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77 Feared Dead in Macedonia as Jet Crashes on Takeoff

Associated Press

A jet with 97 people aboard crashed while taking off in a snowstorm Friday, and up to 77 people were feared dead, authorities said.

Hours after the Macedonian airliner crashed and exploded about half a mile from the end of the runway, only 20 survivors--all of them injured--had been found, said U.N. peacekeepers in this former Yugoslav republic and other rescuers. Most of the people on board reportedly were ethnic Albanians.

Blackened pieces of the twin-engine jet and bodies were strewn along a 120-yard area.

The Fokker 100, operated by Pal Air, was on a flight to Zurich, Switzerland, when it veered to the left and crashed into a snowy field seconds after becoming airborne, said Pavle Trajanov, Macedonia’s deputy interior minister.

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Blagoje Filipovski, the director of Skopje airport, said the cause of the crash was unknown. The plane’s two flight recorders, which contain electronic flight information and cockpit conversations, were recovered, Trajanov said. He said luggage searched in the wreckage showed no trace of explosives.

The 20 survivors were taken by helicopter to a military hospital.


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