At least 30 dead in Sudan plane crash

Plane bursts into flames after landing at Sudan airport.

Sudan plane crash 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Sudan plane crash 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Abdel Hafez Abdel Rahim said at least 30 people were killed, around 170 escaped, and some 14 others remain unaccounted for when a Sudan Airways Airbus A310 caught fire after touching down at Khartoum International Airport. Some survivors likely left the airport without reporting to authorities or going through customs amid the confusion, officials said. An investigation into the accident was under way Wednesday. The plane appeared to have gone off the runway after landing at the airport, an AP reporter at the scene said. The roaring blaze dwarfed the plane's shattered fuselage as firefighters sprayed water. Ambulances and fire trucks rushed to the scene. Police spokesman Maj. Gen. Mohammed Abdel Majid al-Tayeb said Wednesday the plane skidded off the runway and slammed against navigation lights at the end of the runway. Several passengers said a rough landing was followed by a loud noise, or a "slam," and then a fire broke out on the plane's right side. Reports differed on the role the weather may have played in the crash. The head of Sudanese police, Mohammad Najib, said bad weather "caused the plane to crash land, split into two and catch fire." A sandstorm hit the area with 20 mph winds between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. and there was a thunderstorm and similar winds at the time of the crash around 9 p.m. Due to inclement weather, the aircraft stopped at Port Sudan Airport along the Red Sea, refueling before heading to Khartoum. The flight originated in Amman, Jordan and stopped in Damascus. But Youssef Ibrahim, director of the Khartoum airport, disputed that bad weather was to blame, saying the plane "landed safely." He blamed the accident on technical problems, saying one of the engines blew up but didn't elaborate. Airbus said in a statement that it was sending a team of specialists to Khartoum to help in the investigation. It said the plane involved in the accident was 18 years old and had been operated by Sudan Airways since September. France's Inquiry and Analysis Bureau, known by its French initials BEA, is also taking part in the inquiry because the plane was made by France-based Airbus. Sudan has a poor aviation safety record and has many small airlines that service Africa's largest country. Three years ago, the government said it planned to build a new airport outside of the city center by 2010. It remains in the planning phase. In May, a plane crash in a remote area of southern Sudan killed 24 people, including key members of the southern Sudanese government. In July 2003, a Sudan Airways Boeing 737 en route from Port Sudan to Khartoum crashed soon after takeoff, killing all 115 people on board. Abdel Rahim of the Civil Aviation told Al-Jazeera satellite television that the investigation could take up to 14 days. The airport reopened at noon on Wednesday. Later, a state burial ceremony was held in a downtown Khartoum cemetery attended by President Omar al-Bashir and other senior officials. Several bodies wrapped in white shrouds were lying on the ground as a crowd of more than 5,000 prayed. At the funeral, Assem Qassem said his sister, her husband and their two children died in the crash. He blamed slow rescue efforts for their suffocation. After a painstaking search, Qassem said he found his relatives at the morgue eight hours later. "The family is in shock. This is a whole family that disappeared forever," he said.