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Airliner crashes in Irkutsk

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Airliner crashes in Irkutsk

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Nearly 140 people, including five members of the cabin crew, have died or are missing after an Airbus crash in Russia. It appears a failure of the hydraulic brake system caused the plane, an A310, to overshoot the runway on landing before careering into buildings and exploding. The 20-hour flight, from Moscow to Irkutsk, was a holiday special taking people to nearby Lake Baikal. Many of the 192 passengers were children.

Six hundred firefighters had to battle for three hours to put out the fire. The plane crashed into a row of garages containing fuel, and those passengers who did not die immediately were killed in the blaze. Doctors say many of the survivors have terrible burns. It is the second time in five years Irkutsk airport has been struck by tragedy. In 2001 a Tupolev crash claimed 113 lives.

President Putin has called a day of national mourning and has opened an inquiry. The Airbus was assembled in 1987 and had 52 000 flying hours on the clock. The only surviving stewardess is something of a heroine; she managed to evacuate passengers from the intact rear of the plane before it was engulfed in flames. One pilot also survived.