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AT LEAST 31 DEAD, 71 HURT IN ETHIOPIAN PLANE CRASH

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 1 2015 7:11 p.m. MDT

Airline officials said Friday at least 31 people died and 71 others were injured when an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 sustained engine failure, crashed and burned in northwestern Ethiopia with 114 people aboard.

Twelve of those injured were in serious condition, airline officials said in releasing the first specific casualty figures since the accident was reported Thursday. The officials said they were still unable to account for two of the people aboard the aircraft when it crashed.The twin-engine plane was flying from Addis Ababa to the northeastern Eritrean provincial capital of Asmara with a stop in Bahir Dar, 240 miles northwest of the capital.

An airline spokesman in the Ethiopian capital said the plane lost power in one engine on takeoff at midday from Bahir Dar and tried to return for a landing, but crashed and burst into flames 2 miles short of the runway.

"Thirty-one people are dead, but the death toll could rise because there are two passengers missing," he said. "Seventy-one people were injured, 12 of them seriously. They are in hospitals in Bahir Dar and in Addis."

The spokesman said the twin-engined plane was carrying 104 passengers and 10 crew members. Two members of the crew were injured.

He said it had landed without problem at Bahir Dar at the southern end of Lake Tana but lost power in one engine two or three minutes after takeoff apparently because birds were sucked into the engine.

"The pilot tried to land again at Bahir Dar but he couldn't reach the runway and put down on open land," the airline spokesman said, adding a Boeing 737 jet is extremely difficult to control with one engine out. "The plane crashed and there was a fire."

He said he did not know the nationalities of the dead.

The spokesman said details of the crash, which was first reported Thursday, were delayed because of poor communications with Bahir Dar.

The official Ethiopian News Agency had said Thursday the airliner carried 104 passengers plus crew when it "made a forced landing" near Bahir Dar in northwestern Ethiopia near Lake Tana.

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