/ 20 August 2008

Dozens dead as jet crashes at Madrid airport

A Spanish tourist jet carrying more than 160 people skidded off a Madrid airport runway and broke up in flames on Wednesday, killing at least 45 people and injuring dozens, officials said.

The Spanair jet made an emergency landing just after taking off from the Madrid-Barajas airport heading for Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, according to an emergency services spokesperson.

Smoke billowed from the wreckage of flight JK 5022 off the bottom of the runway. Helicopters dropped water to douse the flames of the jet and grass fires caused by the crash.

Regional authorities issued a provisional toll saying there were at least 45 dead and 40 injured. The spokesperson said 15 of those injured were in serious condition.

CNN Plus television news gave a toll of 47 dead. El Mundo newspaper said the toll could exceed 100.

Reports said there were 166 passengers on the jet.

Spanair, a subsidiary of Scandinavian carrier SAS, is Spain’s second-biggest airline after Iberia. Five passengers on a Spanair flight from Spain’s Basque region to Barcelona were injured in an emergency evacuation on January 9 2006.

It was founded in 1986 and says it has carried more than 104-million passengers from about 100 European destinations to Spain since then. It is a member of the Star Alliance network but recently proposed shedding almost a quarter of its 4 000 staff because of the rise in fuel prices.

The airline posted net losses of €41-million in the first quarter. — AFP