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A Yugoslav plane carrying medical supplies for Armenian earthquake...

By
GERALD NADLER

LENINAKAN, U.S.S.R. -- A Yugoslav plane carrying medical supplies for Armenian earthquake victims crashed Monday near the city of Yerevan, killing seven crew members one day after a Soviet cargo jet on a similar mission went down with the loss of 78 lives.

The crashes came as rescuers raced to reach people still trapped beneath tons of rubble six days after the earthquake devastated a wide area of Armenia, killing tens of thousands of people.

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'A Yugoslav plane ferrying relief aid for the quake-stricken population crashed as it was approaching Yerevan,' said Deputy Foreign Minister Valentin Nikiforov. 'Seven people died in the crash.'

The Yugoslav news agency Tanjug said the plane, a Soviet-built An-12 propjet, crashed at 2:23 a.m. Monday about 10 miles from the airport at Yerevan, the capital of the Armenian Republic.

Neither the Soviet official nor the Yugoslav news agency gave the cause of the crash.

Both crashes followed a warning in the military newspaper, Red Star, that the airspace in the quake zone south of the Caucasus Mountains was overcrowded, with more than 300 flights a day, far more than air traffic controllers are used to.

'Several planes are circling at any one time, waiting for the signal to land. In these conditions, we need precision and rigid coordination,' the newspaper said.

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As President Mikhail Gorbachev ended a grim tour of the stricken region Sunday, the official Tass news agency reported that a four-engine Il-76 jet transport loaded with troops and relief supplies crashed on approach to the Leninakan airport.

Tass said nine crew members and 69 soldiers were killed in the Sunday crash. It did not say what caused the crash, how many people were aboard, or if there were any casualties on the ground.

Sunday's edition of the military newspaper Red Star carried a warning of such an incident, saying the skies over some of the ravaged areas had become dangerously crowded with the arrival of scores of supply planes.

'Several planes are circling at one time, waiting for the signal to land. In these conditions, we need precision and rigid coordination,' the daily said.

About 300 Soviet transport planes are flying around the clock to bring emergency supplies to the region, and international flights continue to arrive with urgently needed medical equipment.

Officials in Moscow Saturday put the death toll from the Wednesday earthquake at 45,000, but Armenian government spokesman Vartan Vaskanyana said in the republic's capital of Yerevan that an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 died.

Half a million people were left homeless in several cities nearly destroyed by one of the worst quakes in Soviet history. Thousands more were seriously injured in a tragedy so serious that the Soviet Union, for the first time since World War II, asked for and gratefully accepted aid from more than 40 nations.

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