A Russian passenger jet carrying 124 people caught fire as it taxied down a snowy runway in Siberia and then exploded today, killing three people and injuring 43, including six who were badly burned, officials said. Most of the passengers and crew were evacuated before the explosion, though people on board described a chaotic scene as the burning plane filled with thick, black smoke and panicked passengers climbed over one another to rush through flames to escape.
An emergency services spokesman 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 11,000 square feet. Russian television showed video taken with a mobile telephone of the burning plane, its center a giant fireball. All that remained afterward was the tail section and part of a wing. The plane, which belonged to the regional Kogalymavia airline, was to fly from the western Siberian town of Surgut to Moscow.