Disaster is third worst in history

Yesterday's crash ranks third on the list of the world's worst air disasters. The causes of the worst 10 tragedies are a mixed, falling into two main categories: terrorism or deliberate fire by military; and mechanical or pilot failure.

The worst crash yet also resulted from the collision of two planes and killed 528 people. In March 1977 two Boeing 747s crashed on the ground at the airport at Tenerife .

Four of the 10 most lethal air crashes involved a single plane crashing either through pilot error, mechanical failure or bad weather. The remaining four downed planes had been targeted by terrorists or shot down by military aircraft of another country.

The Pan Am 747 crash over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people was the result of a terrorist bomb. The horror of that crash was revisited this summer with the explosion of TWA Flight 800 over Long Island, New York, killing 230 people.

The plane fell into the Atlantic after exploding in a fireball minutes after what seemed to be a routine take-off. The cause of the crash, in which everyone on board was killed, is still a mystery. Another crash attributed to terrorism killed 329 in June 1985, when an Air-India Boeing 747 crashed off the coast of Ireland.

One of two crashes in the worst 10 involving the military was in July 1988, when the USS Vincennes shot down an Iran Air A300 Airbus over the Gulf, killing 290. The other commercial craft, a Korean Air Lines 747, was shot down by a Soviet fighter after it flew near Sakhalin, killing 269 people.

The second-worst crash killed 520 people when a Japan Air Lines Boeing 747 crashed into a mountain on a domestic flight in August 1985.

A Turkish DC-10 crashed north-east of Paris in March 1974, killing 346.

In August 1980 a Saudi Arabian L-1011 jet crashed, killing 301, while attempting an emergency landing at Riyadh airport. An American Airlines DC-10 crashed on take-off in Chicago, killing 273 in May 1979.

Other deadly mid-air collisions include the crash of a Libyan airliner and an air force MiG-23 fighter that killed 157 people in December 1992. The impact killed all the passengers and crew on aboard the Boeing 747 but the fighter crew parachuted to safety.

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