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Azerbaijan plane crashes in NW China
Updated: 2004-05-18 12:40

An Azerbaijan cargo plane crashed into farmland two minutes after take-off near the Urumqi International Airport of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and the seven crew had zero chance of survival.

An Il-76 cargo plane of Azerbaijan crashes near the Urumqi International Airport of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Tuesday morning, May 18, 2004. [Xinhua]

Rescuers at the scene said no one on the ground was hurt after the Russian-made Il-76 crashed and burst into flames around 10:50 a.m. local time (2250 EDT) into forest and farmland about six miles from the airport in Urumqi.

The fuselage was destroyed and there was no chance the crew could have survived. But officials on the ground had yet to confirm the fate of the crew whom they identified as Russians. The plane's cargo was also unknown.

"Right now they're still putting out the fire," said one official in charge of rescue work at the scene.

"Only one thing can be sure that there's no casualty reported on the ground, because the plane dropped in an open space."

More than 10 ambulances were at the scene and rescuers were trying to open the cockpit doors.

The plane was en route to Azerbaijan's capital Baku. It had originated in Taiyuan, in China's northern province of Shanxi, and had made a stopover in Urumqi, airport officials said.

The Il-76, the workhorse of the cargo fleets of Russia and other ex-Soviet states, has suffered a string of accidents over the past few years.

An Iranian air force Il-76 crashed into mountains in Iran last year killing all 302 passengers and crew. In March, a Ukrainian-owned Il-76 came down shortly after take off from Baku, killing three of the seven crew.

Close to 1,000 of the aircraft -- which first flew in 1971 -- have been built by Russian manufacturer Ilyushin.

China's last major crash was on May 7, 2002, when a China Northern flight from Beijing to Dalian fell into the sea after the pilot reported a fire in the cabin. That crash killed 112 people.

Urumqi airport resumes operation after 3-hour closure

Urumqi International Airport has resumed operation after a closure for three hours.

The airport closed at 11 a.m. Tuesday when the plane crashed into a forested land 10 kilometers away from the airport in Urumqi at 10:50 a.m. local time.

Xinhua reporters say they witnessed the airport has resumed its normal operation at 2 p.m.. And related source noted that the airport authority has relocated manpower resources and resorted toemergency measures to make up the delay of the flights and cope with the needs of passengers.

The chartered cargo plane, the Russian made ILyushin 76 jet, which took off from Taiyuan city of north China's Shanxi province heading for Baku of Azerbaijan, had a stopover at the Urumqi International Airport for refueling.

The crash occurred two minutes after it took off Urumqi International Airport, eyewitnesses said.

The bodies of the seven crew members have been retrieved together with the black box of the cargo plane.

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