Officials: Sudanese plane crash kills dozens

A Sudanese jetliner landed in a thunderstorm and veered off the runway late Tuesday, bursting into flames and killing dozens of people, Sudanese officials said.

Official and state media said immediately after the crash that about half the 203 passengers aboard the Airbus A310 had been killed in the crash about 9 p.m.

But several hours later, officials began reporting a lower toll.

One flight attendant said the crew had evacuated the passengers from the plane.

“Thank God we were able to get all the passengers out,” said Sarrah Faisal, her voice shaking as she spoke to Sudanese TV from a stretcher, wearing a plastic neck-brace. She gave no more details.

Deputy parliament speaker Mohammed al-Hassan al-Ameen said the death toll was “about 30 people.”

Police spokesman Mohammed Abdel Majid al-Tayeb said five bodies had been pulled from the wreckage, 100 people were safe and an unspecified number were hospitalized.

An Associated Press reporter at the scene said the plane appeared to have left the runway as it landed at Khartoum International Airport.

Sudanese TV footage showed a hellish scene, with orange flames dwarfing firefighters and towering above the shattered fuselage. Ambulances and fire trucks rushed to the scene. Media were kept away from the blaze.

Youssef Ibrahim, director of the Khartoum airport, told Sudanese TV that the plane “landed safely” in Khartoum and the pilot was talking to the control tower and getting further instructions when the accident occurred.

“One of the (plane's) engines exploded and the plane caught fire,” Ibrahim said. He said bad weather did not cause the crash, which he blamed on a technical problem.

The Sudanese ambassador to Washington called the weather “very bad” and said the runway was drenched by rain.

The head of Sudanese police, Mohammad Najib, said bad weather “caused the plane to crash land, split into two and catch fire.”

“We believe that most of the passengers were able to make it out and escape with their lives,” said Najib, without disclosing further details on how they escaped.

But he stressed that officials could not say for sure how many were killed.

The airport was experiencing a thunderstorm and winds about 20 mph at the time of the crash, said Elaine Yang, a meteorologist with the San Francisco-based Weather Underground, a private weather service.