Plane catches fire on landing in Iran, killing 29

An Iranian passenger plane carrying 148 people skidded off the runway and smashed its wing on the ground, sparking a fire as it landed in the northeastern city of Mashhad on Friday, killing 29 people in the latest deadly accident involving a Russian-made aircraft.

Rescue workers carried survivors on stretchers out of the gutted craft, which lay in a pool of water near the runway. In footage shown on the Iranian television, the middle section of the plane was charred and the roof collapsed, while firefighters sprayed the engines with water.

"The plane was shaking badly during the landing, then it suddenly lurched to the left," one survivor, Sahar Karimi, told The Associated Press by telephone from a hospital in Mashhad.

"Then it caught fire, and all the passengers rushed to the emergency exit," she said.

The spokesman for Iran's Civil Aviation Organization, Reza Jafarzadeh, said it was still not known what caused the plane to slide off the runway.

State television reported that a tire exploded as the plane landed, but Jafarzadeh said investigators had still not confirmed that. "Fortunately, the crew memebers are safe, and this can help the investigation team to reach its conclusions sooner," he said.

The flight by Iran Airtour, which is affiliated to Iran's national air carrier was arriving in Mashhad from Bandar Abbas on Iran's southern coast when the accident occurred.

The plane slid off the runway, "then its left wing hit the ground and caught fire," civil aviation chairman Nourollah Rezai Niaraki said in a television interview.

He said 29 passengers were killed, correcting an earlier television report of 80 dead.

The craft was a Russian-made Tupolev Tu-154, the same make as a passenger jet owned by Russia's Pulkovo Airlines that crashed in Ukraine on Aug. 22 while en route from a Russian resort to St. Petersburg, killing all 170 people on board, reports AP.

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