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97 hurt as Mexican plane crashes at airport in hail storm

Firefighters dousing the flames as smoke billows above the site where the Aeromexico-operated Embraer passenger jet crashed in Mexico's northern state of Durango.

Durango, Mexico

AN AEROMEXICO flight crashed on takeoff during a heavy hail storm in northern Mexico, engulfing the plane in flames and injuring 97 people, officials said on Tuesday.

The Embraer 190 aircraft, which was operating between Durango and Mexico City and crashed around 3.00 pm local time (4am Singapore time, Wednesday), was carrying 88 adults, nine minors, two infants, two pilots and two flight attendants, the airline's director-general Andres Conesa told reporters.

Jose Rosas, the governor of Durango state, where the crash occurred, posted the tweet: "It is confirmed that there have been no deaths from the flight #AM2431 accident."

The accident did cause two serious injuries: a pilot had to undergo a spinal operation, and a young girl suffered burns on 25 per cent of her body, the governor said.

A total of 97 people were admitted for treatment following the crash, most of them for "very light" injuries, said the Durango civil defence spokesman Alejandro Cardoza.

He said the plane was caught in a heavy hail storm and the pilots tried to make an emergency landing, after which the fire broke out.

Mr Conesa thanked the crew "for their professionalism" and said that the aircraft had been "perfectly maintained", but did not provide details on the circumstances of the accident.

Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer announced the dispatch of a team to investigate the crash.

Dozens of lightly injured passengers were seen leaving the plane, which was engulfed in grey smoke in a field.

An image taken using a drone and obtained by AFP shows the aircraft immobilised in a field at the end of the runway.

Jacqueline Flores, a 47-year-old mum travelling with her 16-year-old daughter, said: "We were on the runway when the visibility grew worse.

"When we were already aloft, up high, it felt like the plane was going to level out, but just then is when it plunged to the ground.

"I think we fell back on the runway because it was a hard surface, then we skidded on the ground until it stopped."

The Durango native was on a journey back to Colombia, where she lives.

With the plane on the ground amid some bushes and brush, she said luggage began sliding down the aisle and she started to smell smoke.

"I undid my seatbelt and saw flames, and realised we had to jump. "There was a hole right next to us and the plane had broken up. I told my girl, 'We have to jump over here' and we jumped," she added.

Governor Rosas said the passengers helped each other to evacuate the aircraft quickly through the openings in the cabin caused by the crash.

In July 1981, an Aeromexico flight crashed on landing in northern Chihuahua in bad weather, killing 32. BLOOMBERG

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