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Toll rises in Ukraine emergency landing

14 February 2013, 11:29

Donetsk - Five people died when an Antonov AN-24 plane with dozens of football fans on board made an emergency landing in the eastern Ukraine city of Donetsk on Wednesday, officials said.

"Most of the survivors were able to walk off the plane by themselves," emergency ministry spokesperson Svytlana Borodyna said, adding that there had been 44 people on board the plane operated by domestic airline Yuzhne Avialinii.

The cause of the accident was not immediately clear but the plane was flying from the southern resort city of Odessa when it overturned and began breaking up upon landing at Donetsk airport, according to the ministry.

Aside from the five dead, twelve people were injured in the incident, Borodyna said.

One of the survivors said the passengers were on their way to Donetsk to watch a Champions League match between Shakhtar Donetsk and German side Borussia Dortmund.

"We were all going to the match in Donetsk because we love our club," said Igor, who declined to give a second name, as he received treatment for a sprained arm in hospital.

Heavy fog

The Champions League last 16 clash opened with a minute's silence for the victims before kick-off late on Wednesday.

A local security source had earlier said that the plane overturned and wound up in a field around 700m from the airport runway.

It was unclear whether the aircraft had skidded off the runway after landing or whether it had overshot the runway, local media said, adding that there was heavy fog at Donetsk airport at the time of the accident.

"I was lucky," added Igor, who is in his 40s. "After the crash I found myself in the plane lavatory. I was able to push myself up with my feet.

"My shoulder hurt but I started to walk, unsteadily. Someone helped me... they took me by the arm and walked me out of the plane. There was so much fog I couldn't see anyone, not even the plane," he recalled.

The Antonov AN-24 is a twin-engined 50-capacity propeller plane dating from the Soviet period, with more than 1 000 built between 1959 and 1979.

The planes are still widely used for regional flights in former Soviet countries.

- AFP

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