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Plane breaks into pieces after skidding off runway in Istanbul

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By Aziz Akyavas and Associated Press and Reuters  with NBC News World News
A plane flying into Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen airport overran the runway on
A plane flying into Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen airport overran the runway on Wednesday.   -   Copyright  DHA via Reuters TV

ANKARA, Turkey — A plane broke into pieces after it skidded off the runway and crashed into a field at Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen Airport on Wednesday.

At least 52 people were injured and had been taken to hospital, Istanbul Gov. Ali Yerlikaya tweeted shortly after the crash.

He added that there were 177 people on board the Pegasus Airlines plane that was arriving from the resort of Izmir in Western Turkey. This included six crew members, he said.

"As of now, there are no deaths and the injured are being sent to hospitals," Pegasus Airlines said in a statement.

Television footage showed serious damage to the plane which is a Boeing 737, according to flight tracking website Flightradar24. The fuselage appeared to be broken into three pieces.

The privately run NTV television reported that the plane caught fire after skidding but said the blaze had been extinguished.

Turkey's Transportation Ministry told the broadcaster that the plane had a "rough landing," according to the Associated Press. NTV also quoted Transport Minister Mehmet Cahit Turhan as that saying most of the passengers evacuated on their own.

He added that the airport had been closed down and flights were being diverted to Istanbul's main airport.

It is rare for a fuselage to split open while pieces remain largely intact. Planes are designed to absorb impact forces in the bottom of the fuselage to improve the chances that passengers in the cabin above will survive.

In 2013, the tail of an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 broke off after the jet hit a seawall during approach to San Francisco International Airport. Three people died, 49 were seriously injured and scores more suffered minor injuries, according to the U.S. accident report.