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Plane crashes in Thailand, 88 killed

A budget airliner crashes in Phuket, killing 88 people as it breaks up and bursts into flames while trying to land.

world Updated: Sep 17, 2007 01:35 IST
Jackie Wong

A budget airliner crashed on the Thai resort island of Phuket on Sunday, killing 88 people as it broke up and burst into flames while trying to land in driving rain, a senior official said.

Forty two people were injured, Phuket deputy governor Vorapot Rajsima told a news conference, and a hospital official said at least five of the survivors were seriously hurt.

Flight manifests at Phuket airport suggested well over half the 123 passengers on the flight from the Thai capital were foreign and an Airports of Thailand official in Bangkok said most of the foreigners were European holidaymakers.

There were seven crew members on board. Earlier reports had said there were five.

Eight Britons, eight Thais, five Germans and two Australians were among 42 known survivors, hospital workers said.

"The plane looks as though it veered off the runway into the side of a hill," said Leslie Quahe, a Singaporean pastor who arrived at the scene about an hour after the crash.

"I was coming down the hill and saw smoke coming from the plane. It had broken into several parts," Quahe told Reuters.

Officials said the McDonnell Douglas MD-82 had broken in two on impact on landing on the Andaman Sea paradise isle, which was hit by the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

The tail section of the One-Two-Go flight lay on the runway and the rest was among the trees lining it.

"I'm deeply sorry about this tragic event," Udom Tantiprasongchai, chairman of Orient Thai Airlines which operates the low cost airline, told reporters, promising a full investigation.

Fast descent

Distraught relatives gathered at the airport, on the northwest coast of Thailand's largest island, desperate for news of loved ones.

Nong Khaonual, a Thai who survived the crash with his wife, said he believed the plane had descended too quickly.

"The airplane was landing in heavy rain. It landed too fast. I have never seen anything like this. It descended very fast," he told Nation Television in hospital.

"Just before we touched the runway we felt the plane try to lift up, and it skidded off the runway," he said.

"My wife was half conscious and I dragged her out of the emergency exit. There was a man behind us and he was on fire."

Another survivor, an Irishman named John, described the attempts to land in atrocious conditions.

"You could tell there was a problem. The plane was flying around trying to land. It was making some noises and it was bad rain," John, who was travelling with a friend who also survived, told Thailand's ITV television channel.

"The plane was on fire, but I managed to get through."

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