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Three killed as Russian plane bursts into flames

Moscow: A Russian passenger jet carrying 125 people burst into flames just before take-off on a runway at a Siberian airport in the country`s Far North, killing at least three persons, including a child, and injuring over 40 others.

The Tupolev Tu-154 passenger jet was engulfed in flames after one of its engines caught fire as the plane taxied down a runway and then exploded last evening in the Siberian city of Surgut. Most of the passengers and the nine-member crew were evacuated before the explosion, `Ria Novosti` reported.

The plane, which belonged to the regional airline Kogalymavia, was to fly from the oil-rich Surgut city to Moscow, it said.

At least three people, including a child, are known dead and more than 40 others received injuries, wounds or suffered from symptoms of toxic inhalation, the `Voice of Russia` reported.

Members of the popular Russian pop music group Na-Na were among the passengers of the aircraft, local reports said

The regional investigative department said a criminal probe had been launched into the breach of air transport operation and flight safety rules, according to Ria Novosti.

Transport Minister Igor Levitin said yesterday that the plane crew and airport officials had done their best to evacuate the passengers as soon as possible. However eye witnesses were quoted as saying that fire exits had been closed for a long time and the passengers had to jump out of the plane through flames.

Kogalymavia has announced it will pay compensations to passengers of the plane.

"The Kogalymavia airline is providing help to passengers of the flight and is ready to pay compensations for health damage and luggage (lost as a result of the accident) in line with current laws," the company said in a statement.

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