Jet crashes in Bangladeshi paddy field and all 89 on board survive

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The Independent Online
A Bangladeshi airliner crash-landed in a paddy field in fog and all 89 passengers and crew escaped; 18 were Britons. "The plane has been badly damaged. It's a miracle the passengers and crew survived," Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir, State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism, said. "Those injured are also not in serious condition."

A survivor, Abdul Jalil, said after emerging from the Biman Bangladesh Airlines Fokker 28: "I thought I was dying but later found myself alive. It's a miracle." Others said only a miracle saved them when the plane came down two miles from the runway near the northeastern town of Sylhet on Monday night. More than 55 people, including the pilot, Captain Mannan, were injured. Mr Khan said the Fokker 28 was procured by Biman in 1981 and was in "proper flying condition".

Hundreds of villagers, paramilitary soldiers and troops joined rescue efforts. "Floods of people started pouring in as soon as the sun came up," a police officer said.

An official at Sylhet airport said the plane, with 85 passengers and four crew on a domestic flight from Dhaka to Sylhet, made several attempts to land in poor visibility.

"It's sheer luck that the plane did not burst into flames. That's why the passengers were saved from almost certain deaths," the official, who declined to be named, said. A passenger, Tara Miah, said: "It was about midnight and cold. The visibility was low due to heavy fog as we were preparing to land ... but all on a sudden there was a jerk.

"We knew something had gone wrong. Many started screaming and calling for Allah's help. "Soon we saw we had landed on a paddy field in the dark." Babul Hossain, another survivor, said the plane "bumped wildly before hitting the land. It looked like we entered an air vacuum zone".

A reporter, Iqbal Siddiqui, who visited the crash site, described the plane as "ducking into a rice field with one of its wings broken and two of its wheels dug into the mud. The plane looked like a lame duck."

Captain Mannan told a reporter in hospital that he used the emergency exit in the cockpit after the aircraft had "roughly hit the ground. The aircraft appeared to have been strongly pushed by stormy wind soon after I had issued the announcement for landing. And it went beyond my control." Mohammad Habibur Rahman, a reporter who visited nearby hospitals, said there were a few people with fractures but most of the others had lesser injuries. Reuters, Dhaka

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