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JETLINER BLAST AND FIRE KILL 7 AT AIRPORT IN PHILIPPINES

SHARE JETLINER BLAST AND FIRE KILL 7 AT AIRPORT IN PHILIPPINES

A Philippine Airlines jet carrying 119 people exploded and burned Friday as it prepared to take off, and officials said a bomb may have been planted on board. Seven people were killed and more than 80 hurt.

Survivors spoke of up to three blasts aboard the Boeing 737-300, and at least three large holes were torn in the roof. Flames gutted the interior.The plane was being towed to the runway for a domestic flight when it was rocked by at least one explosion, which occurred before the jet's two engines were started, said Oscar Alejandro, director of the government's Air Transport Office.

The cabin filled with smoke, but most passengers escaped by sliding down emergency chutes before flames engulfed the plane, he said. Passengers said some people panicked and trampled one another rushing for the exits.

"There was an explosion in front of me and there was a very bad smell," said passenger Isidro Retaso, 33, of Iloilo. "They were still demonstrating the safety equipment when it occurred. There were three explosions, loud explosions, and the ceiling shuddered. On the second explosion, I immediately opened the emergency exit."

The bodies of six adults and one child - all passengers - were found inside the burned-out cabin, said Ed Carrascoso, manager of Manila's domestic airport. He said they were either killed by the blast or died of smoke inhalation.

At least 82 passengers were treated for injuries at the airport clinic, most for sprains and bruises, said airline employee Alfredo Estrella. Twenty-two passengers were hospitalized, one in serious condition, officials said.

The plane's departure had been slightly delayed because of heavy air traffic over Manila, officials said.

Carrascoso said there had been no bomb threats. But Oscar Alejandro, director of the government's Air Transport Office, said: "We're looking into the possibility that a bomb was placed aboard."