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The stench of death hung over Charki Dadri

Iluyshin-76 aircraft At least 245 bodies were recovered from the wreckage of the two aircraft which collided in mid-air over Haryana on Tuesday evening.

Dr R S Garg, the civil surgeon at the Bhiwani district hospital, said nearly 80 per cent of the bodies recovered so far from the Saudi Airlines Boeing 747 were in a state which could facilitate identification. There were 289 passengers and 23 crew members aboard the aircraft.

At Bhagwoi village, ten km from Dadri, where the debris of the Kazakhstan Airlines Iluyshin-76 lay scattered, some 25 bodies were extricated last night. Cranes were requisitioned to remove the remaining 14 bodies trapped in the wreckage. The plane was carrying 29 passengers and ten crew members.

At least 351 people were killed when the two aircraft collided mid-air about 60 kilometres south-west of Delhi near Charki Dadri in Haryana.

H S Khola, director general of civil aviation, and Yogesh Chandra, federal secretary, civil aviation, said Civil Aviation Minister Chand Mahal Ibrahim has ordered a judicial probe into the accident. The inquiry will be conducted by a judge of the Delhi high court.

Chandra said besides the operations conducted by the district administrations of Bhiwani, Hissar and Mohindergarh the army and Indian Air Force helicopters also engaged in rescue operations. Thousands of people from the villages nearby gathered at the site to witness the operations.

Khola said the Saudia wreckage was sighted at Tikan and Kheri Sinsanwal villages in Haryana.

Airports Authority of India chairman Ranjan Chatterjee meanwhile denied any negligence on the part of the Air Traffic Control staff.

Khola said the exact cause of the collision would be known only after the decoding of the black box -- the cockpit voice recorder.

A control room to provide information on the collision has been set up at the Indira Gandhi International Airport. Its telephone numbers are 91-11-5484052 and 91-11-5481219.

Khola said this was the first time two international aircraft had collided in Indian skies. Fifteen years ago, he said two IAF trainer planes had collided at Patiala.

The Kazakh plane was descending at the height of 15,000 feet and the Saudia plane was climbing at 14,000 feet when the collision took place. A difference of 1,000 feet between the two aircraft is normal practice, Khola added.

As many as 231 of the passengers aboard the Saudia Boeing- 747 were Indians, according to airport officials.

Apart from the 18 crew members, the other passengers included nine Nepalese, three Pakistanis, two US nationals and one each from Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom.

Fortytwo passengers were in transit and their nationalities are being ascertained, the officials said.

The airport presented a scene of chaos as relatives of the victims thronged the emergency counters where the list of the dead had been put up. Many wailed through the night after they read the names of the ones they had lost.

Most of the victims's relatives felt that going to the site, 80 km away from Delhi, would be futile, and prepared themselves for a long wait.

The AAI has sealed the tapes and logbooks of the Delhi Air Traffic Control which would be studied along with the black boxes, AAI chairman Chatterjee said.

Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda on Wednesday afternoon visited the area where the aircraft's wreckage lay. He spent more than an hour in Charki Dadri, surveying the rescue operations.


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