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32 killed in Siberia plane crash

Twenty-nine people were killed when a passenger plane operated by private Russian airline, UTair, crashed in Siberia shortly after takeoff

AFP , Monday 2 Apr 2012
Russian Emergency ministry rescue workers search the site of the ATR-72 plane crash outside Tyumen, a major regional center in Siberia, Russia, Monday, April 2, 2012. (Photo: AP)

Thirty-two people were killed Monday when a passenger plane crashed moments after takeoff in an oil-rich region of Siberia in the latest accident to strike Russia's crisis-prone aviation industry.

The emergencies ministry said the French-Italian made ATR-72 liner was carrying 39 passengers and four crew when it fell 45 kilometres (28 miles) from the western Siberian city of Tyumen on its way to the oil town of Surgut.

"Eleven people were injured and 32 killed," the Tyumen emergencies ministry said in a statement, adding that Tyumen governor Vladimir Yakushev had arrived at the site of the crash.

The ATR-72 twin-engine plane was operated by UTair – a private Russian airline that conducts most of its flights in the energy-rich regions of Western Siberia and the Ural Mountains.

The airline said in a statement that the plane crashed shortly after takeoff "while conducting a forced landing 1.5 kilometres [about one mile]" outside Roshchino airport.

It gave no immediate reason for the crash. The emergencies ministry said 232 rescue workers and investigators had been dispatched to the site.

Rescue teams found the plane's cabin ablaze along with other debris.

The city of Tyumen lies 1,700 kilometres (1,000 miles) east of Moscow and is the capital of one of Russia's biggest oil producing regions of the same name.

The plane was flying to Surgut – the heart of the Surgutneftegaz energy company and one of Russia's largest oil and natural gas producers.

Russia's aviation industry remains blighted by repeated accidents involving its ageing fleet of planes and president-elect Vladimir Putin has made industry reform one of the top priorities of his third term as Kremlin chief.

Putin has already ordered Russia's older planes to be put out of service by the end of the year and for pilots and smaller air carriers to be put to strict new tests and regulations.

The crash marks the first disaster that Putin will have to deal with following his March 4 re-election and underscores the difficulties Russia has faced in updating its Soviet-era infrastructure.

Officials have identified poor pilot training and lax safety rules as one of the most immediate problems affecting Russian aviation.

But plans to eliminate smaller carriers that employ just a handful of planes as a safety precaution have run up against the reality that Russia lacks the fleet necessary to span the country's vast distances.

Russia announced plans to recall the licences of 30 smaller airlines in response to a September 2011 plane crash that claimed the lives of 44 people – most of them members of the championship-winning ice hockey team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.

A plane carrying Polish president Lech Kaczynski and other top officials came down in fog near the Russian city of Smolensk in April 2010 in an accident that killed 96 people and damaged ties between Moscow and Warsaw.

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