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At least 90 Dead in Benin Plane Crash - 2003-12-26


At least 90 people were killed when a passenger plane bound for Beirut crashed into the Atlantic Ocean shortly after takeoff from an airport in the West African country of Benin.

Witnesses say the airplane exploded Thursday near the end of the runway in Benin's main city of Cotonou, then plunged into the sea. They say bodies and wreckage were strewn over a nearby beach, and fishermen were the first to begin pulling bodies out of the water.

Officials say about 140 people were on board the Lebanese owned Union Transport Africaines (UTA) plane.

At least 19 passengers survived.

There has been no word on what caused the accident, but initial reports point to a problem with the plane's landing gear.

Airport officials say most of the victims appear to be Lebanese. West Africa is home to a sizable Lebanese population.

Information for this report is provided by AFP and Reuters.

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