28 dead as fire engulfs plane in Sudan, officials say
123 people survived
A jetliner burst into flames Tuesday after landing in Sudan, killing at least 28 people, officials said, according to CNN.
Khartoum Police Chief Mohammad Othman Mohammad Noor said "a defect" in the Sudan Airways plane caused it to catch fire as it touched down.
"The fire then led to an explosion on the airplane," he said. "There was a large number of passengers on the plane, some of whom survived. The number of casualties is still unconfirmed at this time."
Lighting up the night sky, flames consumed the plane as it sat on the runway at the airport, which is in the center of Khartoum near residential and business areas.
Mortuary officials said that 28 people had been confirmed dead, though initial reports said that more than 100 had been killed.
Police updated that information late Tuesday, saying 123 people survived. Dozens are unaccounted for. It`s possible that some of those people may have simply gone home after escaping the burning plane, officials said.
Hospitals said they were treating 11 patients from the plane.
Sudanese television reported that more than 200 people were on the plane when the incident occurred about 8:45 p.m. (1:45 p.m. ET). Sudan Airways Flight 109 was arriving from Amman, Jordan, and Damascus, Syria, airport security officials said.
Abbas al-Fadini, a member of the Sudanese parliament who was on the plane, told Al-Jazeera that "fire was inside the plane."
"It started from the right engine and then spread to the inside of the plane," he said.
He was sitting in the front of the plane, he said, and was among those who got out first. Flight attendants and crew members were guiding passengers to the exit, he said.
Some passengers who had minor injuries remained at the airport, he said.
Journalist Andrew Heavens said relatives of those on the plane had gathered at the airport, talking on their cell phones and waiting for news as ambulances sped past.
John Ukec, the Sudanese ambassador to the United States, confirmed that the plane was a Sudan Airways flight carrying 203 passengers and 14 crew members.
Sudanese television said 13 of the crew members survived.
Jordanian officials said the plane carried 34 passengers when it left Amman and picked up 169 passengers in Damascus. It made an initial landing outside Khartoum, at Port Sudan on the Red Sea, the Jordanian officials said, but took off again and landed in the city.
Sources in Khartoum said the plane was an Airbus A310 with the capacity to carry 250 people.
The weather in Khartoum as the plane attempted to land was terrible, the sources said. Low visibility and heavy rain and wind followed a big sandstorm earlier in the day.
A pilot who landed a plane in Khartoum earlier in the evening reported a rough landing, the source said, and added that there was a lot of standing water on the runway. Sandstorms can cause crashes when sand gets into the engines and causes them to ignite, the pilot said.
Video from the scene showed wreckage engulfed in flames. Media reports said the initial landing of the Sudan Airways flight was delayed because of the weather, and the plane landed after the weather cleared.
CNN`s Nic Robertson, who recently was in Sudan, said the nation is in its rainy season.
"It`s the time of year where you get massive rainstorms ... just coming in very quickly," he said. "The problem in Khartoum is not just the rain, but it mixes with a lot of dust in the air. Khartoum is right on the edge of the Sahara Desert. The city is famous almost for these huge dust storms that blow in. So at this time of year, you get the dust, you get the rain coming together. It`s bad conditions."
He said the Khartoum airport is very modern, with a large amount of air traffic passing through.
The last crash of a Sudan Airways plane was July 8, 2003, when a Boeing 737 reported engine trouble after takeoff from Port Sudan and missed its return approach to the airport, crashing about three miles away. A 3-year-old boy was the only survivor of the 117 people aboard. It was Sudan`s worst air disaster.
The airline has connected Sudan with cities in the Middle East and Africa since 1947.