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At least 31 people die in plane crash

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia -- At least 31 people died and 71 others were injured when an Ethiopian Airlines jet lost power in one engine, crashed and burned with 104 people aboard, airline officials disclosed Friday, more than a day after the accident.

The Boeing 737 lost power minutes after takeoff midday Thursday from Bahar Dar in northwestern Ethiopia, apparently when a bird was sucked into an engine. The pilot tried in vain to return to the Bahar Dar airport, but the jet crashed and burned 2 miles short of the runway, an airline spokesman said.

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'Thirty-one people are dead but the death toll could rise because there are two passengers missing,' said the airline spokesman in Ethiopia's capital of Addis Ababa. 'Seventy-one people were injured, 12 of them seriously. They are in hospitals in Bahar Dar and in Addis.'

The twin-engine plane with 98 passengers and six crew members aboard was flying from Addis Ababa to the northeastern Eritrean provincial capital of Asmara with a stop in Bahar Dar, 240 miles northwest of the capital.

The airline spokesman in Addis Ababa said the plane had landed without problem at Bahar Dar at the southern end of Lake Tana, but lost power in one engine two or three minutes after takeoff.

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'The pilot tried to land again at Bahar Dar but he couldn't reach the runway and put down on open land,' the airline spokesman said, adding a Boeing 737 jet is extremely difficult to control with one engine out. 'The plane crashed and there was a fire.'

The spokesman said he did not know the nationalities of the dead but said two members of the crew were among the injured.

Details of the crash, which was first reported Thursday, were delayed more than 24 hours because of poor communications with Bahar Dar, the spokesman said.

The official Ethiopian News Agency had said Thursday the airliner carried 104 passengers plus crew when it 'made a forced landing' because a bird was sucked into one of the jet's engines shortly after takeoff from Bahar Dar.

ENA reported some injuries but did not report any deaths and said, 'The majority of passengers and crew are reported safe.'

'Ethiopian Airlines said that some of the injured passengers were flown back to Addis Ababa while others are being treated in the Felege Hiwot Hospital in Bahar Dar,' the agency said.

It was East Africa's more serious plane crash in 14 years.

In November 1974 a Johannesburg-bound Lufthansa Boeing 747 smashed into a highway embankment and burst into flames after takeoff from Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, killing 59 people.

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