Deaths in Russian aircraft 'emergency'

Antonov-24 passenger jet lands on Ob River in the Tomsk region of Siberia after left engine catches fire.

    Five people have died and two are missing after a Russian passenger jet was forced to make an emergency landing on the Ob River in Siberia, officials say.

    The Antonov-24 belonging to the Angara airline was carrying 35 passengers between Tomsk and Surgut when an engine caught fire, forcing the pilot to land the jet in the river in the Tomsk region of Siberia on Monday, an investigative committee said in a statement.

    The regional airline said on its website that the aircraft's left engine caught fire, forcing it to make the emergency landing.

    "The crew said an engine was on fire and announced on the radio their intention to make an emergency landing," a spokesperson for the Russian civil aviation agency, Sergei Izvolsky, said.

    "As a result, the plane received considerable damage, with the tail ripped off and the fuselage damaged," regional transport prosecutors said in a statement.

    According to Sergei Shoigu, the emergency situations minister, a total of 30 people were taken to hospital in the nearby town of Strezhevoi after the emergency landing, but two people are still unaccounted for.

    He said divers were searching for the bodies of the two people missing in the under-water portion of the aircraft.

    The Antonov AN-24 is used as a transport and regional aircraft, which has been in service since the early 1960s. The last jet was built in 1979, but several hundred remain in service in the ex-Soviet Union and Africa.

    Second major accident

    This is the second major accident to hit Russia in the space of two days: more than 100 people are still missing or presumed dead after a double-decker tourist ship sank in a wide stretch of the Volga River in the Tatarstan region.

    Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, suggested at a meeting on Monday with officials, including the transportation and emergencies ministers, that the Siberia accident showed that the AN-24 model should be taken out of service.

    "I have been recently talking about the state of our air fleet. All that I have said regarding Tupolev-134 is applicable to AN-24 planes," he said, referring to another Soviet-era aircraft that is due to be permanently grounded.

    Last month 45 people died in a plane crash in northwest Russia, making it the worst air disaster in over a year.

    That accident followed the crash of the official jet of Lech Kaczynski, the Polish president, near the western city of Smolensk in a thick fog in April 2010, killing him and all 95 others on board.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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