Plane crash in north-west Russia's Karelia kills 44

Forty-four people have been killed and eight injured in a plane crash in north-western Russia, officials say.

The aircraft attempted to land on a motorway about 1km (0.6 miles) from Petrozavodsk airport in the republic of Karelia, but crashed and caught fire.

The RusAir Tupolev 134 plane had 43 passengers and nine crew. Survivors include a 10-year-old boy and a girl thought to be his sister.

Thick fog and heavy rain were reported at the time of the crash.

The plane came down while flying from the capital, Moscow, to Petrozavodsk.

It just missed houses close to the motorway. One source told the Interfax news agency that bodies were strewn across the road.

Rescuers managed to pull several people out of the plane before it exploded.

A mobile phone video of the scene shortly afterwards showed flames from the wreckage soaring into the night sky.
'Unfavourable weather'

The emergencies ministry has published a full list of the passengers and the names of the survivors. One Dutch and one Swedish national, two Ukrainians and a Russian family of four with dual US citizenship were all among the dead.

Interfax news agency said most of the senior management of Gidropress, a subsidiary of the Russian nuclear export agency Rosatom, were killed, as well as Russian premier league football referee Vladimir Pettay.

The emergency situation ministry said the survivors included a 10-year-old boy, a 14-year-old girl believed to be his sister and a female flight attendant.

All are said to be in critical condition and suffering from burns.

Most have been sent to Moscow for further treatment.

Radio contact with the pilot was lost at 2340 (1940 GMT) on Monday, the ministry said.There was no immediate explanation for the crash, but Interfax quoted the airport's director as saying there had been "unfavourable weather conditions", with the aircraft making its final descent in thick fog and heavy rain.

The aircraft hit a power line, causing a power cut which extinguished the high-intensity landing lights on the runway, deployed at times of low visibility, moments before the crash, Alexey Kuzmitsky said.

Back-up systems were switched on but too late to stop the aircraft from crashing, he added.

A rescuer told Russian TV he managed to pull four people out of the wreckage.

"I carried out a woman in my arms. Then we brought out a large man and two people from the mid-section. Then everything burst into flames and started exploding. It was impossible to go close," he said.

The flight recorders have been recovered and a team of accident investigators has flown to the scene from Moscow.

Prosecutors say an investigation into possible violations of air transport rules is under way.

RusAir is a privately-owned, Moscow-based airline that specialises in charter flights in western Russia and eastern Europe.

The twin-engined Tu-134 is one of the work-horses of the Russian aviation industry.

Karelia is a sparsely populated region of lakes and forests bordering Finland, and a popular summer destination for Russian tourists.

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