Three die in Turkey plane accident

Istanbul: Three people have died and 179 were injured when a plane skidded off the runway at an Istanbul airport, caught fire and split into three after landing in rough weather. Live images broadcast on Turkish television showed several people climbing through a large crack in the severed aircraft and escaping onto one of the wings at the rear.

The Boeing 737 operated by Turkish low-cost carrier Pegasus Airlines had flown into Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen airport from the Aegean port city of Izmir on Wednesday, NTV television reported.

The plane was apparently buffeted by strong winds and heavy rain lashing Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city. Three Turks were killed and 179 injured, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca told reporters.

“Some passengers evacuated the plane by themselves but others are stuck inside and our rescuers are working to free them,” Transport Minister Mehmet Cahit Turhan said on CNN-Turk television.

The plane was carrying 177 passengers and six crew members, state news agency Anadolu said, revising the previous total given by Turkish authorities.

Turkish media reports said there were 12 children on board.

Istanbul governor Ali Yerlikaya said the plane “slid some 60 metres (200 feet)’ after skidding off the runway, and then ‘fell about 30-40 metres” down a bank.

The accident, which he attributed to bad weather, “could have had more serious consequences”, he said.