plane had been carrying at least one of the ingredients needed to make the nerve gas, sarin. There were claims of a cover-up.

Hundreds of local residents reported health problems thought to be related to the crash, such as depression, listlessness and respiratory problems.

An official report published in 1999 censured the government for failing to investigate the crash properly and initiate health checks.


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