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Military Cargo Plane Reportedly Crashes in Siberia, Killing 46By JOHN IAMS

December 6, 1997

MOSCOW (AP) _ A military cargo plane crashed in a Siberian town seconds after takeoff today, spewing flaming wreckage as it barreled along a main street. Authorities said all 46 people aboard were killed, but there were no immediate reports of casualties on the ground.

The An-124 slammed into at least one apartment building in Irkutsk-2, and police and firefighters were searching through the debris for victims, officials said.

Sixteen crew members and 30 others were aboard the four-engine plane when it crashed about 20 seconds after taking off from the city of Irkutsk, about 2,600 miles east of Moscow, said Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Col Nikolai Baranov. The industrial town of Irkutsk-2 is on the outskirts of the city.

The huge jet was believed to be carrying two Sukhoi jet fighters when it took off at 9:44 a.m. local time. The aircraft was registered to the military transport service.

There was no immediate indication what caused the crash. Weather conditions were good, ITAR-Tass said.

The Russian defense minister has ordered an investigation, Baranov said. Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Toporov and Air Force Commander Pyotr Deinekin flew to the scene.

Russia has been plagued by a series of military and civil airplane crashes in recent years. Lack of funds for spare parts and regular maintenance checks and the collapse of safety standards have been blamed for the crashes.

Russian aviation officials had said recently that aircraft safety was improving following attempts to boost inspection standards.

At least two An-124s have crashed since 1993.

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