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Azerbaijan plane crashes, 7 dead
By Cao Desheng (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-05-18 22:29

An Azerbaijan Il-76 cargo plane crashed near a farm in Northwest China Tuesday, killing all seven crew members.

The four-engine heavy transport plane went down about 10 kilometres from the Urumqi International Airport located in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Much of the aircraft burnt at the accident site.

Charred bodies of the crew members -- including 6 Ukrainians and an Azerbaijianian -- were discovered by emergency workers at the tragedy.

None on the ground was hurt in the incident, even though the shattered plane and cargo it carried were scattered along a 2-square kilometre area, police officials said.

The plane was operating on a chartered flight mission from Taiyuan, capital of North China's Shanxi Province, to Baku in Azerbaijan via Urumqi.

It took off from Taiyuan Airport at 5:50 am, landed at Urumqi Airport at 9:10 am and crashed into the Sanping Farm at 10:50, just two minutes after it took off, said Yang Yong, deputy director of the airport's publicity department.

Nearly 1,000 police officers, armed police and civilians took part in a vain search for dead crew members, Yang told China Daily Tuesday.

The accident occurred with the nose of the cargo plane first touched down the earth, causing explosions and sending off dense smoke, eyewitnesses said.

The pilot apparently was trying an emergency landing and failed, after likely having been searching for an open area to make the attempt, according to Ma Yuelan, a taxi driver who saw the incident.

Ma Guijun, a farmer at Sanping Farm, said he and three others saw the plane crash into the farmland and slide to the rear part of the house of Ma Jianjun, a local farmer, and plough into his fodder pond there.

Zhang Yuping, wife of Ma Jianjun, heard the deafening explosion at home. She thought it might be an accident on a highway in front of her home.

"When I turned round and looked out of the back window, I was stunned to see a big plane hovering toward me and I thought that was the end of my life," Zhang recalled.

"However, the plane swirled and came to a stop before it reached the house," she said.

Soon emergency workers arrived and carried out rescue operations despite the strong wind, the woman added.

The cause of the accident remains unknown and efforts to search for the aircraft's black boxes are still ongoing, according to the airport officials.

The Urumqi International Airport resumed operating at 1:30 pm Tuesday.

An investigative team led by Liu Shaoyong, vice-minister of General Administration of Civil Aviation of China -- the nation's top civil aviation Authority -- has arrived at Urumqi to look into the cause of the accident.

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