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Crash during takeoff kills 153 in Madrid

Some 153 people were believed dead Wednesday after a jetliner heading to the Canary Islands swerved off the runway at Madrid's airport during takeoff.

Only 19 people survived the midafternoon crash of the Spanair MD-82 at Barajas International Airport, and some were in critical condition, said Development Minister Magdalena Alvarez, whose department oversees civil aviation in Spain.

The airline didn't release a death toll, but officials said the plane was carrying 172 crew members and passengers, including two babies and 20 youngsters. .

As smoke billowed from the wreckage, dozens of firetrucks and ambulances rushed to help, lining a nearby road and filling a field next to a swath of charred vegetation. Helicopters flew over dumping water on fires.

Later, a convoy of black hearses rolled onto the airport grounds to carry bodies to a makeshift morgue at Madrid's main convention center. Flight departures resumed after several hours.

It was not immediately clear what went wrong. Alvarez said the jetliner had barely gotten airborne when it veered right, crashed and broke into pieces.

A spokesman for Spanair, a Spanish company owned by Scandinavian Airlines, said it did not know what caused the accident. Alvarez said investigators ruled out foul play and considered the crash an accident. She said the plane's flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder were recovered.

While preparing for a first takeoff attempt, the plane's pilot reported a breakdown in a gauge that measures temperature outside the plane. The gauge was fixed, delaying the departure, said Spanair spokeswoman Susana Vergara.

It was on the second takeoff attempt that the plane crashed.

The DC-9/MD-80 family of jets enjoyed wide popularity in the 1970s, '80s and '90s. But as the jets age, they've begun attracting criticism. In April, American Airlines grounded its MD-80s, fearing electrical faults. Last month, the FAA ordered U.S. airlines to inspect the planes for cracking on overwing frames.

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