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Mon 25 Aug 2008 05:34 PM

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Many dead in Madrid plane crash

A fiery plane crash at Madrid’s Barajas airport has killed 154 people.

A fiery plane crash at Madrid’s Barajas airport has killed 154 people.

The aircraft, which was headed for Las Palmas in Gran Canaria, swerved off the runway shortly after take off. The recovery mission started minutes later, with some 70 ambulances present and helicopters flying overhead pouring water on the aircraft in a bid to stem the flames. It is estimated that 18 people survived the crash, though many are said to be in a critical condition.

Rescue worker, Pablo Albella, told AP news agency: "The fuselage is destroyed. The plane burned. I have seen a kilometre of charred land and few whole pieces of the fuselage. It’s all destruction."

It is believed that the plane was attempting take off for the second time when one of its engines caught fire. At present the exact cause of the crash is unknown, though investigations are underway. Spanish transport minister, Magdalena Alvarez, said the plane had been delayed because of a technical problem before the disaster.

Spanish media reported that the pilot had found a fault with a temperature gauge, but it was thought to have been fixed.

The country’s Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero said: "The government will make all its efforts to support the families in this hard moment as they have received the news of such tragedy."

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