31 hurt as airliner flips, burns in Kyrgyzstan

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — A Soviet-built jet operated by a Kyrgyz carrier broke its wing, overturned and caught fire Wednesday as it tried to land in deep fog in southern Kyrgyzstan, leaving 31 people injured, officials said.

The Soviet-built Tu-134 operated by local carrier Kyrgyzstan had flown from the capital Bishkek and was trying to land at the airport in the city of Osh, said Ilyas Egemberdiyev, a spokesman for the airline.

Rescuers quickly extinguished the fire and evacuated 82 passengers and six crewmembers. Emergency Situations Minister Kubatbek Boronov said that 31 people were injured, and 17 of them were hospitalized.

Officials declined to comment on possible causes of the crash. A team of top officials led by the nation’s prime minister was to fly to Osh to start a probe, but it had to delay the trip because of thick fog and strong winds in the area.

The twin-engined Tu-134, along with its larger sibling the Tu-154, has been the workhorse of Soviet and Russian civil aviation since the 1960s, with more than 800 planes built. It also has remained in service with many post-Soviet carriers.

In recent years, Russia and other former Soviet nations have had some of the world’s worst air traffic safety records. Experts blame poor maintenance of the aging aircraft, weak government controls, insufficient pilot training and a cost-cutting mentality.

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