Phuket plane crash toll rises to 90, no Indian casualty

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Bangkok, Sep 17 (UNI) The death toll in yesterday's Phuket plane crash rose to 90 today with the operating airline confirming that the Indonesian pilot and Thai co-pilot had died.

One-Two-Go Airlines, which operated the plane, said today both cockpit crew had died along with most of the passengers in the front part of the MD-82 plane, Bangkok Post reported.

Heavy rains hampered rescue efforts to sift through the wreckage for more bodies. ''We still cannot clear the wreckage because of the continued heavy rains. We are moving a crane to the site and are trying to reopen the airport as soon as possible. Half a day should be enough,'' Deputy Transport Minister Sansern Wongcha-um said.

''Eighty-three bodies have been retrieved so far,'' he added.

There was no confirmation yet whether any Indians were on board the Thai budget carrier aircraft, according to the Indian Embassy.

The Embassy officials told UNI this morning that they are still trying to ascertain if any Indians were among the victims or survivors who are being treated in Phuket hospitals.

The One-Two-Go Airlines passenger jet with 123 people onboard crashed and caught fire while landing at Phuket Airport in inclement weather yesterday afternoon.

''The fire spread throughout the plane,'' said Phuket Deputy Governor Worraphot Ratsrimaa. ''We expect that at least 90 per cent of the passengers died.'' There were at least 42 survivors, including 11 Thais, six Irish nationals, six Britons, three Australians, three Iranians, two Swedes, one German and a Dutch national, who were admitted to various Phuket hospitals.

''Nearly half the passengers were foreign tourists,'' said one survivor, Nong Khaonuan. In a TV interview, he said. ''I have flown on many airplanes before and I can say there was something strange about our landing. We seemed to drop down too fast.'' Newspapers here have published the full passgenger manifest of the flight OG 269 of low-cost airline operated by Thai carrier Orient Thai.

''We are rescuing people and carrying injured people to hospitals,'' said Pol Lt Sokchai Limcharoen, a police officer in the area.

Chaisak Angsuwan, Director General of the Air Transport Authority of Thailand said the aircraft broke into two as it attempted to land at Phuket airport in bad weather.

''The visibility was poor as the pilot attempted to land. He decided to make a go-around but the plane lost balance and crashed.

The plane then fell onto the runway and broke into two. The toll may rise further,'' he said.

Witnesses said the airline was using its usual MD-82 twin-engine passenger jet aircraft, a model of the McDonnell-Douglas DC9.

One-Two-Go owned seven such planes, which it used for frequent flights around Thailand, including six each day from Bangkok to Phuket and return.

Weather in Phuket has been bad for several days, with thunderstorms and high wind gusts at times.

UNI

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