August 23, 2005

Peru jet crashes in jungle, at least 40 dead

By Robin Emmott

LIMA, Peru (Reuters) - A Peruvian passenger plane crashed
during a severe storm in Peru's northeastern jungle on Tuesday,
killing at least 40 people, police said.

A spokesman for the state-run airline TANS said the Boeing
737-200 plane, which was carrying 92 passengers, made an
emergency landing without its landing gear 1.8 miles from
Pucallpa airport, 490 miles northeast of Lima.

The accident happened at 3:06 p.m. (1606 EDT), TANS said.

"There are 40 cadavers that rescue teams are pulling from
the wreckage. There could be more deaths, we assume some 60
people in total since we've rescued 20 injured persons," a
police officer in Pucallpa told RPP radio.

Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo said in a televised
address there were between 20 and 30 survivors.

Foreign tourists were on the flight, police Lt. David Mori
told Reuters. "There are possibly Italians and Colombians are
among the dead or injured," he said.

TANS said it would send two planes with medicine and rescue
teams early on Wednesday. Aircraft cannot land at the small
Pucallpa airport at night.

It was the third major accident involving a passenger
airplane in less than two weeks, after crashes in Greece and

TANS executive Jorge Belevan told reporters that 92
passengers and eight crew, including the pilots, were on board
the plane, which left Lima for Pucallpa en route to Iquitos, in
the northern jungle near the Colombian and Brazilian borders.

Iquitos is the largest city in the Peruvian jungle and the
navigation gateway to the Amazon.

"The plane was about to land in Pucallpa ... but it was
caught in a cross wind ... It did not crash, it was an
emergency landing," Belevan said.

He added that the aircraft was built in 1983 and TANS
recently rented it from a South African company. He declined to
give a death toll.

"It's really a Dantesque scene," said police officer Arioso

One witness, Tomas Ruiz, told RPP radio the plane was
"totally destroyed."

"The plane made an emergency landing but without its
landing gear," said firefighter Ilda Pineda. "The weather was
really terrible, there was a fierce storm at the time," a
police officer in Pucallpa said.

TANS, founded in the 1960s by the Peruvian air force to
help serve remote jungle communities, started as a commercial
airline in 1998. It has around 30 percent of the local market,
focusing on routes often neglected by its competitors.