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Madrid plane crash kills more than 150

Latest update : 2008-08-21

At least 153 people have been killed and 19 injured when a Spanair jet carrying 173 people crashed at Madrid airport. The jet broke up in flames when it attempted an emergency landing after take-off.

At least 153 people were killed and 19 injured when a Spanish airliner skidded off Madrid Barajas airport’s runway, according to regional authorities.

The Spanair jet was heading for Las Palmas in the Canary Islands with 173 people including flight crew members on board but was forced to make an emergency landing.

“The plane took off from the all new terminal 4 reported Adeline Percept, FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Madrid. “The plane’s left engine caught fire shortly after take-off causing a large cloud of smoke,” she said.

The Red Cross is working to identify the bodies, and has set up support groups in Madrid and at Las Palmas.  "We’re working with the families who want to know what happened in that plane,” said Red Cross spokeswoman in Madrid Gaaeme Bara to FRANCE 24.

“The injured have been transferred to the main hospitals in Madrid, and it takes 10 minutes to reach the hospitals from the airport. All the bodies have not been extracted yet, and we are in the process of identifying them with DNA tests,” she added.

Our correspondent said the number people killed is still unclear. A fireman on the site told Spanish daily El Mundo that the plane was full of burnt bodies including those of the flight crew.

TV images showed columns of smoke billowing from the wreckage on the tarmac as helicopters dropped water to douse the jet’s flames and grassfires caused by the crash.

"They are pulling out burnt corpses. The plane has been completely destroyed," a source from the emergency services told Reuters.

Firemen and emergency services battled flames for almost two hours before extinguishing the fire. “It’s a miracle to survive such an accident,” a crash survivor told El Mundo.

Rescue workers couldn’t access the plane’s interior immediately due to high temperatures inside the cabin, the Spanish daily
reported on its website.

Airport authorities set up a special helpline for the victims’ relatives (00 34 800 400 200) and a special psychological counselling cell was set for grieving families at the airport.

Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero cut short his vacation and was heading back to Madrid, a government spokesperson told AFP.

The crash could prove to be more deadly than the one in Bilbao in February 1985, when 148 people were killed.

Spain’s worst plane crash was in March 1977, when 585 people were killed after two planes collided at Los Rodeos airport in Tenerife.

Spanair is a subsidiary of Scandinavian carrier SAS and is Spain's second biggest airline after Iberia. SAS shares plunged 6.41 percent on the Stockholm stock exchange soon after the news of the crash.

“Spanair is doing everything possible to assist the Spanish authorities at this difficult time. Spanair will provide further information as soon as it becomes available," the airline said in a statement.

The airline company gave no further information regarding casualties.

Date created : 2008-08-20