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146 reported killed in Madrid jet crash

A Spanish tourist jet carrying 173 people careered off a Madrid airport runway and broke up in flames on Wednesday killing at least 146 people, national radio reported.

world Updated: Aug 21, 2008 00:11 IST

A Spanish tourist jet carrying 173 people careered off a Madrid airport runway and broke up in flames on Wednesday killing at least 146 people, national radio reported.

The Spanair MD-82 made an emergency landing just after taking off from Madrid-Barajas airport heading for Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, according to an airport authority spokesman. Spanish media said an engine caught fire as it took off.

Smoke billowed from the wreckage of Flight JK 5022. Helicopters dropped water to douse the flames of the jet and grassfires caused by the crash.

The airport cancelled departures after the crash and restricted the number of flights arriving. About 30 incoming flights were delayed by up to seven hours.

Spanish national radio said 146 people died and 26 people were injured in the disaster.

The authorities earlier issued a provisional toll saying there were at least 45 dead and 40 injured -- making it one of the worst air disasters in Europe in recent years. A spokesman said 15 of those injured were in serious condition.

Spanair said the plane was carrying 164 passengers and nine crew on the MD-82 jet when it crashed at 2:45pm (1245 GMT) during take off.

The company said the names of the passengers and crew would only be released after families have been notified.

"Information on the number of people involved is not yet available, but Spanair is doing everything possible to help the Spanish authorities at this difficult time," the company added.

At the airport, friends and family members of those on board were escorted into a special room.

SAS, the Scandinavian airline which owns Spanair, said a special team had been set up in Madrid. "SAS is doing everything possible to help passengers and next of kin and to assist Spanish authorities."

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero interrupted his holiday to go to the scene, his office said.

The flight was a codeshare with Lufthansa and the German carrier said four passengers from a Lufthansa flight were registered on the ill-fated Spanair jet and had arrived in Madrid.

The Boeing Co. on offered assistance to Spanish authorities investigating the disaster.

"Boeing extends its deep condolences to the families and friends of those lost in the crash of Spanair 5022 in Madrid, and our hope for the speedy recovery of the injured," Boeing, which took over McDonnell Douglas, said in a statement.

Spanair is Spain's second biggest airline after Iberia.

Five passengers on a Spanair flight from Spain's Basque region to Barcelona were injured in an emergency evacuation on January 9, 2006.

The airline was founded in 1986 and says it has carried more than 104 million passengers from about 100 European destinations to Spain since then. It has a fleet of 65 jets.

The airliner, a member of the Star Alliance network, recently proposed shedding almost a quarter of its 4,000 staff because of the fuel price rise crisis and reduced demand.

It posted net losses of 41 million euros (62 million dollars) in the first quarter.

SAS shares plunged 6.41 percent on the Stockholm stock exchange after the crash.

SAS had put Spanair on the block earlier this year but announced in June that it was abandoning the sale plans due to the slowdown in the aviation sector.