LONDON -- A Korean Airlines DC-10 crashed in the Libyan capital of Tripoli while trying to land in heavy fog Thursday, killing at least 78 of the 199 passengers and crew and four people on the ground, the official Libyan news agency Jana said.
The cause of the accident was not known. It was the second fatal crash of a McDonnell Douglas DC-10 in eight days.
Libyan Justice Ministry sources told Jana Thursday afternoon the number of dead in the South Korean airliner had reached 78, according to a report monitored by the British Broadcasting Corp.
An earlier Jana report said four Tripoli residents were killed on the ground when the plane plowed through two houses and several cars near the runway at Tripoli International Airport.
Jana's afternoon report accounted for 199 people on the plane, with 78 dead, 113 people hospitalized and eight treated and discharged from hospitals. Fourteen of the 18 crew members survived, including the pilot and copilot.
Earlier Jana reports said there were 200 people aboard the airliner, and airline officials in Seoul said there were 18 crew members and 182 passengers on KAL Flight 803 -- a regular weekly flight from Seoul to Tripoli. There was no explanation for the discrepancy.
Most of the passengers on the ill-fated flight were believed to be Korean construction workers heading for jobs in the Middle East and Africa. Civil aviation sources told Jana that there were seven Libyans and three Japanese aboard and the rest of the passengers were South Koreans.
The cause of the crash was not known, the airline said, but Jana quoted civil aviation sources who speculated it could have been a malfunction in the plane's equipment or pilot error.
Jim Reed, a spokesman for McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis, said the company was having difficulty getting details about the crash and did not know what caused it.
'Our efforts are hampered because the United States has no direct diplomatic representation with Libya. Therefore, early attempts to obtain facts on the incident have been difficult,' Reed said, but he added, 'Early reports from Tripoli indicate that weather may have been a contributing factor.'
Jana said there was heavy fog and visibility was about 800 feet when the jet crashed about 7:30 a.m. local time. Triploi air traffic controllers reportedly lost contact with the KAL jet about 15 minutes before the crash.
A Soviet pilot who was apprised of the weather conditions at Tripoli about an hour before the crash decided not to land and diverted his aircraft to Malta. The same weather information was relayed to the pilot of Flight 803, the Libyan agency said.
'The decision to land or not to land, as is internationally known, depends on the captain of the plane alone,' Jana said.
KAL officials quoted by the South Korean news agency Yonhap said they did not rule out the possibility that the crash may have been caused by engine trouble.
McDonnell Douglas issued a statement at its headquarters in Long Beach, Calif., saying the aircraft was first delivered to Air Siam in November 1974 and acquired by Korean Air in February 1977. As of last December, it had flown 39,628 hours.
The KAL officials told Yonhap that witnesses said the Korean DC-10 appeared to be attempting a belly landing without its wheels down when it crashed.
'They also said they could not categorically deny that the mishap might have been engineered by saboteurs,' Yonhap said.
The jet's tail section, still intact and bearing the Korean airline's distinctive red and blue yin and yang symbol, could be seen clearly in television footage. Firefighters sprayed the smoldering wreckage as ambulance teams worked to save the injured.