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At Least 90 Dead in Benin Plane Crash - 2003-12-25

More than 60 people, most of them Lebanese, have been killed in a plane crash in the tiny west African nation of Benin. The aircraft, which belonged to the Lebanese UTA charter company, was on a flight to Beirut.

Witnesses say the passenger plane crashed just after takeoff from the airport in Benin's capital Cotonou, on Thursday afternoon.

They say the plane then skidded into a building on the beachfront runway before exploding and tumbling into the sea.

Holiday makers, who were celebrating Christmas at the beach, were the first to pull bodies and survivors out of the water. Meanwhile, looters took with them what they could find in torn luggage.

One of dozens of people to survive the crash, a crewmember, said most of the crew and passengers on the chartered plane were Lebanese. He said about 140 people were on board.

Rescue workers were slow to arrive as some emergency vehicles got stuck in the sand.

Aviation officials say Thursday's crash was the third in Africa this year, in which planes have crashed shortly after take-off.