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Russian airliner crashes in Arctic; survivors reported

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August 29, 1996
Web posted at: 9:40 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT)

OSLO, Norway (CNN) -- A Russian airliner carrying 143 people crashed Thursday into a remote mountainside on a Norwegian Arctic island. The Russian news agency Interfax reports five survivors have been found. Earlier reports had said there were no signs of survivors.

"We have found dead people," said Rune Hansen, the deputy governor of the island of Spitsbergen.

Finn Hansen, a rescue operation spokesman, told CNN, "What has happened we don't know, but we have located the wreck."

The Vnukovo Airlines Tupolev 154 was en route from Moscow when it struck the side of the mountain six miles from its destination -- Spitsbergen Island's main airport. The region is about 400 miles north of the Norwegian border.


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The first rescue crews arrived about 1 p.m. (1100 GMT) and reported that wreckage of the three-engine plane was spread across the top of the mountain. Part of the fuselage had slid down the mountain's side .

The massive search and rescue efforts are being hampered by the remote location of the crash, Finn Hansen said. He described the terrain as extremely rugged with few roads. Rescue personnel were being sent to the region by helicopter. (288K AIFF or WAV sound)icon

The plane was carrying 129 passengers and 14 crew members. It was to arrive about 10:20 a.m. (0820 GMT) but flight officials lost contact with the plane about five minutes before its scheduled arrival.

Wreckage was spotted about an hour and a half later. The Norwegian news agency NTB said no emergency signal had been received from the plane.

The plane belonged to the relatively unknown Russian carrier Vnukovo Airlines. The plane was said to be carrying Russian workers to a coal mine in the area.

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