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Russian Passenger Jet Explodes, 1 Dead

Russia Plane Explodes

In this image taken from Russia 24 television channel TV, showing a tail part of the Russian passenger Tu-154 aircraft seen after an explosion in Surgut, about 1,350 miles east of Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Jan. 1, 2011. (AP2011)

MOSCOW -- A Russian passenger jet carrying 128 people caught fire and later exploded at a Siberian airport on Saturday, killing one person and injuring 10, officials said.

The rest of the passengers and crew were safely evacuated before the explosion in the Western Siberian oil town of Surgut.

Emergency services spokesman Vadim Grebennikov said the fire, which began in one of the engines as the plane taxied for takeoff, caused a powerful blast that destroyed the Tu-154 aircraft and spread flames across an area of 1,100 square feet.

The plane, which belonged to the regional Kogalymavia airline, was flying from Surgut to Moscow.

The Tu-154 has been the workhorse of the Soviet and post-Soviet civilian aviation industry, first entering service in the 1970s. But after a series of crashes involving the aging fleet raised safety concerns, flagship carrier Aeroflot withdrew all of its Tu-154s from service, with the last flight a year ago.

The midrange jet remains, however, the mainstay of smaller airlines across Russia and the former Soviet Union. It is banned from parts of Europe due to excessive engine noise.

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