Jet Crashes in Siberia With 200 Aboard

From The Associated Press

An airplane carrying about 200 people crashed today in the Siberian city of Irkutsk and most on board were feared dead, officials said.

The regional prosecutor's office said a preliminary count showed that more than 150 people died, the Interfax news agency reported.

The plane was carrying 192 passengers on a flight that originated in Moscow, Emergency Situations Ministry spokeswoman Irina Andrianova said.

Andrianova said 43 people had been hospitalized and 10 others were not injured.

The Interfax report said that the dead were believed to include the eight crew members.

The Airbus A-310 operated by Sibir Airlines, Russia's second-largest airline, crashed on landing. It went off the runway, hit a concrete barrier and burst into flames, Andrianova said.

"It was traveling at a terrific speed," she said. It took five emergency services more than two hours to extinguish the flames, Andrianova said.

Former Soviet airlines had a grim record of crashes in the 1990s. Much of the Soviet monopoly carrier Aeroflot was broken into regional airlines, which were plagued by money shortages, aging equipment and disregard for safety. But in recent years, crashes caused by equipment failure or pilot error have declined sharply.

Sibir came under new ownership amid a 1998 financial crisis, and a young team was installed to reinvent what remained of Aeroflot's Siberian wing.

A Sibir jet was one of two planes lost in near-simultaneous crashes blamed on terrorist bombs in 2004. Three years earlier, a Sibir plane was shot down by a stray Ukrainian missile fired during military exercises, killing all 78 people aboard.

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