Madrid, Spain: A Spanish airliner bound for the Canary Islands swerved off the runway and caught fire during takeoff from the Madrid airport on Wednesday, Aug 20 killing at least 153 people, the Interior Ministry said.
Nineteen of the 173 people on board were seriously injured, according to statements from the airline and the ministry. It is the height of the summer tourist season in Spain and Spanair flight JK5022 was bound for Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, a popular resort off West Africa, the company said. Thick, white smoke rose above Barajas airport as helicopters and fire trucks dumped water on the plane, which ended up in a wooded area at the end of the runway at Terminal 4.
An official with the Madrid emergency rescue service SAMUR said crews were removing injured people and bodies from the MD-80, calling it a "catastrophe." The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give his name. The plane was an MD-82 carrying 173 people, Spanair said.
The newspaper El Pais said the plane was delayed an hour by technical problems. It managed to get slightly off the ground but crashed near the end of the runway, the paper said.